Liberty of the Seas docked in Caribbean port

(9:37 a.m. EDT) -- After a brief and unexpected stop in Miami, Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas will again make its way to Galveston today, with an anticipated arrival Friday morning.

The seven-day cruise was supposed to end last Sunday, but severe weather conditions related to Hurricane Harvey closed the port in Galveston, and the cruise was diverted.

Nearly 2,000 passengers with alternative transportation home disembarked the ship in Miami, while another 2,000, including my family, remained on board for the return journey to Texas.

As Liberty of the Seas pulled into the Miami port on Tuesday afternoon, passengers lined the upper decks cheering and waving to the beachgoers below. The bright sun and sleek skyscrapers were a welcome sight for crew members too, who were told they could go ashore due to the unusual circumstances of the stop.

Unfortunately, the immigration process, in which officials had to clear each passenger one by one, went far longer than anticipated. We arrived in port about 1 p.m. and were not permitted to leave the ship until 8 p.m. (those with confirmed flights were allowed to leave earlier). That meant only a couple of hours to grab a few essentials (for my family, that meant diapers for our 2 year old — for others, medication), and then back to the ship.

Earlier in the day, Royal Caribbean President and CEO Michael Bayley came on board and addressed passengers over the PA (the company headquarters is based in Miami). He expressed concern for the situation back in Texas following Harvey, and said that in addition to refueling Liberty and loading more food and provisions in Miami, the ship would be loaded with supplies to aid in the relief effort in Houston. The Miami Herald reported that we are carrying volunteers, as well.

Crew members assembled care packages to send home with passengers, too.

In bidding farewell to the exiting passengers, Captain James MacDonald told them, "It's been an interesting journey," and encouraged everyone to stay hopeful, not just for Liberty's journey ahead, but for the areas across Texas experiencing flooding and destruction.

Many remaining passengers are based in Texas, and will be returning home to heartbreaking sites and uncertain futures. "Hope may be the best thing we have," MacDonald said.

Read previous stories Live from Liberty of the Seas: The Never Ending Cruise and Live from Liberty of the Seas: Cruising Through Hurricane Harvey.

--By Cynthia J. Drake, Cruise Critic contributor

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