As Grand Bahama continues to recover from Hurricane Dorian, there have been two major developments out of the destination from Carnival Cruise Line.
This past Monday the Carnival Ecstasy arrived in Freeport to undergo a dry dock at the Grand Bahama Shipyard. The vessel will be the first cruise ship to use the facility since the storm, during which time it will spend nearly two weeks undergoing a series of renovations to add a Bonsai Sushi Express eatery, a new video arcade, a new Dreams Studio photo venue and upgrades to the ship’s retail shops. The vessel will also undergo routine maintenance, and it will receive replacement carpeting, tile work and furniture as needed.
Following the dry dock, the Carnival Ecstasy will resume its year-round schedule of four- and five-day cruises to the Bahamas from Jacksonville, FL, beginning October 17.
Grand Bahama Shipyard, owned in part by Carnival Corporation, officially resumed operations earlier this month welcoming back its first commercial vessel for repair work. In total, Grand Bahama Shipyard expects to service 15 dry-dockings throughout the remainder of the year.
The Carnival Pride, meanwhile, became the first ship to call at Grand Bahama Friday, docking in Freeport. It was followed by an October 13 call by the Carnival Elation, while a call by the Carnival Freedom is slated for October 15. The Carnival Pride departed Baltimore on Sunday, October 6, on a week-long cruise with nearly 2,400 guests.
All told between now and the end of the year, Carnival said that it expects to host 39 calls in Freeport, bringing more than 100,000 visitors to the destination and providing a significant impact to the local economy. For the full year, over 400,000 guests will visit Grand Bahama on a Carnival cruise vacation aboard 10 different ships sailing from nine U.S. homeports.
During the calls guests will be able to go on more than 15 shore excursions, including The All Inclusive Beach Club; A Select Retreat with Beach and Water Toys; and the VIP Luxury Sail.
Carnival’s relief efforts in Grand Bahama and the Abacos, the two islands damaged by the storm, include a $2 million pledge from parent company Carnival Corporation and the Micky and Madeleine Arison Family Foundation, as well as relief shipments delivered by Carnival Cruise Line ships and via a partnership with Tropical Shipping. Carnival employees and guests have also donated well over $500,000 through online giving tools and collections on embarkation day and onboard.
Since the storm Bahamas tourism officials have been looking to the travel sector, which comprises half of the country’s GDP, to help fund relief and rebuilding efforts on Grand Bahama and the Abacos. While much of their efforts have focused on the 14 of 17 major islands that suffered no damage from the storm, officials have also said that a quick return of travelers to Grand Bahama island is important as well.
“People are going to lose hope if there’s not some stimulation going in,” Ellison Thompson, deputy director general, ministry of tourism and aviation for the Bahamas, said during a recent media briefing at Travel Leaders Group’s New York offices, noting that Hurricane Dorian was the second major storm to hit Grand Bahama in three years.
The tourism ministry and Travel Leaders Group have also partnered on the “Travel Helps the Bahamas” campaign, which will aim to encourage travelers to visit the Bahamas in order to aid its recovery. In addition to a travel advisor education and marketing effort to promote the Bahamas for the fall and winter travel season, Travel Leaders Group will also match money donated by its advisor community through its foundations to aid the Bahamas relief efforts.
Meanwhile, new tourism projects in the destination are still underway. Carnival Corporation has announced plans for two major new cruise developments, one of which will be on Grand Bahama Island. Additionally, Thompson said that the destination is getting additional airlift, including a new Delta flight from Boston to Nassau and additional capacity out of Atlanta to Eleuthera and Exuma. Air Canada is also doubling its winter flights between Montreal and Nassau starting in December, and American Airlines is increasing the size of its aircraft going into Nassau and Eleuthera.