Royal Caribbean commits $500,000 to expand mariners’ refuge

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Wherever their ships may call, a great many crew members are a long way from home, away from their families for as much as a year.

At Royal Caribbean, crews are seen as the heart of the entire operation – not just the core, but the heart. Because of that, the cruiseline is a major supporter of a place called Seafarers’ House.

While it’s unlikely that most folks outside the community of sailors are aware of the facility, it could hardly be more important to those who sojourn there.

Founded in 1989 by a seminarian, a lawyer and the Episcopal Bishop of Southeast Florida, this “casa del marino” began in Port Everglades with a 400-square-foot hospitality center, which has since grown to a 4,200-square-foot operation. Its mission: “To Offer Refuge, Resources, Renewal and Respect to the Maritime Community Through Multi-Faith Service.”

Now it has entered the public phase of a $4.5 million initiative, the Place of Welcome Campaign, to raise capital for a new facility and to sustain the programs and services provided to 150,000 mariners on the 4,000 ships that call on the port each year.

The three-year campaign was announced at the annual Seafarers’ House Golden Compass Gala on May 19, when Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley was honored with the casa’s Golden Compass Award for 2018. The award honors those whose vocation or avocation has been the sea and have ministered to or otherwise helped seafarers.

Bayley took the opportunity to announce that the cruiseline is committing $500,000 to the campaign.

“Seafarers’ House is a special place for all mariners,” Bayley said. “We thank them for extending their hospitality to our crew around the world during their time at sea.

“We are especially delighted to support Seafarers’ House at Port Everglades, whose Place of Welcome will serve so many of our crew members while calling at Fort Lauderdale.”

Whether because of time or visa restrictions or both, some of them can’t leave their ships. The casa serves year-round as a safe, welcoming place where seafarers can connect with family and friends – sometimes placing more than 1,500 phone calls in a day – obtain pastoral guidance and emergency help if needed, buy everyday items at the center’s convenience store and, for some, make use of its services through its ship-visiting program.

The Place of Welcome Campaign will provide a meditation garden where mariners can relax and enjoy the outdoors; expanded recreation areas to improve overall health and wellness; an improved shopping experience for essential personal items; space for training, meetings and professional development; and a café with indoor and outdoor seating so visitors can enjoy a hot meal with friends.

Seafarers’ House also will continue to offer wire transfer services, free Wi-Fi, and a chapel for multidenominational services, but in a newly upgraded setting.