Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Vista rescued six men near the Dominican Republic in the early morning hours of Wednesday, December 13, 2023, after a small cargo vessel capsized overnight. Six additional crew members are still missing and search and rescue operations are underway by United States Coast Guard authorities.

Before sunrise on Wednesday, December 13, Carnival Vista rescued six men on a life raft. Carnival Cruise Line’s Fleet Operations Center in Miami had received an emergency alert, and reached out to Carnival Vista as close to the reported location. The ship’s master, Captain Paolo Severini, immediately altered the ship’s course to search for the craft.

Carnival Vista‘s officers spotted the life raft and went into action to bring the six men onto the cruise ship. Their condition is unknown, but they will undoubtedly be given food, water, and medical care as necessary.

The cruise ship also learned that six additional crew members were still missing, and alerted Coast Guard officials in the Dominican Republic for assistance.

Carnival Vista Rescue

The USCG launched a search, and released Carnival Vista to continue on its itinerary. It is not known whether the rescued crew members have remained aboard the cruise ship or if they were transferred to Coast Guard authorities. It is also possible they will be turned over to the appropriate authorities at the ship’s next port of call, Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic.

The ship is currently sailing a 6-night Eastern Caribbean itinerary, having departed Port Canaveral, Florida on Sunday, December 10. The ship has already visited Nassau, and is visiting Amber Cove on Wednesday, just hours after the rescue.

On Thursday, Carnival Vista will visit Grand Turk, before returning to Port Canaveral on Saturday, December 16.

The 133,500-gross-ton cruise ship can welcome 3,934 passengers aboard at double occupancy, or as many as 4,977 guests when fully booked with all berths filled. Also onboard are 1,450 international crew members.

Carnival Vista Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: SeregaSibTravel / Shutterstock)

All cruise ships are obligated to safeguard all life at sea and offer assistance to anyone who may be in distress, whether they are commercial fishermen, cargo vessels, pleasure craft, ferry boats, or even makeshift refugee boats.

Carnival cruise ships have made a number of such rescues in 2023, as have other cruise line’s ships all over the world.

For example, MSC Cruises’ MSC Preziosa rescued six fishermen near Brazil in November after their deep sea fishing trip was disrupted by stormy weather.

In late October, P&O Cruises’ Iona was instrumental in search and rescue efforts in the North Sea after two cargo vessels collided, with one vessel sinking. Earlier in October, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Breakaway helped rescue hundreds of immigrants near Greece, and P&O Cruises Australia’s Pacific Explorer rescued a stranded mariner on October 6 near Vanuatu.

In May, Carnival Breeze rescued 17 people from a capsized craft near Belize, while in March, Carnival Valor had a similar rescue of three stranded boaters nearly 400 miles offshore of Alabama. Carnival Sunrise and Carnival Spirit have likewise made rescues in 2023, as have other cruise ships.

Sometimes, small boats are not in significant distress and can refuse aid if preferred. For example, in March, Carnival Celebration offered rescue to an overcrowded refugee boat near Cozumel, but those aboard refused the aid and were able to continue on their way. In these instances, cruise ship may still offer emergency supplies, and they will report the encounters to the appropriate authorities.

Caribbean refugee rescues are often more common in the winter months, outside of the active hurricane season. This is also the time of year when more cruise ships are operating in the Caribbean, making it easier to spot makeshift craft and render aid as necessary.

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