December 29, 2011
(4:50 p.m. EST) -- It wasn't your typical sea day for passengers on Island Princess. While returning to its Fort Lauderdale homeport on December 18 after a Panama Canal cruise, the Princess Cruises vessel picked up 20 stranded boaters.
"After we consulted with the U.S. Coast Guard, [Island Princess] was instructed to pick up them up," said Princess spokeswoman Karen Candy in an e-mail. "We brought them aboard until the ship rendezvoused with the USCG to transfer them."
According to KPHO, a Phoenix-based CBS affiliate, those picked up were Cuban emigrants. The outlet noted that they were repatriated because the boaters failed to reach American soil per the U.S.'s so-called "wet foot-dry foot" policy. A Coast Guard spokeswoman, however, would not confirm the nationalities or current status of the boaters, because the investigation is ongoing. She added that a press release would be forthcoming late today or tomorrow.
A number of Cruise Critic readers sailing aboard Island Princess witnessed the event. "A ship employee said they had been without food and water for four days," posted Mrs. Wilburforce on the Cruise Critic message boards. "They asked for a bible after they had been brought aboard."
Durendal posted some compelling pictures of the boat-to-ship transfer on his Facebook page.
Meanwhile, on Christmas Day, Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas was involved in a rescue of its own. On December 25, the ship spotted a small raft while sailing to Grand Cayman. According to spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez, "The raft contained 12 Cuban citizens, including a 40 year old male with a visible foot injury. Only the 40 year old came aboard Navigator of the Seas and was treated for his injuries." Martinez added that, per Royal Caribbean policy, the U.S. Coast Guard was alerted and all 12 rafters were handed over to the authorities. As with Island Princess, the Coast Guard spokeswoman said it was withholding further details until a press release was issued.
--by Dan Askin, News Editor