The decision to send the Grand Celebration on a humanitarian voyage to Freeport was simply the right thing to do, according to Oneil Khosa, CEO of Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line.
“Grand Bahama is home to us and we knew it was the right thing to do; they needed help,” he said. The two-ship company sails two-night cruises from Palm Beach to Freeport year-round.
Having just gotten back from the relief mission on Saturday morning, Khosa told Cruise Industry News that the ship had brought back some 1,100 evacuees, both Bahamian and American citizens.
Making the decision earlier in the week to send the Grand Celebration to Freeport following damage from Hurricane Dorian, Khosa said the response was overwhelming.
“After making the announcement earlier in the week that we were going, we had 300 tons of supplies donated within hours,” he added. “Doctors were leaving work to join the ship.”
The Grand Celebration sailed from Palm Beach on Thursday evening on the voyage, with 300 first responders and volunteers aboard, as well as 200 Bahamian residents who were stranded in South Florida during Hurricane Dorian.
“Everything is pro bono,” Khosa continued. “We opened up the ship going there and going back.”
Sailing from Palm Beach late on Thursday, the company didn’t know what to expect. The ship was packed with relief supplies, but the harbor conditions in Freeport remained a question.
Early Friday morning, they received the green-light from the Bahamas that the harbor was safe for docking. At 6 a.m. in Freeport, there was already a line of hundreds of people waiting to board the ship.
The day in Freeport was spent helping, boarding evacuees, landing supplies and even assisting in delivering a baby. Twenty or so doctors that were onboard the ship worked on the island into the evening.
With the Grand Celebration back in Palm Beach, Bahamas Paradise is evaluating when to resume commercial service.
Khosa said the company was impressed the response, pointing to a call center lighting up with offers of help from various charities, and donations still coming in.