Cruise ships rescue migrants stranded off South Florida coast

Tuesday: 40+ Cubans land in Florida Keys, 2 hospitalized overnight

MIAMI – Crews from two cruise ships rescued groups of migrants stranded off the South Florida coast Monday, as record numbers of Cubans head to the Florida shores in what officials are calling an “unprecedented” humanitarian crisis.

Videos from passengers and crew of the Carnival Celebration, on its way to PortMiami, and the Celebrity Beyond, on its way to Port Everglades, showed the crews of each ship rescuing stranded migrants.

On the Celebration, passengers said the ship’s cruise director made an announcement at around 11 a.m. that a raft with several migrants had been spotted in the water and that the migrants appeared to be in need of help.

At that point, the ship then circled back to pick up the migrants, who, according to some passengers, had been without food or water for several days.

The ship returned to Miami Tuesday.

Noon reports:

“They announced over the ship that there was a raft in the water with five immigrants on it and we stopped and they did a little donut in the water and picked them up and then the Coast Guard came and got them,” Celebration passenger Olivia O’Brien said. “It was pretty cool to see.”

They were eventually taken on board, before eventually being handed over to the custody of the U.S. Coast Guard.

“The crew on board Carnival Celebration spotted five people in distress on a small vessel 25 nautical miles northwest of Cuba (Monday) and, as is customary, stopped to help them,” Carnival spokesperson Matt Lupoli said in a statement to Local 10 News. “After rescuing the five people adrift at sea, the ship’s crew coordinated with United States Coast Guard officials.”

Crews on a Celebrity Cruises ship made a rescue of their own.

Video posted on Instagram by Kate McCue, the captain of the Celebrity Beyond, shows the rescue of 19 Cuban migrants from start to finish Monday.

WATCH: Celebrity Beyond rescues migrants (@captainkatemccue)

The ship was passing Cuba on its way back to Fort Lauderdale.

After providing the migrants with food, water and a change of clothes, the crew turned the 19 Cubans over to the U.S. Coast Guard.

“We were all clapping,” Beyond passenger Jimena Espinosa said. “It was a very emotional moment. I think it’s impressive the captain saw it and did something about it.”

Under maritime law, cruise ships are required to help those in distress at sea.

“We’ve been on a lot of cruises before and this was a first time,” Beyond passenger Orlando Montl said. “It’s very moving, you know? It’s very sad.”

Local 10 News later learned that a Virgin Voyages ship rescued a group of migrants 40 nautical miles south of Key West.

Landings continue unabated

Officials in the Florida Keys reported another migrant landing in the Florida Keys Tuesday.

Overnight, sources tell Local 10 News that 27 Cubans landed near Mile Marker 88 in Islamorada.

Two migrants were taken to the hospital.

Their condition is unclear as of Tuesday morning.

Later Tuesday morning, a group of approximately 20 migrants landed in Key West, officials with the U.S. Border Patrol said.

About the Authors:

Trent Kelly is an award-winning multimedia journalist who joined the Local 10 News team in June 2018. Trent is no stranger to Florida. Born in Tampa, he attended the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he graduated with honors from the UF College of Journalism and Communications.

Saira Anwer joined the Local 10 News team in July 2018. Saira is two-time Emmy-nominated reporter and comes to South Florida from Madison, Wisconsin, where she was working as a reporter and anchor.