Small Boat Denies Assistance from Carnival Cruise Ship

Carnival Horizon offered to assist a small boat carrying 8-10 refugees in the Florida Straits while heading back to Miami.

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There seems to be no end to the number of rescue operations cruise ships have to undertake this year. Once again, a Carnival Cruise Line ship made a u-turn after a small boat was spotted at sea, carrying around eight to ten people. 

While a cruise ship is bound by maritime law to provide aid and assistance to any vessel in distress, the refugees refused help in this case. The incident is one in a series of rescues and rescue attempts this year, many involving Carnival ships. 

Carnival Horizon Makes U-turn to Help Refugees

While making its way from Cozumel, Mexico, back to its homeport of Miami, guests onboard the Carnival Horizon cruise ship were surprised to find that the vessel was making a u-turn while at sea. The reason was due to a small vessel carrying several refugees in the Florida Straits. 

Carnival Horizon was sailing northwest of Havana, Cuba, when the small boat was spotted by those onboard, prompting the captain to make a manoeuver to get closer to the vessel.

As the ship came closer, the ship’s crew managed to contact the boat, which denied any help from the cruise ship. 

Those onboard, presumably refugees trying to make their way from Cuba to the US mainland, seemed to be in good health, according to reports from the ship. Their boat was also still operating under its own power, and there would have been no reason or necessity for Carnival Horizon to provide help that was not wanted. 

Under maritime law, any ship at sea is bound by law to help and assist any vessel in distress. However, that does not mean that those seemingly in distress or in an unsafe situation will need to accept that help.

Carnival Horizon Cruise Ship
Photo Copyright: Tony Davis

In many cases, refugee boats will want to reach the mainland themselves to avoid the US coastguard, which would likely send them back to their home countries if possible. 

After Carnival Horizon made a 180-degree maneuver to portside and made contact, the 133,596 gross ton Vista-class vessel resumed course for Miami, where guests will be disembarking the ship on October 15. 

The ship has just completed a cruise that sailed from PortMiami on October 9, during which she visited Ocho Rios, Jamaica, Georgetown, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel, Mexico. 

Carnival to the Rescue

The Florida Straits is one of the busiest waterways in the world, providing access to the Gulf of Mexico and the Western Caribbean. It also acts as one of the world’s most active and dangerous waterways for refugees trying to reach the United States from places such as Cuba, South America, and Central America. 

With hundreds of cruise ships active in the area, it is no surprise that we have seen a significant number of these types of incidents, such as the one involving Carnival Horizon today. 

Just a little over a month ago, the Carnival Paradise cruise ship rescued six migrants from a makeshift raft in the Gulf of Mexico. This was already the second rescue for that cruise ship in just a few weeks.

Lifeboat from Carnival Horizon
Photo Credit: SeregaSibTravel / Shutterstock

Other incidents include Carnival Sunrise, which rescued 12 Cuban refugees that were adrift south of Key West on July 29. Mardi Gras encountered refugee boats already three times this year, saving twenty people on two separate occasions and supplying food, fuel, and water to another. 

Mardi Gras, Carnival Cruise Line’s newest cruise ship, has also performed several rescues this year, including rescuing twenty Cuban people during two separate events and supplying fuel, food, and water to another boat in January of this year.

Most recently, it was Carnival Horizon that came to the rescue of seven refugees in the Florida Strait. This encounter happened on September 12 while guests onboard Carnival Horizon were enjoying a day at sea on its six-night Western Caribbean itinerary. After a brief delay to render aid, the cruise ship continued on its route.

Carnival Cruise Line ships have been involved with at least eight rescue operations at sea this year alone. Several other cruise ships have encountered the same. Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady performed a rescue operation two days ago, on October 13. 

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