Helicopter Rescue at Sea
Cruise ships have two types of sea rescues that could happen during the course of a cruise. The least common and most unlikely is rescue of people from another vessel in distress. If a ship comes across a disabled or sinking vessel they may either alert someone who is responsible for rescues in that area such as the coast guard or rescue the people themselves depending on the situation. It’s quite rare for them to actually bring stranded people on board, but in a life or death situation it could happen.
The more common sort of rescue at sea seen aboard cruise ships is that of a passenger or crew member on the vessel in distress. Nobody plans for anything bad to happen to them during the course of their vacation or work day, but accidents can happen as can illnesses. Many older people enjoy cruising and some even live on the ships full time or nearly so. Ships do have medical facilities, and while a ship can sail without the captain as there are other people on board qualified to run the ship, it can’t sail without a doctor. The Carnival Vista had 2 doctors and 6 ER-trained nurses on the transatlantic cruise. Ships however do not have all the equipment found in a land-based hospital. Some medical issues are beyond the scope of what the ship is equipped for and they prefer not to have any reason to use the ship’s morgue.
Interview with Carnival spokesperson John Heald about helicopter rescues from cruise ships
Rescues can be made by boat or by helicopter depending on the situation, availability, and proximity to shore. On an ocean crossing they can get to a point where they are too far from any land. The Vista was close enough to Spain when the need arose for them to send out a helicopter to rescue a passenger in trouble.
The captain announced that the helicopter was on the way, and passengers were told to leave the area of the top deck where it would land and asked to stay out of that area as well as off of the outside portion of the promenade deck.
The helicopter came and went on the side of the ship where our room was so we had a pretty good view of it from our balcony. It seemed to take it quite some time to complete the rescue. It hovered over the ship going in and out of view as our room was on the side of the ship and the patient up on top. At some point they sent down a rescue person from the helicopter as well as the basket for the patient, and of course had to bring both back up before leaving for the hospital in Spain.
Names and medical details are not made public so we can only hope the person survived. Vacation insurance is always an option and in a situation like this definitely a good investment for the patient if they purchased it.