Cruise Line Offers Territory Floating Hospital and Hotel

The Grand Classica generally has 150 to 200,000 paying guests aboard each year. (Photo screen-captured during meeting)

The Virgin Islands may see its first floating hotel operation in the harbor of St. Thomas courtesy of Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line CEO Oneil Khosa, who has offered to temporarily supply a ship to the territory to help boost tourism after the COVID-19 pandemic dies down.

“The ship is a perfect five-star hotel,” Khosa said during Thursday’s Health, Hospitals, and Human Services Senate Committee meeting. “In the case to boost tourism and to become a tourism magnet for the entire region, especially in the post COVID-19 era, having a floating hotel and partnering with the Virgin Islands government and trade associations there, I think it could be a win-win situation.”

One of the ships displayed via video to senators was the Grand Classica which usually cruises between Palm Beach and the Bahamas. The ship can accommodate up to 1500 passengers, has 700 rooms, a crew of 450 people, 15 bars, a casino, a full dining room, and a theater. But most importantly it has a hospital and medical facility on board.

Not only did Khosa offer the ship up as a floating hotel, but he also said it could be used as a floating hospital should the territory have need for it.

“Mr. Khosa, during the pandemic, offered his ship to the territory to become a floating hospital because he loves the territory that much,” Sen. Oakland Benta said.

Khosa told Benta when talk of COVID-19 was just beginning, “we would be more than keen to deploy one of our ships for the people of the Virgin Islands [for medical use].”

Khosa and his vessels are no strangers to the Virgin Islands. “We came to the Virgin Islands immediately after Hurricane Irma passed,” he said.

The ship called the Grand Celebrations went to St. Croix initially and then was stationed in St. Thomas for nearly three months. Khosa said the ship housed first responders and people instrumental to the preliminary recovery of the islands.

“When she came in she was actually avoiding bad weather to be there in time and by the time she reached St. Croix it was amazing that there was no one on the dock to even take the ropes and lines from her because the hurricane was still hovering and just passing by. But we made sure we were there in time because we knew we would need it,” Khosa said.

After falling in love with the territory while working in the cruise industry for 20 years and docking continuously in St. Thomas, Khosa was eager to help the people of the Virgin Islands in any way he could.

The association between himself and the territory only grew, he said, after supplying his ship post hurricanes.

“He could have taken his vessels other places, but of course the Virgin Islands is what’s close to his heart,” Benta said.

Now, with the offer on the table, conversations will continue. No further discussion took place during the public meeting.

Committee members who were present for the hearing were Sens. Benta, Marvin Blyden, Athneil Thomas, Janelle Sarauw, and Kurt Vialet. Sens. Kenneth Gittens and Donna Frett-Gregory were absent.