They’d booked for a relaxing seven-day Caribbean cruise around the Bahamas. But for the 3000 passengers onboard Celebrity Cruise ship Equinox, watching the devastation left by Hurricane Dorian as they cruised towards their final destination of Nassau, was too much to ignore. Instead, the ship’s passengers and crew rallied together and set to work helping survivors of the storm.
After sailing from Fort Lauderdale, Florida on Saturday, the Celebrity Equinox diverted less than a week later to Freeport on Grand Bahama Island, one of the key areas partially destroyed by the wild winds and heavy rain of Dorian. And for her passengers, the idea of enjoying the remainder of their cruise holiday was a last resort, especially since a number of the ship’s crew and up to 500 colleagues of Celebrity Cruises call The Bahamas home.
So on Friday, up to 10,000 meals were prepared, wrapped and delivered to victims of the storm thanks to crew working double shifts, passengers rolling up their sleeves and even children, writing personalised cards to cheer up the locals.
The ship was carrying more than 2,500kgs of food, to make everything from cold cut sandwiches to hot dishes such as chicken, rice and beans, as well as 300,000 bottles of water, all being handed out to survivors.
Guests who spoke with local press said they didn’t have a doubt in their decision to help the survivors by providing meals, saying they wished they could do more.
Celebrity Cruises has been operating in the Caribbean for almost 30 years, and is the little sister of Royal Caribbean, operating for about 50 years. Spokesman Rob Zeiger said there was “a little army of cooks making food and a little navy of tug boats bringing it ashore.”
In a letter to guests the cruise line promised to compensate them for missing the intended port and an onboard credit, also explaining that then decision to re-route and provide aid was part of their pledge to support humanitarian causes when required. In 2010, when airspace was closed because of the eruption of an Icelandic volcano, one of its ships helped to ferry 2,000 British tourists stranded in Spain.
“In a disaster, you stitch together a response system,” said Zeiger “And the response all round has been amazing.”
The line has partnered with the Pan American Development Foundation to provide disaster relief to The Bahamas. And has since delivered a range of supplies to the islands.
Dorian was a Category 5 hurricane with close to 300kmh winds – one of the strongest Atlantic storms ever recorded – when it made landfall in the northern Bahamas on Friday. The death toll has grown to at least 43 people with thousands still listed as missing.
Other cruise operators, including Carnival Cruise Lines, Disney Cruises and have announced they will be donating money or supplies as part of the recovery and relief efforts.
Norwegian Cruise Lines, which operates Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas has also doubled their donation to a total of USD$2million for their Hope Starts Here hurricane relief program.
Royal Caribbean is serving 20,000 meals a day and helping shuttle people off Grand Bahama to Nassau. The line has transported 810 people and donated almost 150,000 bottles of water as of Tuesday the company said.
Carnival Cruise Line has also donated $1 million to aid organisation Direct Relief to provide medical supplies. The line is running its scheduled cruises to Freeport, and dropping off supplies for the storm-damaged area.
In addition to delivering relief supplies, MSC Cruises is also providing modular housing for the population as well as making available MSC ships send relief supplies from the US to the Bahamas.
MSC Cruises is also on their way to Nassau for meetings with local officials, community leaders and relief and recovery organisations to identify relief needs that they can support.
According to UN relief officials, more than 70,000 people are homeless and in need of help on Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands.
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