By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Grand Bahama’s already-fragile economy has lost the benefit of regular calls by the Grand Classica for at least a month after the vessel was redeployed to New Orleans to aid Hurricane Ida restoration.
Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line’s flagship vessel was said to have been chartered to assist recovery efforts in Louisiana, where it will provide accommodation for 1,500 electricity workers hired by Entergy International to restore power to New Orleans and surrounding areas in the state.
Oneil Khosa, the cruise line’s chief executive, told a local Florida TV station that the Grand Classica will be used as a floating city as relief efforts continue. He said: “We will be able to provide it for their crisis management centre, all the management there. If needed they can make the ship their headquarters. We have power, we have food, we have air conditioning and we have highly trained staff.”
Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line also confirmed the move in a letter to passengers who had booked a cruise from West Palm Beach to Freeport after the Grand Classica only recently resumed sailing after more than a year of being shut down by COVID-19 restrictions. The vessel’s comeback has now been cut short, at least temporarily, by Hurricane Ida.
“Today, we entered into an agreement with Louisiana power company Entergy to immediately deploy the Grand Classica to New Orleans, where it will house 1,500-plus front line workers as they push to restore power to the region for the hundreds of thousands of people left without electricity,” Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line said, adding that it had to cancel all cruises for the near future.
“As a result of this immediate requirement for us to sail to New Orleans, we are unable to operate our normal service at this time and we must now cancel your pending cruise. We know this news will be tremendously disappointing, but I hope you will understand the decision we have made today.”
Magnus Alnebeck, the Pelican Bay’s general manager, told Tribune Business that the Grand Classica’s sailing suspension would likely have more impact on Grand Bahama residents than the hotel industry as it was “a substantial means of transportation” for shopping trips to Florida as well as vacations.
He added that the impact on Freeport’s hotel sector was likely to be relatively minimal, although the loss of day trippers from Florida would also be felt by many businesses. This is not the first time that Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line’s vessels have been requisitioned for hurricane relief, as the Grand Celebration performed a similar task in the US Virgin Islands after Hurricane Irma struck in 2017.