Watch: World's largest cruise ship rescues 14 people stranded at sea for over a week

The largest cruise ship in the world rescued 14 people Sunday who had been stranded on a small boat for eight days.

Alessandra Amodio was traveling on Royal Caribbeans's Icon of the Seas with her family when the rescue happened.

"We were really surprised and honestly a little freaked out," Amodio said. "We’ve been on a handful of cruises and never seen something like this happen. It was crazy to think that these people were stuck at sea for so long, and we were all on board excited and relieved that the ship was able to rescue them."

She watched the small boat from the windows of the lunch buffet. People on the tiny craft were waving a large white flag.

"The boat turned around, and we pulled up as close as we could to them and stopped," Amodio said. "RCC (Royal Caribbean) deployed a small zodiac-type rescue boat to investigate."

As you can imagine, turning around the largest cruise ship in the world takes quite a while. Getting near a small boat without swamping it in the ship's wake takes careful skill. The detour and rescue took about two hours, according to Amodio.

"Everyone around us was watching from the windows with us and just talking about how this isn’t something we ever thought to experience, and we hoped everyone on board was OK," she said. "But never were we afraid for ourselves."


She described the boat as a small dot in the vastness of the sea.

Royal Caribbean didn't provide much information about the rescue.

"On March 3, 2024, Icon of the Seas encountered a small vessel adrift and in need of assistance," the company said in a statement. "The ship’s crew immediately launched a rescue operation, safely bringing 14 people onboard. The crew provided them with medical attention, and is working closely with the U.S. Coast Guard."

Amodio said the crew had to take several trips to the small boat to rescue everyone.

This was the ship's first full day of cruising. The eight-day vacation started in Miami and the ship was headed for Honduras. Amodio estimated from a map that the Icon of the Seas was between Cozumel, Mexico and western Cuba.

Captain's legal responsibility to aid boaters in distress

According to Amodio, the crew broadcast "Code Oscar, Code Oscar, Code Oscar," over the loudspeakers, about 3 p.m.

"Then shortly after, the captain came back on the speaker and announced they spotted a distressed vessel, and they were going to turn us around and investigate," she said. 

Amodio said that after the rescue, the captain announced that the crew had rescued 14 people stranded at sea for eight days. The captain said he didn't know what country they came from.

All the rescued people left the ship the next day while docked in Roatan, Honduras, she said.


According to maritime law, a ship and crew have a legal and moral obligation to help save human life.

"A master of a ship at sea, which is in a position to be able to provide assistance on receiving a signal from any source that persons are in distress at sea, is bound to proceed with all speed to their assistance," stated the International Maritime Organization.

Code Oscar is unique to Royal Caribbean, according to Marine Insight. The emergency code is usually used when a person falls overboard. Captains use the signal instead of shouting orders to "prevent the potentiality of chaos."

This is the Icon of the Seas' inaugural season. Its very first voyage with passengers was early this year, and FOX Weather got a tour.


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