(12:40 p.m. EST) -- After nearly three months housing first responders in St. Thomas in the wake of Hurricane Irma, Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line's Grand Celebration will return to offering two-night cruises to Freeport. It will also introduce a slew of upgrades.
Grand Celebration, which the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency chartered for hurricane relief efforts beginning September 23, will depart from the Port of Palm Beach December 23 with a new adults-only area, an expanded casino and a specialty coffee and juice bar. The first post-dry-dock sailing will include an appearance by Santa as part of the line's holiday celebrations; the ship also will host a New Year's Eve party cruise.
Reserved for passengers 18 and older, the complimentary adults-only space, dubbed The Oasis, replaces the forward sun deck and includes a bar, hot tub, new deck chairs and outdoor daybeds. The casino, which has been doubled in size, now comes with almost 70 new slot machines, video poker and enhanced table games. On Deck 9, the new Grand Cafe will serve specialty coffees, gelato, smoothies and freshly squeezed juices, as well as a la carte snacks like pastries, quiche and chocolate truffles.
"We are pleased to have been able to assist those in need in the Caribbean," Oneil Khosa, chief executive officer of Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, said in a statement. "Now we are ready to return to offering memorable cruises to our guests. We are excited to welcome an even better Grand Celebration back to Palm Beach, just in time for the holidays, with several new spaces for our guests to enjoy."
In addition to Grand Celebration's makeover, the line revealed details of a second ship, which it has acquired from Costa Cruises. The vessel, currently operating as Costa neoClassica, will be transferred to Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line's fleet in April 2018, when it is expected to begin sailing as Grand Classica. Like Grand Celebration, it will homeport in the Port of Palm Beach and offer cruises to Freeport.
"Grand Classica will be a wonderful addition and complement to Grand Celebration," said Khosa. "Having two ships sailing to Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line will be the largest provider of tourism to the island, carrying more than 500,000 passengers annually. It will also give our guests more flexibility and choice."
Additional details of Grand Classica, including sail dates, will be announced in early 2018.
--By Gina Kramer, Editor