Boat Refuses Rescue From Newest Carnival Cruise Ship

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Carnival Celebration has aided an overcrowded rowboat during a day at sea at the end of the new ship’s current sailing, but without taking the occupants aboard. The encounter was successful and all individuals were in good health, and provided with appropriate supplies as requested.

Carnival Celebration Provides Supplies to Refugees

On Friday, March 24, 2023, Carnival Celebration encountered a crowded rowboat while sailing northeast of Cozumel. The incident occurred at approximately 6 p.m. ship time (Eastern/Ship Time), when the small craft was sighted with at least 12 occupants, both male and female.

The cruise ship immediately diverted to offer assistance, prepared to take the people from the small craft aboard if necessary. The small boat was using multiple oars for propulsion and steering, but was not otherwise signaling for emergency aid. While constructed in part of varying materials, including duct tape, the craft seemed reasonably stable.

Carnival Celebration pulled up alongside and communicated with the craft, and while the occupants stated they did not want rescue, they did accept food and water. Everyone was observed to be alert and in good health, and the boat – while small and crowded – was not in immediate danger.

After the incident, Carnival Celebration‘s cruise director, Chris Williams, made an announcement to explain procedures to guests onboard.

“The most important thing to us of course here at Carnival Cruise Line and our captain and his amazing team is to make sure that we always make sure that people are safe and preserving life at sea,” he explained.

“We have spoken to the people in the boat and they do not need any rescuing at this time. All they need is of course any water or food. We’ve done everything to make sure that they have that and everyone seems in good health.”

Carnival Celebration Cruise Ship
Photo Credit: Jouni Niskakoski / Shutterstock

Williams went on to note that Carnival’s shoreside team and the United States Coast Guard were both contacted about the encounter, which is standard procedure for such events. The cruise ship remained alongside the small craft until clarification of next steps was received, at which time the ship was released to continue on its sailing.

Why No Rescue?

Photos and video from guests onboard show that the individuals in the boat all had appropriate clothing to protect themselves from the sun and unpredictable weather, and the small boat was carrying storage containers for supplies.

While cruise ships are obligated to offer aid to anyone who may seem in distress – whether refugee boats, stranded mariners, fishermen, or other cruise ships – there is no requirement that anyone be forced to board a larger or more stable vessel, provided their own craft is reasonably sound.

Carnival Celebration Cruise Rescue
Photo Credit: Leslie Andradi

The encounter took place approximately 90 miles (145 kilometers) east of Cancun, Mexico, and roughly 105 miles (169 km) northeast of Cozumel, where Carnival Celebration had visited earlier on the cruise, on Tuesday, March 21. Prior to the incident on Friday, the ship had visited Costa Maya on Wednesday and Roatan on Thursday.

The ship is currently sailing a 7-night roundtrip Western Caribbean itinerary from Miami, which will end on Sunday, March 26. There is no delay or change in the remaining part of the cruise due to this encounter.

This is not the first time the newest Carnival ship – Carnival Celebration just debuted in November 2022 – has encountered a small, haphazard craft. In early January, the ship rescued five refugees from a small raft off the coast of Cuba. In that incident, the refugees were taken aboard the cruise ship.

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