Grand Bahama continues to recover following Hurricane Dorian, which hit the island, as well as the Abacos, in early September. The Grand Bahama Island Tourism Board (GBITB) reports that major financial donations continue to pour in to support relief efforts, with total funding provided by U.S. public and private sector partnerships now over $33 million. Funds have been designated for the Samaritan’s Purse Field Hospital and Grant Memorial hospital, debris removal, emergency and transitional shelters on Grand Bahama, repairs to water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructure and the provision of emergency water supplies to communities most impacted by the storm.
Here’s how the recovery process is going:
The GBITB says that it and the Grand Bahama International Airport are targeting the middle of November for the resumption of direct flights to and from Fort Lauderdale, FL, subject to approval by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration and the completion of significant repairs that are presently underway.
Three domestic carriers currently offer regularly scheduled flights to Freeport, including Bahamasair, Western Air and Flamingo Air. Private charters, cargo and relief flights are also operating regularly. The airport waived all landing and related aircraft, cargo and passenger fees to assist with the humanitarian relief efforts.
Airport operations are limited to daylight and visual flight rules, meaning that approaching aircraft must be able to see the runway clearly. However, airport officials are prioritizing repairs to flight safety operations and navigational aids to extend the operating hours of the airport beyond clear weather in daylight hours.
International flights from countries other than the U.S. can be accommodated with advance notice. Arrivals will be processed onsite and outbound clearance will be handled offsite prior to departure.
Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line's Grand Celebration resumed its regular two-night cruise sailings from Palm Beach on September 28, becoming the first cruise line to bring leisure travelers back to Grand Bahama following the storm, according to the GBITB.
The inaugural call brought over 1,000 passengers to Freeport; guests had the option to support humanitarian relief efforts on Grand Bahama through a variety of special voluntourism excursions, arranged through Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line and its on-island partners. Voluntourism activities include relief supplies distribution to different neighborhoods, participating in clean-up and repair crews for homes and schools and helping with food service in the food kitchens in Lucaya. Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line was also the first to arrive in Freeport in the wake of Hurricane Dorian, transporting supplies of food, water, medicine and hundreds of volunteers, doctors and construction crews for post-storm needs.
Good to know: The weekly commercial sailings are being offered at a steep discount. Fares for two-night sailings on Grand Celebration start from $109 per person, and the cruise line is also running a promotion offering 50 percent savings for second guests for all sailings through the fall.
Balearia Caribbean was also among the first vessels to arrive at Grand Bahama Island with relief supplies that were donated by South Floridians. Relief workers and search and rescue equipment were also a part of this first voyage and mission.
Senior representatives from Carnival Cruise Line were on island to review the progress made to tour operations, routes and venues for the proposed return voyage of the Carnival Pride. Erika Tache, senior director, product development operations and marketing, and Alvin Arteaga, shore excursion manager, both expressed their pleasure with the advances made, and were excited about the proposed options available to prospective visitors. Carnival Pride is expected to arrive in Freeport on October 11.
Bell Channel Inn, Castaways Resort & Suites, Dolphin Cove, Mayfield Beach, Ocean Reef Resort, Pelican Bay, Royal Islander, Sunrise Resort & Suites, Taino Beach Resorts and The Village Bahamia are all open for business. Note: Pelican Bay Hotel is prioritizing guests of companies and organizations involved in restoring essential services in Grand Bahama; similarly, Dundee Bay villas is open to relief workers only.
Flamingo Bay Hotel and Marina sustained some damage and is scheduled to reopen on October 10.
Looking forward, Lighthouse Pointe reopens on October 15. Old Bahama Bay is slated to open on November 1; Freeport Resort & Clubs is scheduled to open November 14; and Island Seas and Island Palm Resorts are slated to open on November 15. Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach is scheduled to open on December 10, with newly renovated rooms.
On-Island Transportation, Restaurants and Attractions
H. Forbes Charter Services, S & D Coach Tours, Hertz, Avis and other rental car services are available.
The Fish Fry at Smith’s Point, Out Da Sea Bar & Grill, Flying Fish Gastro Bar, The Stoned Crab Restaurant, Sabor, Upstairs Restaurant at Bell Channel, Pepper Pot, Greek Express, Dive-In Bar and Geneva’s Place are all operational.
Port Lucaya Marketplace: A full structural survey has been completed, and an assessment of the roofs is currently underway. The repair of all buildings that passed the structural survey has begun, in order to facilitate the reopening of the Marketplace to the public at the earliest possible time. It is anticipated that the gradual reopening of the Port Lucaya Marketplace will take place within the next seven to 10 days, providing that no major structural work is needed on the roofs.
Grand Bahama Nature Tours: Revised limited tours include canal-kayak and beach with a maximum capacity of 20 persons, ATV tours with a maximum of 10 persons and bicycle tours with a maximum capacity of 20 persons.
Garden of the Groves: Cleanup and restoration is underway.
Pirate's Cove Zipline & Waterpark: The zipline should be up and running by end of October or early November. All other activities are available; paddle boards, kayaks and more opened on September 28.
Crystal Beach and Celebrity Eco-Adventures: The pigs are all fine; the beach has been cleaned; and water has been restored. The Pig Tour, beach and snorkel activities reopened on October 8.
Caribbean Divers, Calabash Eco Adventures, Exotic Adventures, Grand Bahama Scuba, Lucaya Watersports, Paradise Watersports are all open and operating. The same goes for The UNEXSO & The Dolphin Experience, Fragrance of the Bahamas Perfume Factory and Renu Day Spa.