Bahamas Paradise cruise ship helping FEMA response in St. Thomas

Author: CBS12
Photo via CBS12

RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. (CBS12) Bahamas Paradise Cruise Lines’ “Grand Celebration” cruise ship is en route to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The cruise company has agreed to a 90-day charter for Federal Emergency Management Agency, hosting National Guard members and first responders who will be tasked with helping to repair damage created in St. Thomas by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

“This was a very tough decision,” said Anita Mitchell with Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line.

Mitchell says the company has had to cancel all vacation sailings scheduled through Dec. 23. Guests are being offered refunds or to be rebooked for future sail dates with a $100 on board credit.

The Grand Celebration departed Port of Palm Beach Wednesday afternoon. It will spend several days in the Caribbean, trying to avoid impacts of Hurricane Maria. The crew is scheduled to arrive near St. Thomas on Saturday, where it will meet up with members of the National Guard and first responders.

Mitchell says the ship has a crew of 600, although not all will be on board for the next 90 days.

“We’re going to make it with the amount we need, of course engineers, the captain and the technical part,” Mitchell said.

All crew members will be compensated for the 90 days they’re not working.

FEMA has yet to respond to CBS12 requests for details about specific financial information of the charter agreement.

However, Mitchell said FEMA is covering the costs of the charter and most associated fees.

“When your country and FEMA need you and people’s lives are really at risk, as he said, he had no choice, this is the right thing to do,” Mitchell said.

Grand Celebration is expected to return to the Port of Palm Beach, and resume vacation cruises, on Dec. 23.

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