Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas rerouted to PortMiami due to Hurricane Harvey

Passengers choose whether to disembark in Miami

MIAMI – Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas cruise ship was rerouted to PortMiami this week after it was unable to dock in Galveston, Texas, because of Hurricane Harvey.

The ship arrived in Miami on Tuesday after nine days at sea.

"The ship doesn't fit into New Orleans, it doesn't fit into Tampa, so Miami was the destination," Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley said. "We needed to refuel, fill the ship up with gas and also provision the ship."

Passengers had the option to disembark or remain on the ship.

"I'm thankful to be on that boat instead of in Galveston," passenger Tynisa Rodriguez said.  

The ship is scheduled to head back out to sea Tuesday night and is expected to arrive in Galveston on Friday.

One passenger, David Ritchey, of Spring, Texas, told Local 10 News that he was frustrated with how the cruise line is handling the situation.

"When we were leaving Cozumel, the majority of the passengers understood what we were sailing toward and into, and we were aware that the port would not be open for the roads to be passable," Ritchey said. "Yet, for some reason, Royal Caribbean and our captain made the decision to try and make this window of opportunity. Essentially, what most people saw this as was a chance for Royal Caribbean to get everyone off the ship, but then we would all just be stranded in Galveston in worse conditions."

The ship was eventually diverted to PortMiami.

Ritchey said crew members provided little information to passengers and said that many passengers are from the Houston-Galveston area and are worried about their families and homes.

"It felt like Royal Caribbean was starting to try and take advantage of the guests by nickel-and-diming everyone, and acting as if we wanted to be stuck on this ship," Ritchey said. "Corporate was telling people one thing and blatantly lying to many guests. Many saved up for quite a while to be able to take this cruise and are unable to cover additional costs. When all this first started, they were patting themselves on the back for offering a few dollars off the laundry and internet package."

Ritchey said many passengers have been put off that they still have pay for internet to get in contact with loved ones back in Texas, and said guests are even being charged $80 to see a doctor on board the ship.

"We are lucky to have missed the storm, we are lucky that we have a dry place to sleep and food, but we also are in the path of the hurricane, and many of us just want to be home so that we can help family friends and those that need it," he said.

Ritchey, who works at the Houston Zoo, said he also wants to return to work to help out there in any way that he can.

Ritchey said he and his wife are not planning to disembark in Miami. He said trying to find a flight home Tuesday would just leave them stranded somewhere else. 

The cruise line provided buses for passengers who chose to disembark to take them to Miami International Airport and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. 

Ritchey said they were told that the ship will depart Tuesday night, possibly at 10 p.m. or later. 

A total of 4,400 passengers were aboard the cruise ship and 2,000 departed in Miami.

"I just want to get back home to my family," one passenger, Jacob Sedlar, said. "Hearing that your house is underwater, your car is underwater -- what do you go home to?" 

"There's 8 inches of water in my garage and in my living room -- my Mustang is underwater. They are taking boats into our apartment complex," Sedlar added.  

The cruise will take $200,000 worth of supplies to Texas, including  food, bottled water, towels, blankets and cleaning supplies. 

"We are literally loading trucks up and we're sending them off to Texas as we speak to help with the effort," Bayley said. 

Cash donations being made by employees will be matched by Royal Caribbean.

Cruise line employees said passengers will not be refunded because the cruise ran its length.   

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