Inside Relief Flight to Hurricane Battered St. Thomas.
NBC News got rare access inside a U.S. military relief flight supplying food, water and even a mobile air traffic control tower to St. Thomas — an island devastated by Hurricane Irma and hit again by Maria, delaying critical relief efforts.
Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line’s Grand Celebration, a 1,900-passenger ship from the Deerfield Beach-based line, will house and feed relief workers in St. Thomas beginning Saturday. Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line
National Guard and first responders in St. Thomas will call a cruise ship home for the next three months as part of a FEMA-chartered relief mission in the Caribbean in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
FEMA is sending Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line’s Grand Celebration,the Deerfield Beach-based line’s only ship, to house and feed between 1,000 and 1,500 relief workers in St. Thomas beginning Saturday. The island was one of the most hard-hit by Irma.
The cruise line is slated to resume its regular two-night cruise schedule from the Port of Palm Beach to Grand Bahama Island on Dec. 23.
“We hope that you will understand and agree that this disruption to our business is overshadowed by the magnitude of need and humanitarian support required to help the people of St. Thomas rebuild their devastated communities,” wrote CEO Oneil Khosa in a letter.
Bahamas Paradise’s business won’t exactly be disrupted though. The line is being compensated by FEMA for the loss of revenue as a result of taking its only ship out of its regular schedule, said Maria Miller, Bahamas Paradise’s chief marketing officer. Travelers scheduled to sail on impacted voyages in the next three months will receive a full refund or can reschedule their cruise and receive a $100 onboard credit.
Last week, the 1,900-passenger Grand Celebration remained docked in Palm Beach Saturday through Sunday to provide cabin accommodations, meals and on-board services to Palm Beach residents displaced or otherwise impacted by Irma. The line charged $39 a night per person, including accommodations and meals. First responders received free meals at no cost.
“As we all work through issues related to the storm, we wanted to offer our ship to local residents to provide some relief in this time of need now that we’re able to return to port,” Khosa said via a statement. “We very much feel part of the community and want to lend a hand.”
The devastation left behind by Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean ignited a string of humanitarian relief missions from several South Florida-based cruise lines.
Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International, both based in Miami, sent ships to pick up stranded visitors in St. Thomas and St. Maarten following the passage of Irma earlier this month.
Additionally, Norwegian sent 35 pallets of supplies to St. Thomas and Royal Caribbean sent more than 20 pallets of medical supplies, more than 5,500 gallons of water, 7,800 gallons of milk, 4,200 rolls of toilet paper, 67,500 garbage bags and 13,050 pounds of animal supplies to impacted areas, according to the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association. Disney Cruise Line, based in Kissimmee, donated meals and bedding.
Doral-based Carnival Cruise Line plans to use 11 ships to send supplies to Caribbean islands impacted by Irma — and Maria — in addition to up to $10 million in donations from parent company Carnival Corporation and the Micky and Madeleine Arison Family Foundation.