Carnival Cruise Ship Rescues 12 People Adrift Near Key West

The Carnival Sunrise cruise ship rescued 12 people adrift in a boat, part of a sharp increase in such at-sea rescues this year.

Carnival Sunrise was on her way back to Miami on Friday evening, July 29, 2022, when a small boat with 12 refugees was spotted adrift in the Straits of Florida, south of Key West. The cruise ship brought the men aboard and contacted the authorities for further assistance.

Cuban Refugees Rescued

According to Local 10 News, the incident occurred on Friday evening at approximately 7:30 p.m. The small rowboat with the 12 men was spotted, as the men, believed to be Cuban refugees, were attempting to attract the vessel’s attention by waving.

Carnival Sunrise was en route back to Miami at the end of a 5-night roundtrip Western Caribbean sailing, which departed Florida on July 25 and visited Ocho Rios and Grand Cayman. The ship’s route traveled completely around Cuba.

Carnival Sunshine in Charleston
Photo Credit: Daniel Wright98 / Shutterstock

The men were brought aboard Carnival Sunrise, and the cruise ship alerted the United States Coast Guard (USCG) of the situation. Overnight on Friday as the cruise ship continued toward PortMiami, the vessel met with USCG Cutter Dauntless and transferred the men to their authority.

This is a standard procedure in these circumstances. Dauntless has participated in several such rescues between Florida and Cuba in the past few weeks, and on July 30, repatriated 83 Cubans to Cuba following these interdictions.

“Navigating the seas in a less than seaworthy vessel is dangerous and could result in loss of life,” said Lt. Connor Ives, of Coast Guard District Seven. “Our crews diligently patrol the region to prevent people from losing their lives in these dangerous attempts.”

Once aboard a Coast Guard cutter, all refugees receive food, water, shelter, and appropriate basic medical attention. After the rescue and transferring the refugees, Carnival Sunrise continued back to Miami with no delay in her arrival Saturday morning.

Cruise Ship Rescues and Assistance

Cruise ships are frequently part of at-sea rescues, not only for stranded refugees in unstable small watercraft, but also for private mariners who may have become stuck or incapacitated.

Carnival cruise ships have been involved in several such rescues in 2022. The cruise line’s flagship, Mardi Gras, rescued four adults from a small rowboat on June 30, and at the beginning of June, rescued 16 people from a small rowboat in rough seas.

Both rescues took place near Cuba, as did another incident when Mardi Gras offered aid to a small motorboat by supplying food and fuel to the occupants. During that incident, which happened in late January, the cruise ship did not take the refugees aboard, as their vessel was deemed safe. That refugee boat was believed to be heading toward Mexico.

Carnival Mardi Gras Rescue
Photo Courtesy: Carnival Cruise LIne

Other cruise lines and vessels have also been involved in refugee rescues and other at-sea assistance scenarios.

Celebrity Apex rescued three individuals from a small raft near Cuba in late February, and Carnival Magic assisted a stranded sailboat off Port Canaveral in early April. Royal Caribbean International’s Allure of the Seas responded to a distress call from a small vessel near Cuba in late May, providing assistance until the Coast Guard arrived.

In the case of Carnival Magic, it was not a refugee situation, but rather mechanical trouble with the private mariner’s craft. Similarly, Allure of the Seas‘ assistance was rendered to a small fishing vessel rather than a refugee boat.

According to Coast Guard numbers, at-sea rescues are significantly higher than in previous years. So far in the current fiscal year (the calendar used for tracking), USGS crews have interdicted – stopped from illegally immigrating – 3,683 Cubans. There are still two months remaining in the fiscal year, which ends on September 30.

In the previous five years combined, there were fewer than 3,000 Cuban refugee interdictions intercepted by the Coast Guard.


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