Cruise passengers aboard two ships got a beautiful wake up call to end their cruise vacations this week, thanks to United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V liftoff at 6:29 a.m. on Thursday, August 4, 2022.
The launch occurred as two vessels were returning to Port Canaveral, ready to debark passengers after memorable cruises made just a little more memorable with a picture perfect launch.
Morning Rocket Launch Greets Cruise Passengers
The Atlas V, carrying a geosynchronous military satellite payload, lifted off early on Thursday morning into a brilliant sunrise, creating a red-white-and-blue effect on its trail as the rocket gained altitude and crossed into the morning sunlight slightly before that day’s 6:46 a.m. sunrise.
At the time, two cruise ships were at Port Canaveral – Royal Caribbean International’s Mariner of the Seas and MSC Cruises’ MSC Divina.
Mariner of the Seas was just completing a 5-night Eastern Caribbean cruise that included visits to Labadee, Haiti, and the cruise line’s private island in The Bahamas, CocoCay.
MSC Divina was finishing a 4-night Caribbean sailing that called on Nassau as well as the cruise line’s private ocean reserve destination, MSC Ocean Cay, also in The Bahamas.
Because the rocket had an instantaneous launch window, if weather conditions had not been favorable or if there were any mechanical or computer problems with the spacecraft, the launch would not have occurred that morning, and cruise passengers would have not had such a spectacular morning show.
While all rocket launches have marine exclusion zones where ships are not permitted during a launch, this was not a factor for this particular launch, as both Mariner of the Seas and MSC Divina would already have been in the Port Canaveral canal and safely out of any restricted areas before liftoff.
Not only were passengers treated to a stunning visual show, but the rumble of the rocket would have been very loud and obvious as guests were preparing to disembark their vessels.
Goodbye from the Space Coast as Ships Leave
Not only did these two ships have an early morning welcome from space operations, but they were also treated to an evening launch on the same day, just over 12 hours later, as the vessels departed on their next sailings.
SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO) at 7:08 p.m. on August 4, after both cruise ships had safely left the port.
Mariner of the Seas departed at approximately 4 p.m. that afternoon for a 4-night Western Caribbean sailing visiting Cozumel, while MSC Divina departed at 6 p.m. on a 3-night Bahamas cruise, visiting Nassau and Ocean Cay.
While both ships were well on their way by the time of the evening launch, the rocket’s trail would still have been clearly visible from both vessels, if passengers were aware of the launch and where to look at liftoff.
Enjoying Space Travel from Cruise Ships
As more and more rockets are launching from Cape Canaveral, more and more cruise passengers will be able to enjoy these amazing spectacles.
Cruise ship captains must take great care, however, to be mindful of restricted zones and avoid hazardous areas during launch operations. Earlier this year, Royal Caribbean International’s Harmony of the Seas inadvertently caused a launch abort when the cruise ship strayed into the restricted area.
If there are no launches scheduled when cruise ships are in port, passengers still have options to enjoy the thrill of space as part of their cruise vacation.
Pre- and post-cruise excursions to Kennedy Space Center are offered by many cruise lines, or guests that travel to Port Canaveral a day or two before their sailing can enjoy the visitor center on their own, getting and up close and intimate look at all of the United States’ space program, including amazing views of the space shuttle Atlantis, a Saturn V rocket and lunar lander, and much more.