(6:10 p.m. EDT) -- The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency has chartered Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line's only ship, Grand Celebration, to house first responders in St. Thomas as they help to rebuild the island following Hurricane Irma.
The storm hit the island as a Category 5 hurricane on September 6 and 7, damaging buildings and causing widespread power outages. Flights to St. Thomas, which is part of the U.S. Virgin Islands, are currently limited to aircrafts delivering emergency relief supplies, and the cruise port is closed to passengers.
From September 23 to late December, 1,900-passenger Grand Celebration will provide housing and meals to first responders and members of the U.S. National Guard. Regular sailings are scheduled to resume December 23.
Bahamas Paradise CEO Oneil Khosa said in a statement that the line will be contacting affected passengers and travel partners this week regarding the canceled voyages. "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," Khosa said.
Affected cruisers who booked directly through the line can opt for a 100 percent refund of the cruise fare paid or reschedule their sailings and receive a $100-per-stateroom onboard credit. Passengers who booked through a third party should call their travel providers for more information.
Bahamas Paradise isn't the only line helping with relief efforts in the Eastern Caribbean. Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Line have all sent ships to various islands to drop off badly needed supplies and have undertaken additional relief efforts.
--By Ashley Kosciolek, Editor