Coast Guard Evacuates Passenger on First Cruise Evening

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The US Coast Guard successfully and safely evacuated an 85-year-old man from Royal Caribbean International’s Harmony of the Seas just hours after the ship set sail on Sunday, May 19. The ship departed Galveston, Texas at approximately 4 p.m., and the call for a medical evacuation came at 6:30 p.m. that evening.

The evacuation was necessary after the guest, who has not been identified in order to safeguard his privacy as well as that of his family members and traveling companions, fell and suffered a head injury onboard.

The nature of the fall, such as the location or whether there were any extenuating circumstances, such as a loose railing, excessive ship motion, or a wet floor surface, has not been detailed. Similarly, further details about the guest’s condition have not been released.

US Coast Guard Plane
US Coast Guard Plane (Photo Credit: CarlaVanWagoner / Shutterstock)

A Coast Guard Air Station Houston MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew was already airborne at the time the call for the evacuation was made. The twin-engine, search-and-rescue helicopter was easily diverted to the ship, as Harmony of the Seas was only 24 miles (39 kilometers) off Galveston at the time.

The evacuation was successful, and the passenger was transported to the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. He is reported in stable condition.

With elderly passengers, any potential for a head injury requires extra caution and monitoring that may not have been available aboard the cruise ship.

While satellite tracking data does show that Harmony of the Seas backtracked slightly on her course to facilitate the evacuation, there was no significant delay in the ship’s schedule. At this time, there is not expected to be any change to the ship’s planned itinerary.

Royal Caribbean Harmony of the Seas Cruise
Photo Copyright: KPegg / Shutterstock

Harmony of the Seas is currently sailing a 7-night Western Caribbean cruise, with calls planned to Roatan, Honduras as well as Costa Maya and Cozumel in Mexico. The ship will return to Galveston on Sunday, May 26.

Read Also: Oasis Class Cruise Ships: What You Need to Know

The ship is homeported year-round from the Lone Star State, offering 6- and 7-night Western Caribbean cruises and select 8-night itineraries that also visit the Bahamas. The 226,963-gross-ton ship, third in the innovative Oasis class, can welcome 5,479 guests at double occupancy, or up to 6,780 travelers when fully booked.

Recent Cruise Evacuations

The US Coast Guard (USCG) renders assistance to anyone in need and has performed spectacular medical evacuations from cruise ships in recent months. Less than a month ago, an air crew conducted a long-distance evacuation from Holland America Line’s Koningsdam while the ship was more than 200 miles off the Oregon coast.

Similarly, a long-distance evacuation was made from Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Fantasy in mid-April, 180 miles northwest of Puerto Rico.

Long distance evacuations are particularly challenging as there is less fuel available for maneuvering or multiple attempts at the evacuation. Crews must operate smoothly and with maximum efficiency to safely accomplish such operations.

Carnival Cruise Ship Airlift
Carnival Cruise Line Air Force Airlift (Photo Credit: 920th RQW)

USCG crews also work in hazardous weather conditions, such as when a crew nearly crashed during a medical evacuation from Carnival Dream in April 2023. During that operation, heavy squall conditions threatened the rescue crew and a second attempt was necessary to safely evacuate the guest who had experienced heart attack symptoms.

While no cruise traveler wants their vacation to be interrupted by medical emergencies, the brave men and women of the US Coast Guard serve to ensure everyone is safe and can reach the care they need no matter what the situation.

In addition to medical evacuations, USCG crews also assist in refugee rescues, man overboard searches, and other emergency operations, always safeguarding life at sea above all else.

Cruise Hive salutes all the men and women of the USCG and similar branches of service worldwide for all they do to help keep travelers safe no matter where a cruise may take them.

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