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FEMA charters Bahamas Paradise ship for USVI hurricane relief

Grand Celebration's humanitarian mission in St. Thomas expected to stretch from Sept. 23 to latter half of December
At the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line's Grand Celebration will be heading to St. Thomas to house the National Guard and first responders.

The news of this FEMA charter comes just as the US Virgin Islands face Hurricane Maria, a 'potentially catastrophic' Category 5 storm. Maria closely follows on the heels of Hurricane Irma, which caused extensive damage in the US Virgin Islands.

Grand Celebration has 750 cabins and capacity for up to 1,900 passengers.

The ship's humanitarian mission is expected to start with arrival in St. Thomas on Sept. 23 and last through the latter half of December.

Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line expects to resume normal operations—two-night cruises between the Port of Palm Beach, Florida, and Freeport, Grand Bahama Island—beginning Dec. 23.

'We will be reaching out to all of our guests and travel partners this week,' CEO Oneil Khosa said. 'We feel badly about this 90-day disruption but believe the extensive needs of the St. Thomas people to be of greater importance at this time.'

Individuals who booked directly with the line for cruises through Dec. 21 can contact Bahamas Paradise’s customer service department at 800-374-4363 to review available options. These include a full refund or rescheduling with a $100 on-board credit per cabin. Other booked passengers should contact their travel providers.

The line has previously stepped up for hurricane relief. When the Port of Palm Beach reopened after Irma, Bahamas Celebration provided housing to the public for several nights and served free hot meals to first responders.