Cruise Ship Rescues Cuban Refugees Headed to Cayman Islands


A group of 24 Cuban refugees was rescued at sea by Carnival Paradise, a cruise ship that was on the way to Grand Cayman.

Immigration officials tell Cayman 27 the refugees were handed over to them. The refugees were taken to the detention centre to be processed. One of the refugees is a woman and they all are considered to be in good health.

Matthew Sudders has been on plenty of cruises, but he’d never seen anything like this. The vacationer from Paris was aboard the Carnival Paradise on Tuesday when he noticed the ship had started to slow down in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. “Then an announcement came over the public address system: The captain had spotted a small boat in the water, and it appeared to be in distress. The Paradise would try to help,” he told Cayman 27 colleagues at CNN iReport.

Mr. Sudders said it appeared that the cruise ship’s captain was trying to shelter the small boat from the waves. Once they were close enough, ship staff lowered a platform down to the water and threw a rope and life jackets to the stranded craft. Eventually, the 24 passengers from the boat, all of Cuban nationality, were able to board the Paradise. They had been stranded for five days, according to an announcement on the ship’s PA system, said Sudders, one of two passengers who posted accounts to a Cayman 27 affiliate’s website CNN iReport

[. . .] The ship was en-route to Grand Cayman from Tampa, Florida, when it stopped to aid the stranded boat on the first day of the cruise. “The ship turned slowly and approached the boat,” said Sudders, who was still aboard the five-day Caribbean cruise Wednesday. “The people in it were yelling in Spanish. One of them appeared to be unwell in the bottom of the boat. We could see that there was water in the bottom of the boat and although it had an engine, it was not running. As we approached the boat, one of the passengers was flagging us down with his jacket.”

Local officials told Cayman 27 all of the refugees are considered to be in good health.

In a statement, Carnival officials said the ship’s itinerary was unaffected by the rescue. Ship staff provided the new passengers with food, water, fresh clothing and accommodations, and they were evaluated by the ship’s medical team, the statement said. The Paradise also reported the rescue to the U.S. Coast Guard.

This isn’t the first time a cruise ship has provided rescue services while at sea. Last year, another Carnival ship and a Disney ship picked up 21 people of uncertain nationality, who were stranded on a raft off the coast of Key West. In 2012, a Royal Caribbean ship rescued 23 Cubans, also near the Cayman Islands.

[Many thanks to Peter Polack for bringing this item to our attention.]

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