In the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, the world’s cruise lines are coming to the rescue of Bahamians, but changing policy in the USA might complicate their operations.
The Category 5 hurricane, one of the strongest Atlantic storms ever recorded, made landfall in the northern Bahamas on 1 September 2019 and wreaked devastation. There are as many as 40 reported dead at this time, and thousands listed as missing. Survivors are left homeless in the rubble and without access to clean drinking water or food.
Celebrity Equinox, which had left Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on a cruise of the Caribbean, was originally intended to dock in Nassau at the end of the journey but instead diverted to Freeport on Grand Bahama Island to lend a helping hand. The ship’s crew prepared more than 10,000 meals from the supplies on board and the ship’s guests volunteered to help pack the meals. Some of the company’s other cruise ships will be rotating through Freeport delivering meals and other necessary items like lawn chairs, pillows, towels, medical supplies and clothing.
Royal Caribbean Cruises pledged more than US$1m to Dorian disaster relief and committed to delivering more than 20,000 meals a day. Norwegian and Walt Disney Company also pledged US$1m to the relief efforts.
Carnival Cruise Line announced that two ships – Carnival Pride and Carnival Liberty – departing US homeports this week will make stops in Freeport to distribute food, water and relief supplies. The company has also signed an agreement with Tropical Shipping and The Bahamas National Emergency Management Agency to deliver donations from residents of Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, with the first container ship with emergency supplies setting off to Freeport on the evening of 6 September 2019.
Carnival Corporation’s philanthropic arm, Carnival Foundation, and its nine global cruise line brands along with the Micky and Madeleine Arison Family Foundation, have pledged US$2m in funding and in-kind support for hurricane relief efforts in The Bahamas.
Bahamas Paradise Cruise Lines brought 1,550 Hurricane Dorian evacuees to West Palm Beach, Florida, on Saturday 7 September. But on Monday 9 September, there was confusion when a ferry boat with evacuees asked those on board who did not have US visas to disembark as they would not be allowed in the USA. President Trump later said he would not let people in without “totally proper documentation”.
The Department of Homeland Security has since issued new guidance that requires anyone traveling from the Bahamas to the USA, by air or by ship, to have a valid visa. The guidance suggests that Bahamians go to the US Embassy in Nassau to seek a visa if they want to temporarily relocate to the USA; or to apply for CBP pre-clearance in Nassau or Freeport International Airport if they meet the requirements.
In a tweet issued on 7 September 2019, President Trump also suggested using cruise ships as temporary housing for the thousands stranded after the hurricane.