7 Rafters Rescued By Oasis Of The Sea Cruise Ship

MIAMI (CBS4)- Seven rafters who were rescued by a cruise ship Friday afternoon on its way back to Port Everglades will be repatriated to their country, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

Oasis of the Seas was making its way back to Port Everglades when a small raft was spotted. The ship approached the raft and rescued seven people.

The rafters were later placed in the U.S. Coast Guard’s custody.

Elgommal said the rafters were in good condition when they were transferred to the coast guard. They were also interviewed while on the vessel.

Those on the raft were trying to finish their journey to freedom in America. Passengers on the ship were stunned.

“I just figured it was a one in a million chance,” passenger Rob Popoff said. “You know, such a big ocean and to hop in that little boat.”

This is the second cruise ship to conduct a rescue in the last two months. Another Royal Caribbean ship Allure of the Seas rescued nine Cuban rafters in May, according to CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald.

The group rescued Friday consisted of six men and one woman, said Royal Caribbean International in a statement.

Passengers spotted a tiny blue raft in the ocean around 3 p.m. Friday and the captain turned around the 220,000-ton ship to rescue the rafters, who were taken aboard and given food, water and medical treatment, according to the statement from Cynthia Martinez, cruise line spokesperson.

The rafters appeared to be bailing out water and praying, said Christi Nasser, a passenger from Tennessee who spotted them and snapped pictures. Her photos showed the rafters looking healthy and well dressed, which may indicate that they could have been dropped off by another vessel.

“As they got closer you could see that they were pretty happy that they were found,” another passenger said. “It seemed like their boat was sinking and they were trying to bail out water and it looked like their boat was not in good shape.”

But the temporary “oasis” for the rafters was quickly over.

The ship notified the U.S. Coast Guard and the seven rafters were later transferred to their custody.

“I feel like when everybody started to realize what actually was happening it was pretty somber,” a passenger said. “It was actually sad because what this family was willing to do was risk their life to get a taste of freedom and get away from Cuba. So it was actually very touching and very sad.”

rafters rescued 7 Rafters Rescued By Oasis Of The Sea Cruise Ship

The rafters rescued by the cruise ship boarded a U.S. Coast Guard ship Friday. (Courtesy: Rob Popoff)

Under the U.S.-Cuba Immigration Accord, more commonly known as the “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy, Cubans who reach American shores are allowed to stay in the US while those found at sea are sent back to Cuba or a third country.

“It’s tough because you could tell that they were really desperate in order to go on to the middle of the ocean to a raft that wasn’t in very good shape,” a passenger said. “You almost wished that they could have made it a little bit farther. And that they could have received the freedom that they wanted.”

On Saturday, Oasis of the Seas concluded its seven-night sailing that departed Port Everglades on Saturday, June 25 and made port calls in Labadee, Haiti; Falmouth, Jamaica; and Cozumel, Mexico, Royal Caribbean said in the statement.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed material for this report)

  • henry

    Give them a sandwich and send them back !

    • Albert Merrill

      I’ll go along with that!!

    • Green Party

      If it was your family that was trying to risk their lives to escape a Communist Socialist country in search of freedom, I doubt you would have said such an outlandish and ignorant statement in reference to the article. And to have other people agree with your remark demonstrates the high level of ignorance that exists in our society.

  • Flush

    Wow. To become an American citizen, all you have to do is touch American soil..?? No wonder our country is turning into a toilet.

    • carol

      only from cuba

    • H

      not a citizen, they will only be allowed to stay and become a legal resident

  • Flushed

    No, not to become an American citizen. The law regarding the Cubans allows them to stay once they touch soil. That of itself, doesn’t make them an American. It lets them lead a life of dignity, same as you do. Let’s not be so ignorant. This country was built on people of all lands. It’s only a humanity thing to do to let them stay once they make their voyage.

    • Eduardo

      If you’re from any country other than Cuba, if you’re caught touching American soil without having gone through the proper procedures, you’re sent back home. Mexicans, Haitians, Chinese: they all go back. Cubans get special dispensation because Cubans in Congress have a stranglehold on our policy as it relates to Cuba. No politician is willing to stand up to them, and no one running for political office in Florida will run on the platform of opening up trade with Cuba, or rescinding wet foot-dry foot. And Cubans are agitating to allow refugees from other countries the same privileges they have.

      Oh, and guess what? Cuba is now exploring for oil in the waters surrounding the island. There’s a lot of oil there, and if there’s an accident, Cubans in Congress won’t allow us to send equipment to the source to cap the spill. So the oil will drift toward Florida, where these politicians are from.

      Stupid, ego-driven, failed foreign policy.

    • carol

      I totally agree…but let them go through what every other immigrant does…do it legally. there are MANY people that would like to live the american dream, its not fair to them. They should go through what other immigrants do to live here. and i would welcome them with open arms.

      • Pepito

        Wet foot/dry foot is the law… therefore, they are doing it legally. Only Cubans fall under this policy, have you bothered to find out why?

    • H

      Gets what, i am Cuban, got out of there similarly to this poor people, and i am on my 7th year in the Army where i been to Afghanistan and Iraq with the 82nd Airborne division. just wondering what some of you have done for your country.

      • Viv

        I thank you for preserving the freedom we all take for granted. Its unfortunate that there are so many ignorant people living in our country who are prejudiced. if you go back far enough everyone had an ancestor that was an immigrant unless you are Native American.

  • Eduardo

    I meant Cubans AREN’T agitating to allow refugees their same privileges.

  • Me

    I have absolutely no problem with race and I fully understand this nation was built on people of all lands, but.. Look at Miami compared to the rest of the country. Cubans are the only immigrants who just figure they don’t need to learn English. They are also very prejudiced against any other race and will be obviously rude about it. Many come here and and are criminals and act like animals. Miami is voted the rudest city and worst city for drivers for this reason.

  • Anal Chapstick

    Adios Amigos.
    Too bad we have to depend on cruise ship captains to enforce our immigration policies.
    Good job Capt!

  • firefox

    What “rafters?” They’re Cubans! Say “Cubans.”

    I have an idea – why don’t we just continue letting in all the Cubans, who have enormous families, so that South FL can become Third-World? A good idea? Because that’s what’s happening.

    • Pepito

      They did report that the rafters were Cuban. Estupido! Miami is one of the most progressive, successful cities of the United States… I’ll give you one guess who put it on the map. CUBANS! Before then your precious South Florida was nothing but cow pastures. Go back to living under that white robe from whence you came.

      • Eduardo


        The condescension in your posting is precisely the reason so many non-Cubans in South Florida have stereotyped all Cubans as loud, arrogant, self-absorbed bullies. My guess is that you weren’t in Miami before Cubans started showing up. There were a million people here in 1959. Could ALL of them have been backward Klan members? Are ALL the changes in South Florida since then the result of Cubans, and are ALL of those changes for the better?

        You describe Miami as “progressive and successful”, but your attitude is anything but progressive. (Do you have any friends who aren’t Cuban?) And successful: How would you describe the real estate market in Miami now? How many of our politicians have been indicted? When you look at the development of this town, the traffic, the designation as the “Rudest City in America” – what is your definition of Success? Or have non-Cubans – still a majority in this town – done all the bad stuff, and Cubans all the good?

        Crawl out from under your rock. Talk to people who aren’t like you. And please don’t breed.

      • firefox

        Bug off you nasty creep. Go back to Cuba where you belong. Stupid! Good Riddance to your nasty self.

  • feeneekee

    Firefox is right! they intentionally said rafters cos they think the world is too stupid to figure out they’re cubanos.send them all back.they come here and think they own our country. They made Fidel and communism.50 years of a free pass is enough…26 DE JULIO

  • abdon

    God crerated earth for all it’s inhabitants. He did not gave names to every parcel of land. It is Mankind who gave them names and prevent others from coming to a certain land because as what they claim he’s not an inhabitant of that certain land. It’s the humanbeings that make everything complicated thereby waging war to one another just to grab land. God made this earth and He did not designate that such land is only for such race. Everybody can live wherever he chooces to. We don’t own this earth we are all vacationers here.

    • El Buitre

      Yeah, Right, that’s why those murdering europeans came here and ruthlessly slaughtered our people who were allways here.You kill everyboy then you come boohooing about brotherely love.If they were black you wouldn’t say that.I know your heart don’t bleed for the Haitian boat people or the Jamaicans.this has allways been your classical “modus Operandi”.

    • firefox

      LOL! Gee, thanks for that nonsense, we all learned a lot! How’s that GED working out for you?

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