Carnival resumes port calls to Grand Bahama Friday; flights may resume in mid-November

USA Today Traveling 2 months ago

Two more signs that the Bahamas' tourism business is starting to bounce back after Hurricane Dorian ravaged several of the Atlantic islands in early September: Carnival Cruise Line announced it will resume port calls to Grand Bahama Island Friday, and the country's tourism board says it expects flights between that island and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to resume in mid-November.

In a Wednesday press release, the cruise line said that Carnival Pride, which departed Baltimore Sunday with nearly 2,400 passengers will arrive in Freeport Friday for the first of 39 port calls scheduled through the remainder of 2019. Carnival Elation will visit Freeport on Oct. 13 and Carnival Freedom will follow two days later. 

Grand Bahama and Abaco Islands took the worst hits from Dorian, whose winds ripped through the northern Bahamas at 185 mph, killing at least 56 people and leaving hundreds missing. One month later, infrastructure issues – including unreliable power grids, spotty cellphone reception, lack of clean drinking water and blocked roads – continue to impair relief efforts in some areas.

“Carnival Cruise Line is proud to be such a big year-round supporter for cruise tourism to Freeport, so we are very excited to provide our guests the opportunity to again visit this popular destination,” declared Terry Thornton, the cruise line's vice president for nautical and port operations. “Cruise ship visits are important to the local economy, and our shore excursion team has been working closely with local tour operators and has confirmed a variety of attractive onshore excursions for our guests.”

The cruise line says that by the end of 2019, 400,000 Carnival passengers will have visited Grand Bahama on 10 different ships sailing from homeports in the U.S.

"The rebuilding of Grand Bahama has begun," said Sen. James Kwasi Malik Thompson, minister of state for Grand Bahama. "We welcome the return of Carnival Cruise Line back to Grand Bahama after Hurricane Dorian. Carnival is an incredible partner for the Bahamas and Grand Bahama."

Carnival was one of several cruise lines to pledge aid to the Bahamas in Dorian's wake, donating $2 million to relief efforts and sending ships filled with supplies.

The first company to return to Grand Bahama was the Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, which specializes in two-night cruises between Palm Beach, Florida, and Freeport or Nassau. According to the Grand Bahama Island Tourism Board, they resumed sailing to the island on Sept. 28.

Direct flights expected to resume in mid-November

Grand Bahama International Airport, which was devastated by Dorian, expects direct flights between the island and Fort Lauderdale International Airport to resume in mid-November. However, the Grand Bahama Island Tourism Board cautioned that the timing is subject to approval by U.S. regulators.

Although Grand Bahama International Airport's website states the runway has been fully operational since Sept. 27 and that domestic flights have resumed, the tourism board noted it is currently operating on visual flight rules. That means planes can only take off and land when the runway is clearly visible. However, airport officials have made it a priority to repair flight safety operations and navigational aids so that the airport can expand its hours. 

USA TODAY has reached out to airport officials for comment.

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