TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A Carnival cruise ship returned to Tampa, Fla. Thursday with more passengers on board than when it departed.
During a trip to Honduras and Mexico, carnival paradise came to the rescue of two dozen refugees from Cuba shared with Nextstars WFLA shows.
Herman Bips, a passenger on the Carnival Paradise, told WFLA’s Jeff Patterson he noticed a change in speed while cruising, which was his first clue something was wrong.
“It was around 4 a.m. Sunday afternoon and the ship felt like it was going to stop,” Bips said.
On the horizon he could see a small dot that looked like a boat. As the cruise ship drew closer, Bips could see an overloaded ship in disrepair.
“Very poor [shape]’ Bips said. “Someone said it was indeed leaking and they were getting out.”
The captain of the Paradise announced to his passengers that he would provide help and assistance to the ship in distress under the law of the sea.
“I think by that point he knew he had to take people on board,” Bips said. “I understand they gave them clothing, medical supplies, water and food, but they isolated them in a certain area.”
A Carnival spokesman confirmed that Paradise rescued 24 people on a small boat that was drifting southwest of Cuba. The ship’s crew provided food, water and medical aid.
As the Paradise returned to Tampa Harbor this week, 21 men and three women from Cuba were handed over to the custody of the US Coast Guard. WFLA has learned that they will likely all be sent back to Cuba.
“I was very sad, I mean it almost brought tears to my eyes that people were trying so desperately to leave a country and withdraw [at risk]’ Bips said. “You know, if we hadn’t seen them, they probably would have drowned.”