It was a busy weekend for Coast Guard Air Station San Diego, with three separate rescues evacuating four passengers from cruise ships within a 24-hour period off the coast of southern California.
Two of the three incidents were from Carnival cruise ships, while the third – involving two passengers at once – was from a Princess Cruises vessel.
Three Rescues From Three Different Cruise Ships in 24 Hours
Coast Guard Air Station San Diego rose to the challenge of multiple rescues with precision and efficiency over the weekend, when multiple calls came in from cruise ships requesting medical evacuations.
Carnival Panorama Rescue
The first was at approximately 7:10 p.m. Friday evening, April 28, from Carnival Panorama. At the time of the assistance call, the ship was positioned 165 miles (265 kilometers) south of San Diego on the last night of a 7-night Mexican Riviera sailing roundtrip from Long Beach, California.
A 47-year-old female was reportedly suffering from a “progressive acute illness,” and the cruise ship rendezvoused with the USGS MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter 100 miles (161 km) south of San Diego. The guest was hoisted aboard and transported to Scripps Memorial Hospital in San Diego.
Majestic Princess Rescues
Just three hours later, a second call came in from another cruise ship involving two guests requiring medical evacuation from the same vessel. The guests were aboard Majestic Princess when the call for assistance was made at 10:20 p.m. on Friday evening.
One passenger, a 74-year-old female, was suffering stroke-like symptoms, and the second passenger, a 77-year-old female, was suffering from kidney failure.
Both evacuations were recommended within 12-14 hours, and the airlift by a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter was coordinated for 10 a.m. Saturday, April 29, approximately 150 miles (241 km) southwest of Point Conception, or 280 miles (450 km) west of San Diego. Both patients were again transported to Scripps Memorial Hospital.
Majestic Princess was sailing her 31-night repositioning cruise from Sydney, Australia to Vancouver, Canada, in preparation for the Alaska sailing season. The ship had departed Australia on Tuesday, April 4, and the evacuation came en route to Los Angeles as the ship’s next port of call on the extended itinerary.
Carnival Spirit Rescue
While the evacuation from Majestic Princess was being completed, a third evacuation request was made, this time from Carnival Spirit. As soon as the transfer of the two Majestic Princess passengers was completed, the same aircrew diverted directly to Carnival Spirit, at approximately 12:20 p.m. on Saturday, April 29.
The Carnival ship was approximately 86 miles (138 km) west of San Clemente Island, or 165 miles (265 km) west of San Diego at the time of the airlift.
The 84-year-old female passenger was reported with stroke-like symptoms, and was transferred to emergency medical services at Coast Guard Sector San Diego.
At the time of the airlift, Carnival Spirit was also on a repositioning cruise, moving from Miami, Florida to Seattle, Washington to begin the Alaska season. The ship’s most recent – and last – port of call on the journey was Cabo San Lucas on Thursday, April 27, and the ship is due to arrive in Seattle on Tuesday, May 2.
To protect the privacy of the evacuated guests, as well as their family members and loved ones, no further details about their conditions have been released.
Medical Evacuations Not Uncommon
While medical evacuations from cruise ships are not uncommon, it is unusual for a single air crew to participate in so many airlift operations in such a short time span. To do so requires superior training, commitment, and focus.
Cruise ships are equipped with medical centers and highly trained medical staff, but equipment onboard may be limited. If the onboard medical team determines that additional care or emergency services are needed, guests can be evacuated from the ship.
Medical evacuations can vary depending on where the ship is located, what its sailing route may be, and what resources are available. At times, the cruise ship may be able to divert directly to a nearby port with adequate medical facilities, or a pilot boat from a port could meet the cruise ship offshore.
However, when ships are further out to sea, airlifts are the fastest and safest option to ensure guests get prompt emergency care.
Cruise Hive says well done, and thanks to all the dedicated crew members of the United States Coast Guard and other organizations that provide such emergency evacuations to safeguard all cruise travelers as needed.