According to the Miami-based news media WLRN, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) has paid a whopping US$75 million to Carnival Cruise Line to use one of its cruise ships to house federal aid workers in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
WLRN has obtained documents from the agreement which showed over 2,000 FEMA workers were to be hosted on Carnival Fascination while relief work continued on U.S. Virgin Islands in the 4 months after the storm. Despite the rules in the US$74.7 million contract, less than 800 people per night slept onboard the ship, not the 2,056 which FEMA promised as part of the deal.
The contract for the "floating hotel" cost more than the amount of money given by FEMA to victims of the storm during that same time frame.
This is not the first time that FEMA has contracted a vessel to help with emergency aid. In August 2005, when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, FEMA chartered 3 Carnival ships at a cost of just over US$13 million per month for 6 months. During the 4-month contract, FEMA paid nearly US$19 million per month for its Maria response.
The average weekly market rate for a Carnival Fascination passenger ranges between US$370-US$1,200. With the vessel only half-occupied during FEMA mission, the investigation revealed that FEMA was paying US$5,959 in taxpayer money per guest per week during the 4-month agreement.