Cruise Ship Makes Medevac Stop, Becoming First to Return to Key West 

cruise ship makes medevac stop in Key West becoming first to return to port
Serenade of the Seas was on its first cruise from Tampa (Port Tampa Bay)

Published Oct 20, 2021 9:01 PM by The Maritime Executive

Royal Caribbean International’s cruise ship Serenade of the Seas made an emergency medical diversion this afternoon and in doing so became the first cruise ship to call in Key West since the beginning of the pandemic. The diversion required the coordination of the U.S. Coast Guard, Key West authorities, the Key West Police, and the harbor pilots.

“These situations are always about saving an individual’s life,” said U.S. Coast Guard Captain Adam Chamie. “We took extra care to look at all aspects, talking with all our partners to be sure it was feasible. We want to be sensitive to the community’s wishes, but at the end of the day, it’s about saving a life.”

The Serenade of the Seas had departed the Port of Tampa on October 16 on its first cruise from Tampa and the first for the port since March 2020. The captain of the Serenade of the Seas reported that an 81-year-old male passenger was in critical condition with septic shock. The passenger required urgent medical care.

The Coast Guard’s standard procedure, said Captain Chamie, is to first explore taking the patient directly off the ship at sea via helicopter. However, the ventilator and life-sustaining equipment keeping the man alive could be safely operated in the aircraft. The second choice, he said, is to take a smaller vessel alongside the ship, but today’s four-foot waves were too unstable for the patient and the equipment. The decision was made to bring the cruise ship in briefly for the medevac.

The U.S. Coast Guard cleared the way for an emergency stop by the Serenade of the Seas this afternoon in order to save a life. According to Captain Chamie, the decision to evacuate the man at Pier B in Key West was the only way the individual would have a chance of surviving.

After consulting with Key West, the police, and the harbor pilots, the ship, which was bound from the Bahamas to Tampa, they cleared the way for the Serenade of the Seas to make the quick stop in Key West. The cruise ship was not scheduled to arrive in Tampa until tomorrow, October 21.

“We understand the Coast Guard’s decision,” said City Manager Patti McLauchlin, “and we fully support this emergency if it means the difference of life and death.”

AIS data shows that the cruise ship departed Key West at approximately 3:30 p.m. this afternoon and is now on its way to Tampa. The passenger was transferred to the hospital in Key West.