Rescue at Sea: How Cruise Ships Save Stranded Sailors

August 9, 2010
Disney-Magic-Cruise-Ship (8 p.m. EDT) -- In the wee hours of the morning on August 6, Disney Cruise Line's Disney Magic rescued 18 Algerians stranded in a boat with no power. According to a statement from the cruise line, the people were taken onboard the ship and given meals and cabins.

The ship was sailing from Gibraltar to Barcelona, when "the shipboard team heard crewmembers from two other vessels talking on the radio about sighting a boat and then losing a visual of it," the statement says. Disney Magic joined the search and eventually spotted the powerless boat and brought the sailors onboard. Authorities in Barcelona will take over when the ship docks in the Spanish city and the rescued persons disembark.

While rescues at sea are certainly dramatic, they are not all that uncommon. On January 31, 2009, Carnival Cruise Lines' Carnival Glory made a three hour detour to rescue nine Cuban refugees, and in 2008, P&O Cruises' Ventura came to the aid of an injured yachtsman in the Mediterranean after intercepting his mayday call, and Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Dawn rescued two sailors in one day.

I was onboard Holland America's Westerdam in May 2007 when our ship rescued eight Algerians from a small boat in the middle of the Mediterranean. We were at dinner when the ship made an abrupt turn to one side, and the captain announced we had changed course because the bridge staff had spotted a small boat with people waving their life jackets. The ship sent out a small rescue boat to bring the men food and water, and ultimately brought them onboard, treated them for dehydration and exhaustion in the ship's infirmary, and debarked them at our next port of call in Tunisia.

USA Today's dedicated cruise blog, Cruise Log, spotted the Disney rescue story earlier today on a Disney message board Web site.

--by Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor