Cruise Lines Pledge Hurricane Relief Aid for the Bahamas

A U.S. Coast Guard Jayhawk helicopter, center, conducts a rescue near Nassau. The flight operation evacuated eight adults and two children. (USCG)

Published Sep 5, 2019 8:58 PM by The Maritime Executive

The cruise industry is stepping up to help residents of the northern Bahamas, which suffered devastating damage from high winds and powerful storm surge effects due to Hurricane Dorian. Areas of the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama Island were hit hard by the storm, which made landfall as a Category 5 hurricane and lingered in the area for days. 

On Thursday evening, the Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line dispatched the vessel Grand Celebration from the Port of Palm Beach to bring relief supplies, first responders, stranded Bahamian nationals and disaster relief volunteers to Freeport. She will return Friday, and she will offer any Bahamians who wish to evacuate a voyage to Florida, free of charge (as long as they possess valid documentation). The line has collected donations of relief supplies at its Riviera Beach, Florida warehouse for shipment aboard the Grand Celebration. 

Royal Caribbean announced Tuesday that it would commit $1 million to Hurricane Dorian disaster relief. ITM, its business partner for the new Grand Lucayan resort in Freeport, is donating an additional $100,000. RCCL is also matching employee and guest donations to the Pan American Development Foundation (https://www.padf.org/hurricane-dorian-royal) for hurricane relief. 

RCCL said that it would also load relief supplies - generators, water, cleaning supplies, clean sheets, towels, and other goods - aboard its vessels for direct delivery to the Bahamas. Its in-house response team has also been dispatched to assist with relief efforts.

Carnival Cruise Line has also announced that some of its ships will make stops in the Bahamas to distribute food, water and relief supplies. Relief delivery stops at Freeport will be incorporated into Carnival Pride's seven-day cruise from Baltimore departing Sept. 8 and Carnival Liberty's four-day cruise from Port Canaveral departing Sept. 9. 

Carnival's cruise ship-borne deliveries are in addition to supplies sent to the Bahamas through a partnership between Carnival, Tropical Shipping and the Bahamas National Emergency Management Agency. The first container ship voyage for the partnership departed Thursday evening with supplies donated by residents of Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. Additionally, the Carnival Foundation, Carnival's cruise brands and the Micky and Madeleine Arison Family Foundation have pledged to donate a combined $2 million in funding and in-kind support for hurricane relief efforts. 

MSC Group - the Swiss parent company of both MSC Cruises and the number two ocean carrier MSC - says that it will be contributing to relief efforts as well, with an initial focus on providing prefabricated housing for displaced residents and making MSC's geared cargo ships available for transportation service from the United States. MSC is the leading cargo import and export operator for the Bahamas.

"It is heart-breaking to see the impact and devastation that Hurricane Dorian has brought over The Bahamas and its population," said Gianluigi Aponte, executive chairman and founder of MSC Group. "Our businesses have long been closely tied to The Bahamas and its people, with a rich history spanning over many decades. We now look forward to supporting their efforts to rebuild and recover in every way we can and through all our businesses."

The Walt Disney Company, the parent company of Disney Cruise Lines, has also committed at least $1 million to the relief effort. “The Walt Disney Company stands with the people of The Bahamas affected by Hurricane Dorian,” Disney CEO Bob Iger said. “We hope our $1 million donation will provide much-needed relief and help our neighbors, colleagues and all those impacted by this devastating storm begin the long process of recovery as they work to put their lives and communities back together.” 

Yesterday, as part of this effort, the Disney Dream dropped off food and water at Castaway Cay for distribution in the Abacos. Disney Fantasy will do the same tomorrow, with more deliveries to come, the line said in a statement. 

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, the parent company for Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas, has pledged a minimum commitment of $1 million dollars toward short-term relief. The company will also match donations (at http://www.nclhltd.com/hurricanerelief) to assist with rebuilding efforts across the Bahamas. “Our hearts are heavy after witnessing the impact and devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian across the Bahamas,” said Frank Del Rio, president and CEO. “We have been cruising to these islands for over 50 years and remain committed to its wonderful people during this unprecedented event." As part of the effort, Norwegian Breakaway departed Miami on Thursday with hurricane relief supplies donated by Norwegian and its employees, in addition to items collected by the City of Miami, Baptist Health South Florida, the 305 Gives Back foundation and other Miami-based organizations.

Coast Guard warns of harbor damage

As in other recent disasters in the region, the U.S. Coast Guard has been at the forefront of providing search and rescue services to areas with limited access. As of Thursday, it has rescued more than 200 people in distress. 

The agency also advised mariners that they should not attempt voyages into the northern Bahamas until further notice. There is a high risk of debris in the water, sunken vessels and destroyed or missing aids to navigation and pier facilities in the affected harbors, the USCG said in an advisory. The government of the Bahamas is currently assessing the extent of the damage.