Cuban refugees rescued in the middle of the ocean by cruise ship with Arizona family on board
An Arizona couple got quite an adventure while on a Caribbean cruise after their ship ran across a rickety old boat filled with Cuban refugees.
That's when the passengers and crew started saving lives in between Key West and Cuba, on their way to a stop in the Bahamas.
The ship's captain noticed the tiny boat battling 6-foot swells.
Rich King, from Arizona, explained the whole ordeal.
"The captain of the ship came on the PA and announced that there was a small vessel, according to him, that they spotted, and looked like it was signaling for distress," King said.
Miles from any shore, he says the captain on his Royal Caribbean ship spotted a small speck in the ocean, the refugees on their boat, and turned around to help.
"They were taking on water. They said that their ship engine had broken down. They were out on the seas floating around for six days, and they finally got help from us," King said.
Turns out, he says there were 22 Cubans in what looked like a homemade boat fleeing their country on a raft.
"This captain was pretty transparent to be honest with you, because he came back on, he told us that he got clearance from the U.S. Coast Guard to go ahead and approach the vessel and start removing the people that were on there," King said.
The refugees were on board Symphony of the Seas with all its passengers for about an hour before King says the Coast Guard picked them up.
"The whole crew and all 5,000 passengers that were up top watching this unfold were all cheering and were just kind of happy to see people being rescued," he said.
While the passengers were excited to continue their vacation in the Bahamas, for King, it was food for thought.
"How many are actually trying to flee Cuba on a makeshift craft like that, that don't even make it, that nobody knows about?" he wondered.
FOX 10 reached out to the Coast Guard to find out what happened to those 22 people, and so far, we have not heard back. We've also reached out to Royal Caribbean and have not heard back.
Cuban refugees being rescued by a cruise ship's emergency boat while in the middle of the ocean. Photo by Rich King