- Susan Salisbury Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
The only passenger cruise ship based at the Port of Palm Beach is slated to begin sailing again to Grand Bahama Island on Saturday, Dec. 23, after a three-month hurricane relief mission in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Majority owned by the family of former Norwegian Cruise Line President and CEO Kevin Sheehan since last year, Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line operates the 1,900-passenger Grand Celebration.
The company will add a second ship, called the Grand Classica, at the Port of Palm Beach in April.
Since late September, Grand Celebration had been chartered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and was providing housing to first responders and National Guard members who were helping to rebuild the U.S. Virgin Islands following damage caused by Hurricane Irma and Maria.
“We are pleased to have been able to assist those in need in the Caribbean. Now we are ready to return to offering memorable cruises to our guests,” said Oneil Khosa, chief executive officer of Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line.
Having two ships sailing to Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line will be the largest provider of tourism to the island, carrying more than 500,000 passengers annually, Khosa said.
In August, the cruise line and the Port of Palm Beach signed a 10-year agreement for the Grand Celebration and the addition of the second ship.
The port projects it will receive from $54.3 million to $62.9 million from the two ships over the 10 years.
While the ship was away, the port made improvements to its passenger cruise terminal, including a $104,000 escalator refurbishment, $20,000 in passenger loading bridge repairs, $30,000 on resurfaced flooring and new carpet, $365,000 on roof repairs, as well as air conditioning repairs, painting, and replacing an awning, port spokeswoman Aidy Alonzo said.
The port suffered roughly $1 million in damage from Hurricane Irma, and some of those repairs and renovations wereto repair damage.
The cruise line announced enhancements including a new adult-only sundeck with a bar and hot tub, an expanded, revitalized casino, and specialty coffee and juice bar on Deck 9.
Holiday festivities planned include an appearance by Santa and a New Year’s Eve party.
Grand Classica will carry up to 1,680 guests and features 685 staterooms, restaurants and bars, a theater, two pools, four hot tubs, wellness center and spa and outdoor jogging track.
Additional details on the new ship will be announced in early 2018. Grand Classica is expected to begin sailings in mid-April 2018.