(7:35 p.m. EDT) -- Carnival Australia is using four of its cruise ships to deliver humanitarian aid to Vanuatu after the devastation of Cyclone Pam.
P&O Cruises' Pacific Dawn and Pacific Pearl and Carnival Cruise Line's Carnival Legend and Carnival Spirit are either on the way or preparing to go to Vanuatu.
Believed to be a first for the cruise industry, the humanitarian aid missions will be conducted in conjunction with South Pacific cruises booked by thousands of passengers; however, the holidaymakers will not disembark in those ports of call.
“We are confident that our guests will understand this knowing that they are playing an active part in delivering help to our friends in Vanuatu,” said Carnival Australia CEO Ann Sherry.
Carnival Legend was one of the first ships to arrive in Vanuatu yesterday, delivering bottled water, a generator and other goods from the ship to Santo, which was spared the worst effects of the catastrophic cyclone. Carnival Spirit is also on its way this week with more aid for the region.
Pacific Dawn is expected to become the first cruise ship carrying humanitarian aid to reach Port Vila when it arrives there on Wednesday after departing from Brisbane this weekend. Pacific Pearl leaves Sydney on Monday and is due in Port Vila on Saturday, March 28.
Working with Save the Children, Pacific Dawn and Pacific Pearl will be carrying numerous pallets of food, bottled water and tarpaulins for shelter in communities where homes were wiped out.
“The two immediate calls are for humanitarian purposes only but they will also enable our Ni-Vanuatu crew on our ships to make face to face contact with their families for the first time since the cyclone hit,” said Sherry. “We look forward to returning to Vanuatu on a regular basis because cruise tourism is so important to the economic wellbeing of the country and its people.”
On the way to Port Vila, Pacific Dawn will make her scheduled cruise calls to Noumea and Lifou. Port Vila remains in a state of emergency and Pacific Dawn's call will be limited to the few hours needed to unload the shipment of humanitarian aid.
Pacific Pearl will also carry humanitarian aid when it departs from Sydney on Monday. Carnival Australia ships will continue to carry aid shipments to Vanuatu as the country embarks on long term reconstruction.
Benefit concerts are also planned to be held onboard the P&O fleet with the proceeds devoted to Vanuatu relief.
These moves follow Carnival Australia's contribution of $300,000 to Save the Children's relief efforts comprising $150,000 from the company and $150,000 from Carnival Corporation chairman Micky Arison through his family foundation.
--By Louise Goldsbury, Australia Editor