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Elbow grease, expertise and a lot of heart — inside Royal Caribbean’s Bahamas relief mission

royal caribbean grand bahama relief
In Freeport, from top left clockwise, evacuees board a tender, galley crew on Empress of the Seas prepare food, Symphony of the Seas crew unload supplies, Royal Caribbean's Michael Bayley (in blue shirt) talks with officials PHOTOS: Royal Caribbean
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. is making good on its pledge to deliver relief supplies and 20,000 meals a day to the Freeport, Grand Bahama community impacted by Hurricane Dorian.

Company management were mobilizing the relief effort while Dorian was still wreaking havoc.

Springing into action

Everyone ‘sprang into action,’ according to Cornelius Gallagher, VP food and beverage operations, Celebrity Cruises. He admitted it was challenging when told ‘We need to get at least 10,000 portions of food to the Bahamas in 24 hours. Make it happen.’

But managers, shoreside employees and crew did just that.

Chefs, galley staff and waiters pitched in to prepare sandwiches, proteins with rice and fruits and snacks for distribution. Pallets of water and other emergency supplies were loaded onto the ships.

As earlier reported, Empress of the Seas was the first to arrive, last Thursday, followed by Symphony of the Seas and Celebrity Equinox on Friday, and Mariner of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas continued the effort over the weekend.

20,000 meals a day

After the 10,000 meals delivered the first day, the company has managed to supply at least 20,000 meals each subsequent day.

This, despite the challenge that ships can’t dock at Freeport because of the devastation, according to Patrik Dahlgren, SVP global marine operations, Celebrity. ‘We stop outside. We utilize every boat, every tugboat, every tender that we have to get as many meals as we can shoreside,’ he said. That goes for landing water, too.

Crew on the ships load the food and supplies onto the boats and then offload it ashore, forming human chains with team members on the ground to stack the items in trucks and school busses for distribution.

Staying 'focused, positive and engaged'

‘We have seen roads torn up, bridges knocked down, containers knocked over. My goal is just to make sure that our staff here representing Royal Caribbean stay focused, stay positive, stay engaged and that we give it our deepest, heartfelt efforts. We will offer our assistance in any way that we can,’ said Ethel McGuire, director, situation management, Royal Caribbean.

In addition to distributing food and supplies, the company is assisting evacuees. Families with babies and children, the elderly or those needing immediate medical attention have been embarked on tenders for transfer to Nassau.

The goods coming by container vessels to Grand Bahama include tarps, plywood, generators, flashlights, baby food and diapers, toilet paper, cereal and pet food.

Everything is part of Royal Caribbean's commitment to provide $1m in hurricane relief assistance to the Bahamas.

'One team, one goal, one heart'

‘It’s really one team, one goal, one heart,’ according to Brian Abel, SVP hotel operations, Celebrity. ‘[We’re sending] anything that the people of the Bahamas are needing and we can provide to them, really as well and as fast as anyone in the world can right now.’

Royal Caribbean Chairman and CEO Richard Fain and Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley traveled to Freeport over the weekend, meeting with Bahamian officials, the company’s humanitarian relief partners in the Bahamas, workers and local people.

'These our our friends. These are our neighbors'

‘You can’t sit and watch that kind of suffering and not want to try and give a little back,’ Fain said. ‘We’ve been partners with the Bahamas for 50 years. These are our friends. These are our neighbors.’

He continued: ‘Our people are ready, willing and, I’m happy to say, very able to [give back]. And excited to do it. To try to give a little bit back is something everybody should be doing.’

Bayley added that the operation is very logistically challenging.

‘The great news,’ he said, ‘is that’s what we do. We’ve been doing this for many decades — arranging, managing, moving these huge ships with supply chains and fuel and food and people. It’s what we do for a business. We can apply all our expertise, knowledge and wisdom and a lot of very capable people.’

Praise for the crew

Bayley thanked the crew. Not only do they do a wonderful job every day, he said, ‘In these moments when we ask them to do so much more, they do it, and they do it so exceptionally well.’