Seventeen migrants were taken aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship after it encountered a small boat drifting on its way to the Bahamas on Saturday, according to a statement from the cruise line.
According to Royal Caribbean officials, the Liberty of the Seas encountered a small boat drifting adrift while sailing to the Bahamas and needed help.
“The crew immediately launched a rescue operation and safely rescued 17 people aboard. The crew provided them with medical attention and worked closely with the U.S. Coast Guard,” the statement said.
Cruise passenger Laquequil Major-Holland told CNN the captain announced that their ship was being diverted to Nassau to see if the small ship needed help.
“He shared that there appeared to be people on board, and he mentioned that maritime law dictates that ships must be registered and rescued if needed,” Major-Holland said on Monday.
She said it was difficult to see the small boat at first, but within about 45 minutes of the announcement, people were boarding the Freedom of the Seas.
Travel blogger Major Holland from Pickerington, Ohio, said: “Everyone on the boat was waving…they were smiling and happy to be rescued.”
Video recorded by Major-Holland shows the boat getting closer and closer to the ship. The small boat had oars and a tattered piece of green cloth that looked like a makeshift flagpole.
Officials did not identify the country of origin of those on board, but the rescue came amid a wave of Cubans and Haitians trying to make their way to the United States.
Cruise ships sailing near Florida encountering migrant boats is nothing new. But a recent spate of rescues and posts about them on social media has drawn new attention to these dramatic moments at sea and the migrant crisis behind them.
A spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard’s Seventh District told CNN that the small boat in this case was in Bahamian waters, and personnel on board reported that another boat was also out at sea.
Due to the location of the vessel, Bahamian authorities are leading the investigation with the assistance of the Coast Guard.
CNN has contacted the Bahamas Defense Force for more information.