Cruise Ship Departs on Second Relief Mission for Bahamas

Published Sep 16, 2019 8:45 PM by The Maritime Executive

The cruise ship Grand Celebration departed Sunday for a second relief cruise to and from Grand Bahama Island, which was hit hard by Hurricane Dorian's high winds and heavy storm surge. 

The vessel's first voyage brought relief supplies to Grand Bahama and provided transportation for properly-documented Bahamas residents back to Florida, and the second voyage will repeat this mission. Grand Celebration is expected to spend Monday and Tuesday at Freeport, Grand Bahama, departing Tuesday night. She will return to Palm Beach, Florida with as many as 1,100 passengers on Wednesday morning. 

In order to make the vessel available for the relief cruise, operator Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line has canceled all of its scheduled sailings through September 19. Generous private donations from a newly-formed nonprofit, Bahamas Relief Cruise, helped to make the second trip possible. Bahamas Paradise says that after this voyage is completed, it is examining options to return to regular commercial cruise service in the Bahamas. 

"While we are dedicated to the humanitarian effort currently taking place onboard Grand Celebration, and doing all that we can to help support the rebuilding effort, we are equally committed to resuming our commercial operations as soon as possible, as tourism provides an incredible lifeline to residents across the islands.  We are working closely with our Bahamian partners to assess options and expect to have an announcement soon," the line said in a statement. 

Some of the line's far larger competitors, including Carnival and Royal Caribbean, are also using cargo space aboard their vessels to bring relief goods to the Bahamas. At this point, Bahamas Paradise is the only cruise line using its onboard accommodations capacity to evacuate Bahamian nationals in quantity. 

Long-term needs

On the ground, disaster relief is transitioning gradually to disaster recovery, but the need for assistance is expected to extend for years. In the Abaco Islands, where Dorian made landfall as a Category 5 hurricane, whole neighborhoods were effectively flattened by 180-mph winds and flooded with 18-plus feet of storm surge. Thousands of evacuees have departed for Nassau and other safe havens, and about 2,000 are housed in shelters in the Bahamas, including a large number of Hatian nationals. The death toll in the Abacos and on Grand Bahama officially stands at 50, but it may well rise: about 1,300 people remained missing as of Friday, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. 

UN Secretary-General António Guterres visited the Abacos last week, and on Friday he called on the international community to provide the Bahamas with support to rebuild. In particular, he suggested that the developed world should help address the Bahamas' vulnerability to the effects of climate change. "I must say was horrified. I've never seen such a level of systematic devastation," Guterres said. "The Bahamas deserves the support of international community to be able to fully cope with this challenge and to be able to fully recover from it."