The captain and crew of a 3,500-passenger Princess Cruises ship are being hailed as heroes after steering the vessel off its planned course in the Caribbean Sea to search for and ultimately rescue two plane crash survivors adrift in a life raft, WSVN News reports.
Shortly after noon on Tuesday, federal aviation authorities received word about a private plane going down a few hundred miles southeast of Florida near the Turks and Caicos archipelago. U.S. Coast Guard assets were immediately dispatched from Puerto Rico and Miami—but as was the case with the Sincerity Ace car carrier fire in January, the ships and helicopters physically capable of rescuing the survivors were too far off.
That's where the Regal Princess came in. Coast Guard officials soon radioed the cruise ship, which happened to be passing nearby on its way to the U.S. Virgin Islands, and asked the captain if he could assist in the search. The captain immediately made a public address announcement to inform passengers that they'd be taking a slight detour and steered the ship toward the plane's last known position.
Eventually, a Coast Guard plane spotted a tiny, inflatable life raft with two survivors on board bobbing in the waves and directed the Regal Princess to its exact location. A video recorded by a passenger shows curious onlookers crowding the upper decks and balconies to watch and applaud as the ship's crew dispatches a small dingy and retrieves the men. Another video shows one of the survivors gleefully waving in response.
Princess Cruises confirmed that the two men were safely on board the ship and doing well, adding that the Regal Princess remains on track to arrive in St. Thomas today as scheduled.