When you look at the live satellite map like Ship-tracking.net showing the location of cruise ships in the world, you’ll always find a bunch of cruise ships in the Bahamas. After all, the country is among the top destinations of cruise ships in the world. Famous for its natural beauty and its year-round tropical weather, it is considered as one of the top tourist destinations in the world, particularly in cruising. The Bahamas with its more than 700 islands, cays, and islets in the Atlantic Ocean, and with its turquoise seas, white-sand beaches, and idyllic scenes make it a perfect destination for tourism and cruising.
The Bahamas relies heavily on tourism for its economy and it provides jobs for about half of the country’s workforce. The Bahamas attracts millions of visitors every year on whom mostly were cruise visitors, and when Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas last September 2019, the damage it left in the country is greatly felt by its people with many died and hundreds missing after the disaster. Power outages, water shortages, destroyed and severely damaged homes were just some of the casualties experienced by the people of the country. A category 5 major hurricane, Dorian was the most intense tropical cyclone to ever strike the Bahamas. It is regarded as the worst natural disaster to have had rocked the country.
Following the Hurricane Dorian that greatly devastated the Bahamas, many cruise lines who operate in the region have been helping and sending reliefs for the country. Bahamas Paradise Cruise Lines had helped by bringing supplies, and doctors and nurses to help with the victims. The Grand Celebration of the Bahamas Paradise Cruise Lines is the first to dock the Grand Bahama port to send help and evacuate survivors going to Palm Beach, Florida. The cruise line company only sails to the Bahamas, and so they decided to launch a humanitarian mission to help thousands of people lacking food, shelter, and water rather than waiting for the better times to sail again for business in the Bahamas. The Bahamas Paradise was joined by other cruise line companies like Royal Caribbean, Disney, Norwegian, and Carnival, among others in providing help and responses for the victim of Hurricane Dorian that wrecked thousands of homes in Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands. The Royal Caribbean had served 20,000 meals a day and helped shuttle people off Grand Bahama to Nassau. The cruise line company had also committed to donating $1 million to Dorian disaster relief with an additional $100,000 from ITM, the Royal Caribbean’s partner in Holistica joint venture. Carnival had donated $2 million for the relief from various partnering foundations. Norwegian and Disney had also committed on donating $1 million toward immediate short term relief for the victims of the hurricane.
Efforts of cruise line companies are notable as they have had a long contentious relationship with the Bahamas in the issue of their bad impact on the island. With many cruise line companies sending millions worth of help in the Bahamas, some industry critics are not convinced that these companies are doing enough to help especially that the country brings them billions of dollars a year in their profit. According to James M. Walker, a maritime lawyer who represents plaintiffs in civil lawsuit against cruise line companies, the cruise lines are taking advantage of good publicity to portray themselves as caring, charitable organizations, even though they are only offering a pittance of relief aid to the Bahamas, compared to the enormous profit they are getting from the country. He then called out Carnival Cruise lines for its illegal dumping at sea that made it under court-ordered supervision by the Department of Justice.
It can be recalled that in April 2017, Princess, which is owned by Carnival has been pleaded guilty of dumping oil-contaminated waste from one of its vessels. Carnival was fined $40 million for this and another $20 million for dumping plastics near the Bahamas when they are on probation. Mr. Walker had told that the donation of $1 million to $2 million will not make much difference in the relief, though it will make for a good press given Carnival’s track record. Carnival was quick to defend its company by saying that the company’s donation and the environmental penalties were different and that helping on this kind of situation had been their practice before.
Sam Duncombe, reEarth executive director, had said that while contributions from cruise companies are welcome, she pointed out that the response had been uneven. She then thanked Royal Caribbean for helping victims of the hurricane evacuate to a safer place. Cruise ships can move thousands of people and for her, evacuation of people should be a top priority. Royal Caribbean believes that their company has moral obligations to help countries they frequent.
Minister of Tourism and Aviation in the Bahamas, Dionisio D’Aguilar had acknowledged that the government and cruise companies’ relationship had been rocky but added that the companies are doing better by designing projects that help the local economies and recognize that these companies are rising in the occasion.
With the conflict between cruise lines and the Bahamas, many cruise lines such as Carnival had resumed its port calls to Grand Bahama.
Bahamas Paradise, the first one to send aid in the Grand Bahama said that they are still evaluating how they could continue to offer more help in the Bahamas. And whether cruise companies and the Bahamas are in conflict or not, it is still good to know that some people and companies are willing to help a country like the Bahamas that is greatly in need.