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Hundreds of passengers of the Norwegian Escape disembarked from the cruise ship Thursday in Miami to face Hurricane Irma rather than wait out the storm at sea.
After setting sail from Miami on Saturday, the 4,200-passenger Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. vessel returned to port early and gave passengers the choice of either getting off the ship or staying on board to sail away from the storm, a trip to an undetermined location for an unknown amount of time. Hundreds chose the former, pouring off the ship into a region undergoing its biggest ever evacuation.
While many of those who left the ship said they were tempted by the prospect of the adventure, most said they had to get back to work or get home to prepare their homes for the pending storm.
“I need to get home and get my house ready,” John Pelliccio, a firefighter from Ocala, Florida, said, adding that he would make the 300-mile trip Thursday evening by car. “My two children that are home are doing some preparations ahead of time, getting food, getting fuel, making sure those things are all prepped and ready to go before we get home. I’m worried about the drive now because my sister already evacuated Broward County, so I have no ride there to get my vehicle. I’m trying to get an Uber.”
Departing passengers faced a mad rush on a hot summer day to either get to an airport or find a rental car, while most of the surrounding area of downtown and the nearby Brickell financial district was emptying out in Miami-Dade County’s biggest ever evacuation order. The U.S. Coast Guard plans to close South Florida ports on Saturday morning in preparation of landfall, which could make the aptly named Norwegian Escape one of the last ships to depart before the storm. The life-threatening hurricane is heading for a direct hit on Florida Sunday, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.
Judy Lynn Strayer said she had enjoyed the trip, but said that work commitments back in Ohio made her decide to get off and drive home.
“They couldn’t tell us when the ship would be coming back to port, and we all have to be back to work on Monday,” she said, adding that the crew had not been able to give them any information about the destination or length of the trip. “They didn’t know where the ship was headed to or how long they’d be out.”
Of course, there were a number of passengers who took the company up on its offer of a mystery trip. Some of those people could be seen relaxing in bathing suits on deck.
About 4,000 people set off on the journey after passengers on the company’s Sky vessel were also allowed to join, Norwegian’s press department said in an emailed response to questions.
“We do not have an estimate as to when the ship is able to return, but our marine operations team is in close contact with PortMiami and Coast Guard officials,” the company said. “As soon as the port reopens, the ship will return.”
©2017 Bloomberg L.P.