I’ve witnessed a lot of unique and different things as a travel journalist of some 20 years, and yesterday I added another event to that list. On the back end of a six-night Western Caribbean cruise with Carnival Cruise Line aboard the Breeze, I noticed our ship had totally come to a stop in the 90 mile stretch between Cuba and Key West. The reason, though, caused me to spring into action grabbing a camera and making mental notes along the way.

I was in my cabin late in the afternoon preparing for a radio show when the Cruise Director’s voice came on the cabin speaker alerting cruisers that a refugee raft had been spotted and the ship would be staying with it until further notice. The Captain followed up shortly with a message affirming what the Cruise Director said adding that the U.S. Coast Guard had been notified and they were dispatching a cutter which would arrive within approximately three hours.

Refugees floating in a small raft in the Florida Straights.
Refugees floating in a small raft in the Florida Straights.

Vacationers aboard the mega cruiseliner were kept abreast of the situation with 30 minute updates, the last being that the Coast Guard was on the scene and was taking over. We were released to sail on to Miami at that point.

U. S. Coast Guard arriving on the scene.
U. S. Coast Guard arriving on the scene.

Here is the official word from Carnival:
Yesterday, May 8, while en route to Miami at the tail end of a week-long Caribbean cruise, Carnival Breeze encountered a vessel with 25 individuals on board of unknown nationality approximately 90 nautical miles from Key West in the Florida Straits. The group of individuals remained on their vessel while the cruise ship stood by alongside them awaiting the arrival of a US Coast Guard cutter, per USCG’s instructions. Once the cutter arrived yesterday evening, Carnival Breeze was released from the scene and arrived on schedule to Miami this morning.