Christmas came early for students from five schools across the island of Grand Bahama on Tuesday, when the Florida Caribbean
Cruise Association held its 17th Annual Gift Program ceremony at the Count Basie Square.
Carmen Martinez, Norwegian Cruise line representative, and employee of the Norwegian Sky commented on what it meant for the Norwegian Cruise line to be a part of the gift giving event.
" This is a very exciting feeling. This is something that we do every year. Our company organized this together with the Ministry
of Tourism. It is not only our ship, but most of the ships that we have in the fleet that are coming together annually. Martinez
added that the gift-giving program is just one aspect of the many duties that they have scheduled for the month of December.
" We really want to get along with the citizens here and make something for them. For us this is just a little something that
we can do for them during this time of the year. It is all about family and getting together," she said.
Martinez said that 200 gifts would be distributed during the event. "They will be separated between ages. The gifts were transported
to our ship in Miami about two weeks ago. They have all been labeled, so we know how many children will receive the gifts.
We brought a cake along with the gifts that we hope the kids will also enjoy. We also brought along Santa Claus and some Elves."
Brad Papernick, crew staff of Norwegian Sky disclosed that this is not his first time being a part of this event on the island and was elated to be a part of if yet
again. "I was here last year with the holiday gift project and we have a huge turnover on every ship, so it's a whole different
crew that came this year. But when I found out that this was going on I wanted to come back, because it was so much fun last
year. It was a lot of fun to see the kids responding well.
" Unfortunately, we lost Mrs. Claus this year but we brought Santa back. It is always exciting to come and do this. We love
coming to Freeport; unfortunately, we only come here once a week whereas everywhere else we go twice a week. It is especially
exciting to come to this port for me."
Martha Rolle, Coordinator, Ministry of Tourism also commented on what it means to the ministry to be a part of such an event. "This is the 17th Annual Gift Giving by the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association. Each year we look forward to working with
the cruise association in giving back to some deserving students of Grand Bahama. We rotate the schools yearly; however, the
Beacon School is always involved in this program. Along with the Beacon School this year we have invited Maurice Moore, Bartlett
Hill, West End, and Walter Parker Primary School. Those are the five schools of deserving children that we can bring some
smiles to at this time of giving and showing love."
She shared that the Ministry of Tourism staff is very happy to be a part of the gift-giving program. "The program is very
beneficial because it gives back, the Caribbean Cruise Association stops to say thank you to Grand Bahama. They call on the
port once a week, every Tuesday, and they come at the end of the year to say thank you to our children. They (Florida Caribbean
Cruise Association) are like a part of our family here on Grand Bahama Island. I would like to say to them, on behalf of The
Ministry of Tourism a very big thank you and to all those involved in this program. We look forward to working with them again
next year for bigger and better things."
Karen Ferguson-Bain, Entertainment and Marketing Coordinator, Port Lucaya Marketplace also expressed her gratitude to the
association for the gift-giving program. "I would like to thank the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association for annually putting
on this event because they didn't have to. But, with their unselfishness decided that they would treat the kids of Grand Bahama,
not only the kids in Freeport but also the outlying districts of the island as well. It is something that the kids look forward
to every year. It is something that we just want to say thank you for them for recognizing that Grand Bahama is a vital field
player for them as far as of bringing passengers to Grand Bahama but they are also giving back in a tangible way. We just
want to say thank you to them for doing that.
Bain encouraged the association to continue doing what they are doing.
" We know that times are tough for everyone economically and they may not have as much funds to do as big an event as they
possibly want to but at least they are showing their support for the Grand Bahama community by helping these underprivileged
kids who may not receive a Christmas present this year. The present that they receive today may be the only one they get.
We are just ecstatic and appreciative that they have decided to come together and do this event for the kids."
The students in attendance were elated with the gifts and quite appreciative of them. Tourists and residents alike assembled
in the Square to take part in the Christmas celebration for the kids.
Published Wednesday, December 3, 2014