FREEPORT, Bahamas – Crews on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Mariner of the Sea delivered 20,000 meals and supplies to Freeport, Bahamas for those struggling in the island nation in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.
Early Saturday morning, News4Jax reporter Vic Micolucci, who is making a trip to the islands, posted pictures of meals stacked high all over the cruise ship in anticipation of arrival at the port.
Heartwarming: Crew members aboard @royalcaribbean’s Mariner of the Seas are at sea preparing 20,000 meals to deliver to the people of Freeport in the Bahamas Saturday morning. Staff worked all day and prepared the meals overnight on their own time instead of sleeping. @wjxt4 pic.twitter.com/p8hmsGtWRW— Vic Micolucci WJXT (@WJXTvic) September 7, 2019
He posted an update at approximately 6 a.m., when the ship docked and crews prepared to offload supplies.
Then at 7 a.m., Micolucci posted sunrise pictures from the Freeport dock as crews unloaded.
Hundreds of volunteers from Royal Caribbean worked through the night, came off the ship, the Mariner of the Seas, and brought vital supplies. 20,000 meals, bottles of water, essential necessities for the people who are hurting so badly after Dorian destroyed the islands.
It's all hands on deck as crews from the cruise ship take part in the lifesaving operation. The port is the best way to get supplies to the island of Grand Bahama, where tens of thousands of residents were devastated by Hurricane Dorian. Many survivors are still in shock.
"It's not been so easy having the storm sit over you for that length of time," Freeport pastor Patterson Williams said.
The unloading began as the sun rose – a new day, with new hope, light in a dark time.
"We're distributing it to our communities," Freeport resident Chad Dean said.
Preachers and community leaders are at the forefront of the recovery effort, putting supplies anywhere they'd fit and taking them to the hardest-hit neighborhoods.
It was a colossal task. Staff and volunteers for Royal Caribbean worked through the night cooking meals, boxing them up and sending them out.
This is probably the first real meal some of these Bahamians have gotten to eat since Dorian hit.
"I think that's pretty well gone through everyone's mind, which is why you can see so many people (helping out by cooking) doing it," said Peter Howell, Royal Caribbean executive chef.
At the harbor, the Bahamian government, processed the donations.
"I don't want to see one case of water in the road now. Alright, see ya'," Bahamian Sen. Katherine Smith said as she thanked everyone who's been helping and asked for continued help.
"I think we need a lot of support, and it's not just food and water. It's psychological. Talking to people. It's coming to help people clean up," Smith said.
As the next step in this process, the cruise ship is going to take a couple hundred evacuees from Freeport to Nassau. Nassau has better resources to take care of them as they deal with this difficult process.
News4Jax will continue to document everything that happens in the relief and recovery effort in the Bahamas. Follow along with reporter Vic Micolucci and photojournalist Jesse Hanson as they travel the hurricane-ravaged area on News4Jax.com. You can also follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.