The ship was diverted from its scheduled course due to Hurricane Isaac and that detour brought the cruise into contact with a battered ship carrying 58 Haitian citizens trying to sail to Florida.
Here's Sandra's account of the experience in her own words. She also sent the photos you see here.
On Aug. 19 this year, my husband and I set out on a holiday with other family members. We had booked cabins on Royal Caribbean's newest ship, The Allure, more than two years ago wanting to experience the adventure of being on the world's largest cruise ship.
The ship met all of our expectations. What we did not expect was to be forced off course by Hurricane Isaac, an act of nature that caused the path of this super ship to come within radio frequency of a small craft carrying 58 Haitian refugees lost at sea for 22 days.
On Monday morning, Aug. 20, Captain Johnny Faevelen announced that our plans to go from Nassau, Bahamas to St. Thomas and then to St. Maarten would be changed immediately due to an approaching tropical storm which would prove to be Hurricane Isaac. We were rerouted to Falmouth, Jamaica on Wednesday, followed by a day at sea on Thursday en route to Cozumel, Mexico for Friday. It was on Thursday, Aug. 23 that a distress call was intercepted by The Allure.
Had our ship not been rerouted, had Hurricane Isaac not been gearing up, had the captain chosen alternate ports from those in Jamaica and Mexico. the call would not have been received.
Captain Faevelen made an announcement on Aug.23 that although we were heading for Cozumel he would be going off course due to a signal for help. We discovered later that day that that call came from a small craft in extremely poor condition that had been adrift at sea for more than three weeks. It was carrying migrants from Haiti.
The rescue took place from the starboard side of the ship and it took about one hour. The Allure was placed in a shielding position, sideways to the choppy swells at about 300 yards from the craft. A small rescue boat was lowered with four emergency personnel from The Allure. The rescue boat went out to the migrant boat, attached a cable to its prow and pulled it alongside the cruise ship to cheers from thousands onboard.
As the boat was being towed, U.S. Coast Guard Hercules planes flew overhead. The migrants covered the entire surface, leaning on the mast, the sides and one another.
Once their boat was pulled alongside The Allure, the migrants were no longer visible to those of us onboard.
As soon as all of the people were safely moved to our ship, large letters were painted on the top of their boat: USCG OK. This was to alert anyone else seeing it from the air that the U.S. Coast Guard had overseen the rescue of the people on board. The refugees had been bailing for several days and once they had been rescued, their craft was left to sink.
My husband and I were sitting in the second row of the large theatre onboard early that evening when Captain Faevelen talked to the crowd about the condition of the migrants. He explained that they had immediately received medical attention, showers, clean clothing, food and a place to sleep. But he explained further that they would be detained in an enclosed area until the next day.
At this point, he became visibly upset. The captain said that these fifty-eight people had tried to find their way to Miami but instead would eventually be returned to Haiti. He went on to say that International Law forced him to hand over the fifty-eight in the morning to the Mexican authorities.
Captain Faevelen stressed that had their distress signal not been received, these fifty-eight people would most certainly have perished.
CBC contacted the U.S. Coast Guard and Royal Caribbean International for more details on the rescue. We've included a statement from Royal Caribbean below.
On August 23, at approximately 1:12 p.m., a guest onboard Royal Caribbean International's Allure of the Seas alerted the crew that they spotted a boat. The Captain turned the ship around and sailed towards the sailboat. The passengers onboard the boat indicated that they did not need any assistance. So Allure of the Seas alerted the US Coast Guard of the boat and continued on their voyage. A short while later, the U.S. Coast Guard asked Allure of the Seas to return to boat and take the passengers onboard, which they did. Allure of the Seas rescued 58 Haitian citizens (47 adult males, 7 adult females, and 4 males under the age of 18) from their boat. Once onboard they received food, water and medical treatment. At the direction of the Coast Guard, the Haitian citizens were disembarked in Cozumel, Mexico on Friday, August 24.
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