Nonprofit Raises Funds to Support Bahamas Relief Voyage
A group of volunteers and civic leaders in Palm Beach, Florida are working to raise $1 million to support at least one more cruise ship relief voyage to Grand Bahama Island, which was hit hard by Hurricane Dorian.
With support from this charitable funding source - the nonprofit Bahamas Relief Cruise - the cruise operator Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line has canceled four scheduled sailings between September 13 and September 19 to make the cruise ship Grand Celebration available for emergency relief duty. The vessel recently returned from its first relief trip with 1,400 Bahamian evacuees on board, and she is scheduled to depart for a second run on Friday, carrying relief supplies for those in need. Palm Beach restaurateur Rodney Mayo, one of the fundraising effort's organizers, told the Palm Beach Post that the next voyage itinerary may include a period of time alongside the pier in Freeport, where the vessel's facilities could be used to provide housing for first responders.
"Grand Bahama is our home away from home. We are committed to providing aid to our brothers and sisters there and we look forward to returning to our traditional sailing schedule as soon as possible, as we know that will make the most positive impact on the island," said Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line CEO Oneil Khosa in a statement.
Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line is now gathering donated supplies for the voyage at its warehouse in Riviera Beach, Florida. The support group for the Grand Celebration's operations also plans to use the next cruise to transport qualified relief volunteers to the Bahamas, including trained medical volunteers. It is also organizing a network of hosts in Florida to provide housing for displaced Bahamians.
In a related effort, Port of Palm Beach board chair Katherine Waldron has written a request to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis seeking $9 million in emergency assistance to charter the Grand Celebration for relief operations. Waldron asked DeSantis for "funding from the state of Florida for 30-days of operations for the Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line vessel to serve as an emergency relief charter vessel," enough to cover vessel fuel, maintenance and crew salaries, with no compensation for the port. The port has temporarily waived all cargo-related fees for donated humanitarian relief supplies shipped to the Bahamas.