By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
BAHAMAS Celebration Cruise Line is acquiring a new vessel and could be ready to resume service to Freeport in the coming weeks.
While no official word has been released by the cruise line or Ministry of Tourism officials, The Tribune has been reliably informed that the new vessel will be a much “better ship” than the Celebration, which has been out of action for almost six weeks. The 673ft cruise liner was damaged on October 31 after hitting an unknown object in the water and was forced to return to port in Freeport. The ship – which sustained a small hole on its port side – has since been out of commission and in dry dock in Freeport. It has 502 cabins, a large casino, seven restaurants, luxury spa and salon, nightclubs and a Kids Club.
The return of the service – which has been suspended since the accident – is vitally important for the economic stability of Grand Bahama. The Celebration brought 1,000 passengers weekly to the island for two- to four-day stays. It sailed between Palm Beach, Florida, and Freeport every other day.
Bahamas Celebration is a major contributor to the tourism industry in Grand Bahama. The suspension of service has significantly affected several major resorts on the island, including the Grand Lucayan, Taino Beach Resort, Club Fortuna and Island Seas Resort. Tour operators, ground transportation providers, straw vendors and storeowners are also experiencing a decline in business.
Peter Turnquest, MP for East Grand Bahama, said the loss in service has been unfortunate for the Grand Bahama economy, but hopes that the service would be reintroduced soon. He believes that it is unacceptable that an investor such as Bahamas Celebration had to make public their difficulty of getting positive feedback from government following the incident.
“It is unfortunate that the representative from Celebration had to lament that they were not getting the kind of pro-active response from the government to help them to find a quick resolution to the situation,” Mr Turnquest said. “We are hopeful the initial reports from the Ministry of Tourism are, in fact, fruitful and we will see a reintroduction of service with maybe a refurbished vessel or a new vessel in short order,” he said.