Celebrity Beyond rescued another boat of refugees near Cuba on Saturday, January 7, 2023, the cruise ship’s second such rescue in just five days, following a similar rescue operation on January 2. This incident involved four individuals, all of whom were turned over to the United States Coast Guard (USCG) in accordance with standard procedure for such rescues.
Another Refugee Rescue for Celebrity Flagship
The Edge-class Celebrity Beyond was sailing the last sea day of a 5-night, Western Caribbean sailing when the small boat with four refugees aboard was spotted in the Straits of Florida. The cruise ship responded and pulled alongside, tossed a rope to the small craft, and offered assistance.
The USCG was contacted, and coordinated with Celebrity Beyond to take the refugees into custody. It is most likely they will be repatriated to their home country, which is standard practice for these incidents when individuals are found in U.S. waters without appropriate authorization or documentation.
While authorities have not confirmed the refugees’ nationalities, the individuals did apparently speak with guests onboard the cruise ship, telling that they’d left Cuba and been adrift for the past 10 days.
After the encounter, Celebrity Beyond continued on its route back to Port Everglades, with no delay anticipated for the ship’s arrival back in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday, January 8. The next cruise, a 7-night roundtrip Eastern Caribbean sailing visiting St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and the Dominican Republic, should not be affected.
Second Rescue in Five Days
This is the cruise ship’s second refugee incident already in the new year, as Celebrity Beyond rescued 19 refugees from a makeshift boat constructed mostly of styrofoam on January 2, in the same general region.
Unlike the first incident, however, the craft in this encounter appeared to be more sturdily made of wood, with what appeared to be a windsurfing sail attached near the bow for an attempt at steering. Only four refugees were aboard the boat.
As is customary, all refugees would have received food and water, as well as any necessarily medical attention, before being transferred to authorities.
It is not known what happened to the small boat the refugees were travelling in, but most likely it would have been left adrift, with the position noted so the Coast Guard could later remove it to prevent it from being a hazard to other vessels in the high traffic area.
So Many Rescues
In addition to this second rescue by Celebrity Beyond, the number of refugee encounters by other cruise ships has also risen sharply from the end of 2022 and into the first days of 2023.
It must be noted that these are only the confirmed, reported refugee encounters, and does not include refugee rescues made by military craft, cargo ships, or private vessels. Nor does this account for any refugee craft that make it safely across the Straits of Florida, or those that unfortunately may sink or founder on the hazardous journey, or any vessels that turn back to Cuba.
At this rate, cruise ships may make hundreds of refugee rescues in 2023, though it is unlikely that the high number of encounters will continue throughout the year. During the Atlantic hurricane season (June 1 through November 30), the number of refugee craft spotted generally decreases, as conditions are much more hazardous to attempt such desperate voyages.
Furthermore, winter is the busiest season for Caribbean cruises, but in the summer there are fewer vessels sailing in the Straits of Florida and therefore fewer opportunities for any refugee craft to come into contact with a cruise ship.