Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. has forged an ambitious plan to deliver 20,000 meals a day to Grand Bahamas residents who are laboring to recover from Hurricane Dorian.
The first ship, the Empress of the Seas, is scheduled to arrive on Sept. 4 with 10,000 cold meals, which will be tendered in for distribution ashore. Thereafter, the plan is to raise the number of meals to 20,000.
Following the first effort by Empress, the Symphony of the Seas and the Celebrity Equinox will both be visiting Grand Bahama on Friday.
Each day, Royal will take one of its ships headed for the Bahamas or the Caribbean and divert it for several hours to deliver on the commitment.
Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of RCCL, said paying guests won't notice any difference in the food service onboard, but the itineraries will be tweaked for the near future so that a sea day may be substituted for a certain port call, or vice versa.
Fain said the plan was hatched mid-morning on Wednesday as company officials considered how they could best provide relief.
"It's hard to get your hands around what total devastation is like," Fain said in an interview. "You don't even know what the issues are."
But one certain thing, Fain said, is that people need to keep eating, and many no longer have the means to feed themselves.
"If the refrigerator is out, if the stove won't turn on, what do you do? They need good, warm healthy food. Now they may not be receiving our normal cruise line fare, but they will think this is the best dinner they've ever had," Fain said.
Royal Caribbean will cook the food in its ships and coordinate with a cargo operator that will be delivering water and canned goods separately. Distribution will be handled by the Bahamian government, by churches, by the Bahamas Feeding Network, a Nassau-based entity that has a long-term partnership with RCCL, and by chef Jose Andres' World Central Kitchen.
Fain said that the plan is still coming together and that given the chaotic post-storm conditions in Freeport, will have to be modified as needed.
"There are going to be problems, but we're determined to figure it out," Fain said.
The tentative plan also calls for kitchen equipment to be brought to Freeport to begin making meals onshore at the Grand Bahama Shipyard, where there's an existing kitchen for 500-600 employees, and at the kitchen at the Grand Lucayan Resort.