While a large part of my job, particularly my work online, involves discovering and testing points of quality and differentiation among ships at sea, the truth is that being on any vessel in any calm sea can be profoundly rewarding. Aside from the buffets and the bingo, the social directors and the controversial art auctions, every ship has a true heart and soul. It is less about its hardware and more about its people.
Many ships sail to the Bahamas. They call in Nassau, and they have operations on some of the lovely out-islands. We've all been hustled by vendors there. But always with a smile and some acknowledgement that it is all a kind of game.
After the ships, the resorts started coming, and when we saw the ads, we could really believe that "Man, it's better in the Bahamas." Sometimes it was. And it will be again someday, including on the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama, which sustained significant damage from Hurricane Dorian.
I remember once sitting in the main dining room at the Atlantis resort having breakfast. I was surrounded by tables of New Yorkers who had just arrived on holiday. They were ordering all sorts of dishes with changes, as in "I want my bacon crisp -- but not my potatoes, and the eggs should be easy but not too runny." Every table had basic breakfast dish prep instructions. And the glowing Bahamian waitstaff was writing down none of this.
They just smiled and suggested that the guests "chill out a bit man -- you're in the Bahamas."
But now no one in the Bahamas can afford to chill out. Many are suffering in the wake of Dorian.
So how did the cruise lines handle this? After all, you can tell more about a company when the "seas are rough" than you can when the sailing is smooth and sunny.
Carnival Corp. donated $1 million to Bahamian relief. That was then matched by the Micky and Madeleine Arison Family Foundation. Then Carnival announced that it would play a leading role in collecting and delivering much needed emergency supplies to the islands. Perhaps as importantly, Carnival CEO Arnold Donald announced that the line would be looking at locations to build new private islands and tourism-supporting construction.
On Sept. 5, while Dorian was still wreaking havoc along the eastern U.S., the Norwegian Breakaway sailed from Miami with relief supplies to be delivered to Nassau and Great Harbor Cay. This was in addition to pledging $1 million in immediate aid along with the relaunch of the "Hope Starts Here" hurricane relief plan.
MSC Cruises dispatched a batch of high-level executives to tour the devastation so the company could determine exactly what was needed and what was likely to be ignored. They then began setting up a funding group to try to secure the best outcome for their efforts. Bahamas Paradise Cruises had its Grand Celebration sail from Palm Beach, Fla. The ship was filled with food, medical supplies and teams of first responders.
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. pledged $1 million in disaster relief and sent the Empress of the Seas to anchor off the coast of Grand Bahama to deliver food, water and medical supplies and prepare tens of thousands of meals in its galleys.
Beyond the ships, Sandals Resorts was among the first to respond, with pledges of massive aid. Disney offered $1 million for relief efforts, along with massive pledges of supplies.
We've all been blessed from time to time with the kiss of the Bahamian sun and the sweetness of a Bahamian smile. Now it's appreciation payback time. It is wonderful to see some of the biggest players stepping up in such dramatic ways.