HONOLULU — Nikol DeWoody, a bartender for Bikini Cantina at Aloha Tower Marketplace, recently received nine marriage proposals — all from New Zealand navy sailors, all on the same night.
The love-struck sailors showed up June 26, two days after the Kiwi frigate Te Kaha and tanker Endeavour tied up at Aloha Tower ahead of Rim of the Pacific exercises, and where they have remained because New Zealand navy vessels aren't allowed in Pearl Harbor.
"When they first came (to the bar), I looked up and there were like 100 of them," DeWoody said. "It got busy. And they are nice dudes."
While New Zealand's exclusion from Pearl Harbor has been the bane of some in the South Pacific island nation, it's been a boon for business at Aloha Tower.
Hooters, not surprisingly, has seen quite a few of the New Zealand sailors. Gordon Biersch said it has experienced a 25 percent increase in business from RIMPAC participants, the New Zealanders included.
"We're certainly happy that they are berthed here at Aloha Tower. Just a window of opportunity for additional business," said Gordon Biersch General Manager Joe Glarner.
Glarner said Australians have arrived in groups of two to 10. RIMPAC participants show up for informal crew luncheons or dinner get-togethers, he said.
The Pearl Harbor port ban stems from a nearly 30-year-old U.S. standoff with New Zealand over that country's anti-nuclear policy and a prohibition on visits to New Zealand by U.S. Navy warships that are nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed. U.S. policy is to neither confirm nor deny if its ships carry nuclear weapons.
In turn, the United States has banned visits to its military ports by New Zealand warships. Although the Kiwis were invited to participate in this year's RIMPAC, they still had to port somewhere besides Pearl Harbor.
The state is waiving entry and dock fees for the New Zealand ships and a U.S. Navy frigate to stay at Aloha Tower in Honolulu Harbor, said state Department of Transportation spokeswoman Caroline Sluyter.
For a vessel about the size of the Endeavour, the entry fee would be $268 plus a dock fee of $618 per day, Sluyter said. The Pearl Harbor-based frigate Crommelin also is at Aloha Tower as the "host" ship for the New Zealanders.
"It's a maritime courtesy that we extend, and it's part of building a good relationship," Sluyter said of the fee waivers.
DeWoody of Bikini Cantina said last week's big group migrated over to the cantina from Hooters. DeWoody called the New Zealand sailors "very respectful."
Some media outlets in New Zealand characterized the Pearl Harbor port ban as a snub. Bikini Cantina customer Marc Anthony said the Kiwis are better off at Aloha Tower.
"I think they are the happiest guys in RIMPAC — they are not stuck in Pearl Harbor," he said. "They've got Chinatown right here, they've got Waikiki, instead of spending 60 bucks for a round-trip (cab ride)."
The New Zealand ships are expected to be at Aloha Tower until about Wednesday, when they will head out to sea for RIMPAC war games.