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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A tragedy at sea after a group of Cuban migrants died trying to make the treacherous journey to Florida.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, a total of 18 reported Cuban migrants were picked up by Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas.

The cruise ship spotted them Friday morning just west of Marco Island on its way to Cozumel, Mexico.

The refugees were suffering from severe dehydration.

The group said they started the journey 22 days ago with nine more people, all of whom died along the way.

“Our deepest condolences to the families of the nine people who recently did lose their lives,” said Capt. Mark Gordon, chief of enforcement for the Coast Guard 7th District. “Unfortunately, tragedy is all too common when taking to the sea in homemade vessels with no safety or navigation equipment.  The dangerous waters of the Florida Straits can be unforgiving for the unprepared on ill advised and illegal voyages. Immigration policies have not changed and we urge people not to take to the ocean in unseaworthy vessels.  It is illegal and extremely dangerous.”

Coast Guard officials said there’s been a steady increase of Cuban rafters since the U.S. and Cuba started normalizing relations.

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