By Ashley Cox

PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. (CW44 News At 10 | CNN) –The Cruise ship Mardi Gras spotted a small vessel in rough seas brought on by a tropical storm in the open water not far from Cuba Friday morning.

The crew saw the distressed vessel just before 8 a.m., Carnival Cruise Line said in a news blog. The Mardi Gras stopped its leisure trip to assist, taking on 16 stranded people.

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The distressed vessel was about 60 nautical miles west/northwest from Key West, Florida, according to Matt Lupoli, senior manager for public relations for Carnival.

All the occupants were adults; 11 men and five women, Lupoli told CNN Travel.

Those with identification were of Cuban nationality, he said. All 16 were seen by medical staff onboard the Mardi Gras, and they were given food and clothes.

A rendezvous with the US Coast Guard was coordinated this afternoon at sea, Lupoli said. All 16 occupants were safely transferred onto a Coast Guard cutter at about 2:45 p.m. Friday.

CNN Travel has contacted the US Coast Guard for comment.

 

A maritime custom to assist

 

The Carnival ship was on a seven-day cruise in the Caribbean. The ship is returning Saturday to Port Canaveral, Florida, as scheduled after a day at sea, Lupoli said. It made several Western Caribbean stops on its journey, including Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico, and Roatan Island, Honduras.

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The Mardi Gras launched in July 2021. Normal occupancy is 5,282, and total officers and crew number 1,745, according to Lupoli.

It’s not unusual for cruise ships to assist in maritime rescues.

In 2020, the Carnival ship Elation rescued 24 people from a sinking boat off the coast of Florida when it had a very small crew and no passengers during the earlier months of the pandemic.

Lupoli said crew members are always scanning the waters and as the captain of the Mardi Gras pointed out to guests onboard, it’s a maritime custom to help anyone in distress at sea.

 

Tropical Storm Alex expected

 

The distressed vessel was in a precarious position Friday morning in regard to location and weather.

A broad swath of showers and thunderstorms over the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico could turn into Tropical Storm Alex or a tropical depression, the National Hurricane Center said on Friday. The system is expected to hit Florida on Saturday.

Tropical storm warnings were in effect Friday for more than 10 million people in the southern half of Florida, Cuba and the Bahamas.

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