Freeport, Grand Bahama Island, October 8, 2019…… The Grand Bahama Island Tourism Board (GBITB) is pleased with the announcement from the Grand Bahama International Airport (GBIA) that they are targeting the middle of November for the resumption of direct flights to and from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, subject to approval by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, and the completion of significant repairs that are presently underway.
Three domestic carriers currently offer regularly scheduled flights to Freeport including Bahamasair, Western Air and Flamingo Air. Private charters, cargo, and relief flights are also operating regularly. The Airport waived all landing and related aircraft, cargo and passenger fees to assist with the humanitarian relief efforts.
Airport operations are limited to daylight and visual flight rules (VFR), meaning that approaching aircraft must be able to see the runway clearly. However, Airport officials are prioritizing repairs to the flight safety operations and navigational aids to extend the operating hours of the airport beyond clear weather in daylight hours.
International flights from countries other than the U.S. can be accommodated with advance notice. Arrivals will be processed onsite and outbound clearance would be handled offsite prior to departure.
Major financial donations continue to pour in to support relief efforts on Grand Bahama Island. A team of representatives from the US Congress and USAID visited the island recently to make a donation of US$7.5 million in additional humanitarian assistance, bringing the total funding for the response provided by US public and private sector partnerships to over US$33 million. Funds have been designated for the Samaritan’s Purse Field Hospital and Grant Memorial hospital, debris removal, emergency and transitional shelters on Grand Bahama, repairs to water, sanitation, hygiene infrastructure and the provision of emergency water supplies to communities most impacted by the storm.
The Bahamas Paradise Cruise Lines (BPCL) Grand Celebration resumed their regular 2-night cruise sailings from Palm Beach on September 28, becoming the first cruise line to bring leisure travelers back to Grand Bahama following the storm.
The inaugural call brought over 1,000 passengers to Freeport, to enjoy a Beach Getaway excursion, experiencing the south side of the island known as the home of some of the best beaches in the Bahamas. However, guests also had the option to support humanitarian relief efforts on Grand Bahama through a variety of special volunteerism excursions, arranged through BPCL and its on-island partners.
The weekly commercial sailings are being offered at a steep discount, and travelers have the option of being a tourist, a volunteer or both. Fares for the two-night sailings on Grand Celebration start from US$109 per person, and the cruise line is also running a promotion offering 50% savings for second guests for all sailings through the Fall.
Volunteerism activities include relief supplies distribution to different neighborhoods; clean-up and repair crews for homes and schools; and food service in the food kitchens in Lucaya. The volunteerism program is a natural transition for the cruise line’s humanitarian efforts. BPCL was the first to arrive in Freeport in the wake of Hurricane Dorian, transporting critical supplies of food, water, medicine and hundreds of volunteers, doctors and construction crews for immediate post storm needs.
Balearia Caribbean was among the first vessels to arrive on Grand Bahama Island with much needed relief supplies that were generously donated by South Floridians. Relief workers along with special search and rescue equipment were a part of this first voyage and mission. Donated supplies consigned to NEMA, the Red Cross, Rotary and Reach Out Ministries were transported aboard the Jaume II at no cost.
Today Balearia Caribbean continues to work with Grand Bahamians and relief organizations to continue relief and restoration efforts for the island of Grand Bahama. Persons wishing to visit Grand Bahama Island may view schedules and book special discounted fares at baleariacaribbean.com.
Senior representatives from Carnival Cruise Line were on island to review the progress made to tour operations, routes and venues for the proposed return voyage of the Carnival Pride. Erika Tache, Senior Director, Product Development Operations and Marketing, and Alvin Arteaga, Shore Excursion Manager, both expressed their pleasure with the advances made, and were excited about the proposed options available to prospective visitors. The Carnival Pride is expected to arrive in Freeport on October 11, 2019.
The GBITB’s Board of Directors is deeply grateful to all who continue to contribute their time, talents and resources to the recovery efforts on Grand Bahama Island. The good news is that a top Bahamian insurer estimates that 80 – 90% of all claims on Grand Bahama Island will be wrapped up before Christmas. Following are the latest updates from the stakeholders:
• Bell Channel Inn, Castaways Resort & Suites, Dolphin Cove, Mayfield Beach, Ocean Reef Resort, Pelican Bay, Royal Islander, Sunrise Resort & Suites, Taino Beach Resorts, The Village Bahamia, are all open for business.
• Pelican Bay Hotel is open, but prioritizing guests of companies and organizations involved in restoring essential services in GBI. Situation is evaluated daily, contact reservation department for any accommodation needs.
• Flamingo Bay Hotel and Marina sustained some damage; however, it is scheduled to reopen on October 10.
• Lighthouse Pointe reopens on October 15.
• Dundee Bay villas is open to relief workers only.
• Old Bahama Bay is slated to open on November 1st; Freeport Resort & Clubs is scheduled to open November 14; Island Seas/Island Palm Resorts is slated to open on November 15.
• Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach now scheduled to open on December 10th and will be offering newly renovated rooms.
On-Island Transportation and Restaurants/Attractions
• H. Forbes Charter Services, S & D Coach Tours, Taxi Services, Hertz, Avis and other rental car services are available.
• The Fish Fry at Smith’s Point, Out Da Sea Bar & Grill, Flying Fish Gastro Bar, The Stoned Crab Restaurant, Sabor, Upstairs Restaurant at Bell Channel, Pepper Pot, Greek Express, Dive-In Bar, Geneva’s Place are all operational.
• Port Lucaya Marketplace: A full structural survey has been completed, and an assessment of the roofs is currently underway. The repair of all buildings that passed the structural survey has begun, to facilitate the reopening of the Marketplace to the public at the earliest possible time. It is anticipated that the gradual reopening of the Port Lucaya Marketplace will take place within the next 7 – 10 days, providing that no major structural work is needed on the roofs.
• Grand Bahama Nature Tours: Revised limited tours include canal-kayak & beach with a maximum capacity of 20 persons, ATV tours with a maximum of 10 persons and Bicycle tours with a maximum capacity of 20 persons.
• Garden of the Groves: Cleanup and restoration underway.
• Pirate’s Cove Zipline & Waterpark: Zipline should be up and running by end of October/early November. All other activities are available, paddle boards, kayak, etc. opened on Saturday, September 28.
• UNEXSO & The Dolphin Experience is open for business
• Crystal Beach/Celebrity Eco-Adventures: Pigs are all fine; beach has been cleaned; water restored. Pig Tour, beach and snorkel activities will be available on October 8.
• Fragrance of the Bahamas Perfume Factory is open and operating.
• Renu Day Spa is open and offering all services.
• Caribbean Divers, Calabash Eco Adventures, Exotic Adventures, Grand Bahama Scuba, Lucaya Watersports, Paradise Watersports are all open and operating.
For more information, and to assist with the recovery and reconstruction process on Grand Bahama Island, please visit the following sites: https://www.gbdisasterrelief.org/; https://rotary6990.org/; and https://www.bahamas.com/relief .