TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A Carnival cruise ship returned to Tampa, Florida, on Thursday with more passengers aboard than when it left.
During a trip to Honduras and Mexico, the Carnival Paradise came to the rescue of two dozen refugees from Cuba, footage shared with Nexstar’s WFLA shows.
Herman Bips, a passenger on the Carnival Paradise, told WFLA’s Jeff Patterson that he noticed a change in speed during the trip, which was his first indication that something was up.
“It was Sunday afternoon around 4 o’clock, and the ship felt like it was stopping,” Bips said.
On the horizon, he could see a small dot that looked like a boat. When the cruise ship got closer, Bips could see an overloaded vessel in bad shape.
“Very poor [shape],” Bips said. “Someone said it was actually leaking and they were bailing.”
The captain of the Paradise announced to his passengers that, under maritime law, he would render aide and assistance to the vessel in trouble.
“At that point, I think he knew that he had to take the people on board,” Bips said. “I understand they gave them clothing, medical attention, water, food; but they isolated them to a specific area.”
A spokesperson for Carnival confirmed that the Paradise rescued 24 people from a small boat that was adrift southwest of Cuba. The ship’s crew provided food, water and medical assistance.
When the Paradise returned to port in Tampa, 21 men and three women from Cuba were turned over to the U.S. Coast Guard. WFLA has learned that it’s likely they will all be sent back to Cuba.
“I was very sad,” Bips said. “I mean, it almost brought tears to my eyes that people were so desperate to leave a country and put themselves [at risk]. You know, if we hadn’t seen them, they probably would have drowned.”