The storms have passed but there is still a lot of work to do in the Caribbean. The good news is that the cruise lines, the same companies that have introduced many of us to the USVI, are taking a share of the lead in the relief efforts.
Carnival Cruise Lines has set up a long-term relief effort for the Eastern Caribbean, using 11 of its ships to bring supplies to the ports impacted by hurricanes Irma and Maria. They’re also paying contractors to make deliveries. The “Fun Ship” is providing the necessities like food, water, clothing, diapers and generators. The USVI aren’t the only ones getting the love, the Carnival Fascination has also delivered food, water and other needed relief supplies to the islands of Barbuda, St. Maarten, Antigua and St. Kitts. Carnival’s financial contribution is also substantial with a $10 million donation through the Micky and Madeline Arison Family Foundation.
The Norwegian Sky, owned by Norwegian Cruise Lines, helped coordinate the evacuation of nearly 1,000 stranded visitors, displaced residents and their pets on St. Thomas. NCL also delivered 35 pallets of supplies such as food, ice, bedding and clothing. 15 pallets of other essential items like toiletries and clean clothing came from crewmembers’ personal donations.
The president and CEO of NCL Andy Stuart said, “The question wasn’t if we could go, but how fast we could get there… In my 30 years of working for Norwegian Cruise Line, it was my proudest moment.”
NCL is also partnering with All Hands Volunteers to rebuild schools in communities devastated by the hurricanes. The company chose All Hands not only because they were one of the first NGOs to respond, but also because they have committed to staying on the islands for the long haul of rebuilding. The cruise line plans on committing $2.5 million in relief funds over the next 2 years to the islands of Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Tortola, Cuba and the Florida Keys.
Royal Caribbean stepped up big time. While the mainland government was still finding the Caribbean on a map, they were already evacuating 1,700 people from St. Thomas and St. Maarten.
September 9, the cruise line announced that they would be deploying four ships for relief efforts. The Adventure of the Seas and Majesty of the Seas evacuated 1,700 people, pets and employees from the Eastern Caribbean.
The most telling aspect of the effort is the cruise lines didn’t just use ships that had sailings canceled by the storms for the effort. The ships involved wouldn’t have been sitting empty. Royal Caribbean canceled two planned sailings, one for Empress of the Seas and one for Majesty of the Seas, in order for them to participate in the relief efforts.
At some point in my life, I created an unfavorable opinion of cruise lines, viewing them as corporate, soulless businesses that just load people up and out. After seeing these efforts, that opinion may be due for an update.