Several thousand cruisers who unexpectedly found themselves in Miami on Thursday without a hotel or a flight home are now escaping the city on … a ship called Escape.
Norwegian Cruise Line says its two-year-old Norwegian Escape set sail late Thursday from Miami with 4,000 displaced passengers who had been on voyages cut short by the approach of Hurricane Irma.
The passengers had arrived in Miami earlier Thursday aboard Escape and another Norwegian ship, Norwegian Sky. Both vessels are based in Miami and originally had been scheduled to return to the city on Saturday and Friday, respectively, but came back early to avoid sailing through Irma.
Norwegian gave passengers on both of the sailings a pro-rated refund for the part of the trip that was missed because the ships returned early as well as a 25% credit toward a future cruise. But the line also said passengers who couldn’t find transportation home on Thursday from Miami or a hotel could sail back out to sea on Escape as it sought refuge from the storm.
Escape will spend the next few days sailing to the west of Florida out of Irma’s path.
Norwegian spokeswoman Vanessa Picariello told USA TODAY the company hopes to have the ship back in Miami by late Tuesday but it depends on when the city’s port reopens.
A cruise to the Caribbean on Escape that had been scheduled to begin on Saturday has been canceled. Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Carnival and other lines have canceled almost every sailing out of Florida scheduled through Monday.
Norwegian isn’t charging the cruisers who headed back out to sea on Escape for their cabins. Passengers also will have access to free food and entertainment while on board.
One of the newest ships in the Norwegian fleet, Escape boasts all the trappings of a major mega-resort, from deck-top fun zones with massive water slides to multiple restaurants, bars and nightspots. The 4,248-passenger vessel also is home to a giant spa with a flurries-filled snow room and elaborate production shows including Broadway’s Million Dollar Quartet.
Picariello said it’s not certain where the ship will go, but it’ll be somewhere safe and away from the storm.