By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
ALL cruise ships due to arrive in New Providence on Friday have been cancelled due to Hurricane Joaquin, Ministry of Tourism officials have announced.
Joy Jibrilu, Director General of Tourism, said three cruise ships expected to arrive today have been "diverted" to various locations. One, she said, has been diverted to Freeport, Grand Bahama. The other two, however, have been diverted "elsewhere".
However, Mrs Jibrilu said that cruise lines scheduled to call into Grand Bahama are "sailing as normal". She said that with the exception of one cruise line, all cruise ships will return to the New Providence cruise port, while those scheduled to arrive in Grand Bahama will do so "as scheduled".
She added that the cruise port in New Providence has been closed since 1am on Friday and will reopen at 7am on Saturday.
Mrs Jibrilu made her statements at the British Colonial Hilton Hotel, where the Ministry of Tourism for the last three days has established a command centre to allow officials to monitor the storm and the safety of tourists throughout the islands.
"All cruise ships that were due to arrive at the port of Nassau today have been cancelled," Mrs Jibrilu said. "They're being diverted elsewhere. However we are aware of the fact that cruise lines scheduled to call into Grand Bahama including the Balearia fast ferry and the Celebration are sailing as normal. The numbers in fact coming in on those vessels are quite extraordinary.
"It really does speak to the fact that business is continuing as usual in the northern Bahamas. We do know that cruise lines with the exception of one tomorrow will return to the port of Nassau and they will continue to call into Grand Bahama and the cays as scheduled.
"We know that three cruise ships were expected to arrive today and have been diverted. One of the cruise ships that was due to arrive today is in fact calling on Freeport instead. So the Bahamas has not lost that ship; rather it's been diverted to Freeport. But the other two have been diverted elsewhere."
Mrs Jibrilu also said that the Ministry of Tourism is "confident" that any visitors currently in the central and southeastern Bahamas are safe amidst the ravages of Hurricane Joaquin.
Mrs Jibrilu did acknowledge that four guests staying in Georgetown, Exuma, had to seek shelter. However, she and other tourism officials stressed it was due to "precautionary" measures.
Nonetheless, she said that as of Friday afternoon her team had not received any negative reports regarding the safety of visitors from any of the Family Islands during the passage of the Category 4 hurricane.
"They were absolutely fine and the hotels had gone into their emergency preparedness mode," she said. "They had assured us that everything was in order and that the guests they were dealing with such small numbers. But there was nothing for us to be concerned about and we've not heard anything contrary to that.
"We continuously want to assure all persons who may have family members visiting the Bahamas at this time, that we are confident that they are well and that every measure is being taken by hotels. They were aware well in advance of the storm coming and we notified them and they shared their plans with us and contingency plans of what would happen. So we're confident that any visitors will be okay."
According to Mrs Jibrilu, there are 520 visitors scattered throughout the Family Islands. The majority of those individuals are in Bimini (218) and Exuma (197), she said.
There are 32 guests in Andros - 26 in South Andros and six in Central Andros; 20 guests in Inagua; 18 in Abaco; 10 in Long Island; eight in Cat Island; six in Cat Island, Crooked Island and Eleuthera.
Mrs Jibrilu also said that there are also two visitors in San Salvador - believed to be domestic tourists - and two in Mayaguana and one in Acklins.
New Providence and Paradise Island collectively have just over 5,000 visitors while Grand Bahama has just under 2,000, she said.