WHY IT RATES: The Grand Celebration has returned to port after spending nearly two full days distributing humanitarian aid to Grand Bahama Island.—Patrick Clarke, TravelPulse Senior Writer.
Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line’s Grand Celebration arrived back at its homeport, the Port of Palm Beach, at 9 a.m. this morning, successfully completing its second round-trip humanitarian sailing since Hurricane Dorian. The cruise line teamed up with South Florida non-profits the Bahamas Relief Cruise and Mission Resolve to mobilize the ship for a second time, spending nearly two full days distributing humanitarian aid to Grand Bahama Island.
Key Facts and Figures from This Cruise:
—Grand Celebration departed Port of Palm Beach on Sunday, September 15 with 400 pallets of humanitarian aid, three times the amount of the first sailing seven days prior – including 30,000 pounds of water, 275,000 pounds of canned and dry food, 150,000 pounds of household supplies, and 50,000 pounds of construction materials – as well as more than 300 qualified volunteers.
—150 Bahamians returned home via Grand Celebration, to help jumpstart the process of rebuilding Grand Bahama Island.
—First responders who sailed were joined by numerous business and philanthropic organizations from across South Florida. This included Bahamas Relief Cruise (comprised of members of The Everglades Trust team, along with a collection of West Palm Beach businesses and organizations including Subculture Group, Titou Hospitality Group and the Downtown West Palm Beach Hospitality Association) and Mission Resolve (who was joined by its partners in the South Florida business community, including Entrepreneurs’ Organization and others).
—Also onboard were representatives from various disaster relief response groups, including Sheep Dog Impact Assistance, West Palm Beach Fire Rescue Department, Big Dog Ranch Rescue, and Hope Force International – plus more than 50 medical professionals – organized by the Bahamas Relief Cruise team.
—Upon arrival in Freeport, the ship’s crew and volunteers prepared more than 10,000 boxed lunches, which were delivered directly to local shelters, homes and neighborhoods by volunteers.
—Bahamas Relief Cruise brought a separate cargo ship filled with 13 pallets of materials to reconstruct the island’s local children’s home, a church and animal shelter, as well as several individual homes; the group also organized a community gathering two consecutive nights at Independence Park, focused on providing a break to thousands of people from Grand Bahama Island, with freshly prepared meals, movies for kids, a DJ and other activities.
—30 cases of water were delivered to Pastor Robert White on the north side of the island, a direct request from Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line CEO Oneil Khosa, who learned of the neighborhood’s plight through a family that evacuated during the first humanitarian sailing.
—10 pallets of water and 10 generators were delivered to RAND Memorial Hospital.
—Bahamians who boarded Grand Celebration in Freeport were required to pay $49 per person and provide proof of an address in the United States where they planned to stay. Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line is donating 100 percent of cruise fares back to the Bahamas relief effort.
—Just over 200 Bahamians traveled back to Palm Beach on Grand Celebration with the necessary documentation required to enter the U.S., and the majority were met by friends and family.
“We are grateful to our partners, Bahamas Relief Cruise and Mission Resolve, as well as the hundreds of volunteers who came with us on Grand Celebration to deliver much-needed humanitarian aid to Grand Bahama Island,” said Khosa. “Our second sailing was a tremendous success, and we are proud to play such a vital role in the recovery of the island, but we can’t do it alone. We invite other industry leaders and local groups to step up and lend a hand to our sisters and brothers in the Bahamas as they embark upon a challenging journey to recovery.”
Call for Donations: With the completion of this second successful cruise, Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line helped thousands of Bahamians receive aid, but there is still more work to be done. Local South Florida residents who wish to drop off supplies to help the residents of Grand Bahama Island can still deliver them to the cruise line’s Riviera Beach warehouse at 301 Broadway Ave., Bay #7, in Riviera Beach, FL 33404. Supplies will be delivered at a later date.
Comments & Discussion
When and How Will Cruising Return?
While the entire travel industry has ground to a halt from the coronavirus pandemic, the cruise industry was hit especially hard as multiple ships were turned away from ports while passengers and crew fell ill and even died.
“COVID-19 has been a PR disaster for the cruise industry,” said Ben Cordwell, a travel and tourism analyst at GlobalData, a data and analytics company.
How does the cruise industry recover and regain its momentum?
MORE Cruise Line & Cruise Ship
“Since the cruise industry pivoted from passenger shipping to leisure cruising in the 1970s, cruise lines have not faced a full-scale halt of operations like they face today due to the Coronavirus pandemic,” said Robert J. Kwortnik, an associate professor at Cornell University’s Hotel School, who studies tourism with a focus on the leisure cruise industry. “This situation truly is unprecedented, which means the response to it will have to be unprecedented as well.”
First, the cruise companies need to secure the finances needed to keep the core operations running – which they’re already doing. Kwortnik said they also need to prepare logistically for re-crewing ships when they are ready to resume sailing, especially with travel restrictions and severely reduced numbers of flights.
They’ll also have to figure out how to weed out sick passengers and disembark ill and healthy guests if the need ever arises again, he said. It likely will mean more detailed health forms before boarding and thermal scans to check temperatures.
“Stronger or different health screenings may become the new normal for the cruise industry, much like the more involved TSA screenings implemented after the 9/11 tragedy in the United States,” Kwortnik said.
Flexible cancellation policies also may be required so people don’t lose all they paid if they cancel at the last minute due to illness. “Reducing, and ideally eliminating, the possibility of sick passengers getting on a cruise ship will require both more vigilance at the port and the removal of disincentives for ill travelers to show up at the port in the first place,” he said.
But the biggest challenge likely will be convincing people to take a cruise. Steeply discounted fares will help, at least with avid cruisers eager to return to the seas. But many travelers will need to be convinced that ships are disinfected and clean.
“Veteran cruisers know how seriously cruise lines take onboard cleaning and hand-washing to minimize the threat of norovirus. But coronavirus is very different,” Kwortnik said. “Moreover, the important new-to-cruise segment doesn’t have experience with the extraordinary sanitation measures used by cruise lines to minimize the threat of illness spreading onboard. While it’s reasonable for the cruise lines to be reluctant to discuss a common objection to cruising — the fear of getting sick — it may now be necessary to move the question of health/sanitation more front and center as part of a public awareness campaign, especially for travel agents and the new-to-cruise market.”
In fact, Crystal Cruises released a video by President and CEO Tom Wolber, in which he said the luxury line enhanced cleaning and sanitizing protocols for ships, terminals and vehicles transporting guests. Carnival Cruise Line also detailed its more rigorous cleaning standards on its website.
When cruising does resume, travel advisors will be essential in helping the cruise industry recover, just as they were in building the industry since the 1970s.
“Travel agents may never have been more important to the cruise industry than now. Agents will be key sources of information for cruise education as the cruise lines make operational changes to protect passenger safety, and of course for information about cruises sailing again, itinerary changes, reservation and cancelation changes, etc.,” Kwortnik said. “Communicating and incentivizing the travel trade will be vital to the industry’s reemergence. Travel agents are trusted by their clients, and this trust will be critical as travelers decide if and when it’s safe to cruise for the first time or to cruise again.
“Cruising is an outstanding vacation value, and the industry will come out of this pandemic stronger and all the more focused on guest safety and security,” Kwortnik said. “There’s no reason travel agents shouldn’t be confident to continue selling cruises to their clients and to recommend cruises for customers who have never sailed before.”
Comments & Discussion
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