Virgin Voyages Cruise Ship Rescues Makeshift Raft in the Caribbean

Virgin Voyages' Scarlet Lady has rescued a small makeshift raft of migrants north of Cuba in the Caribbean while en route to Bimini, Bahamas.

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Scarlet Lady, the first vessel of the young Virgin Voyages cruise line, has rescued a small group of refugees from a makeshift raft north of Cuba, according to reports from passengers on board.

The cruise ship spotted the vessel in distress, took its occupants onboard, and has reported the incident to the proper authorities.

Scarlet Lady Rescue

The ship, which was enjoying a day at sea, spotted the small, unsteady craft north of Cuba. The refugees appeared to be aboard a makeshift raft built from water barrels and inner tubes, with a blue plastic tarp or similar plastic sheet for a sail.

Eight individuals were aboard the raft, and while their condition was not known, the raft was obviously not seaworthy for the Straits of Florida, the occasionally rough waters between Cuba and the Florida Keys.

You can watch a video fo the rescue below and listen to the announcement from the ship’s captain:

The refugees were brought aboard the cruise ship with what belongings they could carry, though photos and video show that some materials remained aboard the raft. The small craft was left adrift after it was abandoned.

The incident occurred just before 7 p.m. on Wednesday, September 14, 2022.

After the rescue, tracking data showed Scarlet Lady turning north toward Key West, where it is likely the refugees will be turned over to the United States Coast Guard, the authorities overseeing such rescues.

Scarlet Lady Rescue
Photo Credit: Alex Kalogeropoulos

A Coast Guard cutter is most likely dispatched to transfer the refugees, though the cruise ship will adjust its course slightly to meet the authorities more efficiently.

The 110,000-gross-ton cruise ship is currently sailing a 5-night Riviera Maya itinerary, having left Miami on Sunday, September 11. Monday was a day at sea, and the ship visited Cozumel, Mexico on Tuesday. Today was another day at sea.

After releasing the refugees to the proper authorities, Scarlet Lady will resume her voyage, with a planned visit to Bimini in The Bahamas on Thursday before returning back to Miami on Friday, September 16.

Because cruise ships normally use slower, more fuel efficient speeds during sea days, it is unlikely there will be any delay in Scarlet Lady‘s remaining itinerary for this cruise. The ship will simply adjust speed to compensate for the diversion in order to arrive in Bimini as scheduled at 8 a.m.

Scarlet Lady can host as many as 2,770 guests, with 1,160 crew members to provide superior service aboard the luxury vessel. The ship is currently offering 4-5 night itineraries roundtrip from Miami, exploring a variety of Caribbean ports of call.

Not the First Rescue for Virgin Voyages

While refugee rescues, particularly near Cuba, have been notably rising in recent months – Carnival Horizon made a similar rescue in the same area just two days ago – this incident is not the first at sea rescue for the Scarlet Lady cruise ship.

In October 2021, the vessel came to the rescue of eight migrants 75 miles southwest of Key West, Florida. The ship’s crew helped the migrants onboard after they had been stranded at sea for six days.

Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady
Photo Credit: Eric Gilbert Creative / Shutterstock

The young cruise line only has two vessels currently sailing – Scarlet Lady launched in October 2021 after multiple delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic and industry-wide cruise travel shutdown.

Despite the lengthy delays, however, the ship has received wide acclaim for its luxury experiences and adults-only atmosphere, which sets it apart in the cruise industry.

Scarlet Lady was joined by her sister ship, Valiant Lady, in February 2022, and a third vessel for the fleet, to be named Resilient Lady, is scheduled to debut in May 2023, later than initially planned due to supply chain shortages that have impacted her construction timeline.

The fourth ship in the fleet, Brilliant Lady, is also scheduled to debut later in 2023. There has been no announcement about whether this vessel will also be delayed as her sister ships have been.

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