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Royal Caribbean cancels excursions to Blue Lagoon Island following deadly incident

17 Nov 2023
Allie Hubers

Royal Caribbean has suspended all excursions to Nassau’s Blue Lagoon Island following a deadly boating incident in the Bahamas. The cruise line announced that it has suspended all excursions to Blue Lagoon Island through November 23, 2023. 

The cruise line offers a variety of excursions to Blue Lagoon Island, including snorkeling, beach breaks and encounters with dolphins. 

On November 14, 2023, a ferry boat filled with Royal Caribbean cruise passengers heading to the popular shore excursion in Nassau experienced rough seas and began to take on water. The double-decker boat slowly capsized, sending distressed passengers into the turquoise sea.

Unfortunately, the incident at Blue Lagoon Island turned fatal with one passenger, a 75-year-old American woman, passing away.

Royal Caribbean confirmed that the incident occurred during a shore excursion. Independence of the Seas was the only Royal Caribbean ship docked in Nassau on the day of the incident. 

In a notification from Royal Caribbean to guests who pre-booked excursions to Blue Lagoon Island, the cruise line said, “ We are currently working with local authorities to evaluate the boating incident that took place during a shore excursion. In light of the incident, we have decided to cancel all Blue Lagoon tours through November 23, 2023”

Guests booked on Blue Lagoon Island excursions through Royal Caribbean will receive a full refund for canceled excursions. There are no other excursions in Nassau currently impacted by the incident. In the communication to guests, Royal Caribbean reassures customers that safety is the top priority for the cruise line and apologized for any inconveniences caused. 

It’s unclear at this time whether further excursions to Blue Island Lagoon will be suspended. Presumably, the investigation could result in more Royal Caribbean excursions In Nassau to be canceled pending the results of the investigation. 

Many cruise ship passengers choose to travel to Blue Lagoon Island during visits to the port. The beautiful island is located about three miles northeast of Nassau, which is the capital of the Bahamas.

Details surrounding the terrifying incident

According to Nassau police, the ferry departed  for Blue Lagoon Island from Paradise Island around 9:30am. There were approximately 100 passengers onboard the ferry during the incident. As the ferry was approaching Blue lagoon Island, the boat reportedly hit a large wave and water started to flood the ferry. 

Police chief superintendent Chrislyn Skippings told Nassau Guardian ”The vessel experienced rough seas in the area, which resulted in the boat taking on water and becoming submerged in waters just outside of Blue Lagoon.”

The local authorities also shared that emergency teams from the island arrived quickly to the scene to assist the distressed ferry. Luckily, the boat was near shallow waters and did not submerge completely.  

Following the incident, local authorities reported a 74-year-old woman from Colorado sadly died in the incident. One report cites a police statement sharing that authorities attempted to rescue the woman from the water while the ferry was sinking, but she was unresponsive. CPR was reportedly performed after the passenger was taken to a dock, but she was pronounced deceased at the scene. All other passengers were safely rescued but two people needed additional medical attention. 

Videos on social media show the chaos

All over social media, videos began to surface of the ferry incident from passengers onboard the vessel. One TikToker, Kelly Schissel, chronicled the chaos onboard the Blue Lagoon Island ferry. 

“Our boat is sinking. So that’s fun. Everybody’s freaking out” says Kelly Schissel while showing the ferry capsizing.

In the background of the TikTok, you can hear screams from fellow passengers onboard the doomed ferry. Passengers can also be seen wearing life jackets and huddling to one side of the ferry. 

Kelly shares that she’s on the top floor of the ferry while simultaneously filming the ferry slowly submerging into the Blue Island Lagoon. “[We are] literally sinking,” she says in the TikTok.

In a second response video, the TikToker continues to share that guests on the bottom level allegedly heard the captain laughing about trying to do a donut-like maneuver by whipping the aft around quickly in a circular motion. While approaching the shore of Blue Island Lagoon, Kelly shares that she also thought the captain was maybe trying to show off with a quick maneuver. 

“I just don’t think it worked out the way he wanted it to” theorizes Kelly.

While the ferry continues to take on water, Kelly’s original TikTok shows many passengers panicking while still onboard the vessel. One passenger can be heard screaming amid the chaos. At one point, a male passenger jumps into the sea and encourages others to do the same. In Kelly’s TikTok video, passengers can be seen in orange life jackets jumping into the choppy waters of the Caribbean Sea from the listing ferry. 

In the comments section of her TikTok, Kelly shared that she safely made it off the ferry. She continued to share that the Blue Lagoon Island ferry appeared closer to the shore than it actually was, contrary to many peoples’ perception. 

The TikToker recounts how passengers were left without instructions during the incident.

In a second video, Kelly recounts the incident, sharing that the ferry captain made a sharp turn that sent everyone towards the front of the ship. When it was clear that there was an issue, Kelly said people started to panic and freak out.

Since Kelly was on the top deck of the Blue Lagoon Ferry, she said it was difficult to understand the severity of the situation initially. 

“Then one of the crew members that was downstairs ran upstairs. She is crying. Freaking out. Absolutely bawling while grabbing a life jacket.”

Throughout the incident, Kelly shares in her TikTok that the crew members were hysterically crying and did not provide any guidance or instructions. Eventually, guests started to jump into the ocean when it was clear that instructions would not be provided.

“It was actually pretty rough waves, so a lot of people were just trying to stay above water, even with their life vests on,” says Kelly in her second TikTok video. Although the water was warm and the weather was good, she shares that the seas were very choppy, which made the situation worse. 

The doomed vessel settled on the shore with the top half of the vessel above the waterline. After guests were brought ashore by other vessels, Kelly states that the survivors received hot dogs, chips and water. 

For many cruisers, Blue Lagoon Island is a popular destination while docked in Nassau, Bahamas. 

Royal Caribbean previously offered many excursions to Blue Lagoon Island. When Matt from Royal Caribbean Blog visited the island on a shore excursion a few years ago, he found at least nine different excursions that included a visit to the Blue Lagoon Island. 

Excursions to Blue Lagoon Island include a variety of options with shore excursions through Royal Caribbean. These include beach day passes, dolphin swim encounters, stingray experiences, Segway tours and more. 

Blue Lagoon Island is surrounded by pristine blue seas and white sandy beaches. There are multiple beaches across the island and many activities for guests to enjoy. Given the close proximity to Nassau, Blue Lagoon Island has been a popular destination for cruisers on shore excursions.

Allie Hubers has been cruising since she was a tiny toddler. What started as a yearly vacation with family quickly turned into a passion for travel, cruising and adventure. Allie's been on nearly 30 cruises all over the world. She even studied abroad on Semester at Sea, sailing the world on a ship while taking courses for college and visiting 4 continents.

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