Norwegian Ship Rescues Makeshift Craft Stranded at Sea for a Month

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Norwegian Prima rescued a dozen refugees from a makeshift craft in the Gulf of Mexico on Saturday, January 27, 2024, bringing them aboard the cruise ship for supplies and medical care.

The craft was adrift for many days and had run out of supplies, but fortunately all individuals were safely brought aboard the Norwegian Cruise Line ship and able to be turned over to authorities as necessary.

Norwegian Prima Rescues Stranded Refugees

While Norwegian Prima was enjoying a day at sea on the first day of her current sailing, the ship spotted a makeshift craft cobbled together from plastic jugs, foam, wood, and sheet metal, with a patched sail. The occupants aboard used a mirror to signal to the cruise ship, and Norwegian Prima was able to dispatch one of the ship’s lifeboats to assess the situation.

A dozen individuals were aboard and out of supplies, with no food remaining and only limited amounts of water left. While no one was injured, the refugees did show signs of emaciation and dehydration.

Some reports claim the makeshift craft had run out of food a month earlier shortly after it had departed from its point of origin on December 18, though this has not been confirmed.

Where the refugees left from has also not been disclosed. Ultimately, the nine men and three women were all brought aboard Norwegian Prima and given immediate medical care while the Mexican authorities were contacted.

Norwegian Prima Rescue
Norwegian Prima Rescue

The refugees were delivered to authorities in Costa Maya, as is standard procedure when any refugees are picked up by other vessels.

The incident happened north of the Yucatan Peninsula approximately 200 nautical miles (230 miles / 370 kilometers) northwest of Cancun, Mexico, while Norwegian Prima was on the first full day of her sailing. The refugees stayed aboard the cruise ship until reaching the first port of call, Costa Maya, on Sunday, January 28.

There was no significant delay to Norwegian Prima‘s itinerary, which had begun from Galveston, Texas on Friday, January 26 and also includes visits to Harvest Caye, Belize; Roatan Island, Honduras; and Cozumel, Mexico before the ship will return to Galveston on Friday, February 2.

Norwegian Prima Cruise Ship
Norwegian Prima Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: eric laudonien / Shutterstock)

The 142,500-gross-ton, first-in-class Norwegian Prima is homeported from Galveston through March 2024, at which time the ship will reposition to Europe to offer a series of one-way summer sailings between Southampton, UK and Reykjavik, Iceland, followed by a variety of Mediterranean cruises as well as a short deployment from New York. Norwegian Prima will return to Galveston in January 2025.

Multiple Rescues in January

Just two days after Norwegian Prima rescued the 12 refugees, Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Jubilee also made a rescue in the same general area, albeit closer to the coast.

The Carnival cruise ship spotted two men in a kayak and was able to bring them safely aboard without injuries. Some reports indicate they may have been from a sunken ship, while other reports indicate their kayak had been blown out to sea from a shore position. Either way, the men were safely rescued.

Carnival jubilee Rescue
Carnival jubilee Rescue (Photo Credit: Lance Roche)

Similarly, Royal Caribbean International’s Harmony of the Seas rescued six fishermen and their dog north of the Yucatan Peninsula on January 18 after their boat lost propulsion and became adrift.

Refugee incidents can happen year-round in the Caribbean, but do tend to be more common during the winter months when the weather is generally calmer. During hurricane season (June 1 through November 30), tropical storm systems can quickly destroy any small craft, particularly makeshift boats that are not strongly seaworthy.

Cruise Hive salutes the heroic efforts of all cruise ship crews, including Norwegian Prima, Carnival Jubilee, and Harmony of the Seas, for their vigilance that helps preserve all life at sea and render assistance to those in need.

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