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FEMA charters cruise ship for National Guard in U.S. Virgin Islands

By Allen Cone
FEMA charters cruise ship for National Guard in U.S. Virgin Islands
The cruise ship Grand Celebration, docked in Freeport, Bahamas, has been contracted by FEMA to house National Guard members in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, assisting in the recovery after Hurricane Irma. Photo by Wikimedia Commons/Arnold Reinhold

Sept. 19 (UPI) -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency plans to use a cruise ship to house National Guard members in the U.S. Virgin Islands helping in the territory's recovery from Hurricane Irma.

The MV Grand Celebration will arrive in St. Thomas on Saturday and will be contracted with FEMA through late December, the cruise ship's owner and operator, Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, announced Tuesday.

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St. Thomas is also in the path of another Category 5 hurricane, Maria.

The company, which owns only the one ship, plans to resume two-night cruises from the Port of Palm Beach in Florida to the Grand Bahama Islands on Dec. 23. The ship, which was used by Carnival Cruise Lines from 1987-2014, includes 750 staterooms and has a capacity of 1,900 passengers.

RELATED Florida's economic hit from Hurricane Irma expected to total billions

"We will be reaching out to all of our guests and travel partners this week," Oneil Khosa, CEO of the cruise line, said in a news release. "We feel badly about this 90-day disruption but believe the extensive needs of the St. Thomas people to be of greater importance at this time."

Individuals who booked directly with the cruise line for canceled cruises through Dec. 21 can call 800-374-4363. If they booked their trips elsewhere, they should contact that travel provider.

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Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line acquired the ship in 2015 after MS Bahamas Celebration was damaged in a collision with a submerged object in the Bahamas one year earlier, the Palm Beach Post reported.

RELATED NHC says Maria 'potentially catastrophic' as it tears through Caribbean

After Irma, the cruise line offered staycations for $39 per night per person on the ship, the Post reported in a separate article.

RELATED Hurricane Maria ravages eastern Caribbean after Irma

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