They’re ordinary items in ordinary life. Water and ice. Toilet paper and pet food. Trash bags. Milk.
Then, in a triple-threat calamity fierce enough to turn paradise into hellish pandemonium, they become scarce, priceless, unobtainable.
Few companies are as well equipped as cruiselines to respond to humanitarian crises, with their reliable supply chains and commodious ships, including orderly onboard processes to manage large numbers of people.
So when Hurricane Harvey savaged coastal Texas, closely followed by Irma’s fury in Florida and Maria’s devastation of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and other Caribbean habitations, there was a quick, collective decision at Royal Caribbean to take humanitarian action.
It was given the official OK by RCI President and CEO Michael Bayley, who soon committed four ships to the lifesaving work and offered a simple explanation.
“It’s heartbreaking to see our friends under these circumstances,” Bayley said. “With our strong sense of responsibility to our employees, their friends and families, our guests and the affected communities, we’ve been and remain committed to weathering this journey to recovery with them.”
First was not-too-distant neighbor Galveston – an RCL port – and points north and south on the Gulf Coast of Texas, all threatened with serious damage by Harvey.
“We were able to ship several 40-foot-plus container trucks out to Texas with supplies that we sourced,” said Janet Diaz, RCL communications manager, corporate responsibility. “Then, because our ship Liberty of the Seas sails from the Port of Galveston and had not been able to return to it, the decision was made to bring the ship into Miami in order to refuel and wait for the port to open.”
Some 2,000 guests were disembarked in Miami while rescue workers and supplies joined the remaining 1,000 for the return to Texas.
Irma was on its way, and the ferocity faced by Miami and much of the rest of Florida led RCL officials to load their South Florida employees, their families and even their pets aboard Enchantment of the Seas – its immediate itinerary was cancelled – and sail to the lee side of Cuba to wait out the storm.
When Irma hit, RCL relief efforts, coordinated in large part from an ad hoc command center operating aboard Enchantment, were redoubled to aid and save lives on St. Maarten, St. Thomas and other scenes of ruin, including some not normally visited by RCL such as Barbuda.
Then Maria came on, leaving the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico – which had been a temporary haven for evacuees from Irma – devastated.
And Royal Caribbean kept at it, to date evacuating 5,507 people, 102 dogs, 20 cats, three birds, a hamster and a guinea pig; and delivering 30,637 gallons of water, four tons of ice, 25 pallets of medical supplies, 9,355 gallons of milk, 13,050 pounds of animal supplies (including hay for livestock), 110,500 garbage bags, 4,200 rolls of toilet paper, 30,504 batteries and 450 generators.
The relief work goes on, and RCL will match cash donations of up to $1 million.
It’s what good neighbors do.