When you book your cruise, the last thing you expect to see is a dramatic rescue mission unfold in front of your eyes, but that’s exactly what happened to Brisbane retiree and experienced cruiser Kester Howard. 

Ms Howard was sailing on Celebrity Beyond near Florida, painting on her balcony when her journey took an unexpected turn. A small-white vessel, almost hidden by the waves, emerged in the distance with the passengers furiously waving their hands, and rescue was suddenly on. 

Luckily, Kate McHue, the social media famous captain of Celebrity Beyond leaped instantly into action, bringing the boat around to rescue the migrants as their shaky-looking boat was being slowly swallowed by the ocean. 

The footage of the rescue went viral, gathering almost 20 million views on Ms McHue’s TikTok. You can watch the amazing footage here.

@captainkatemccue January 2nd, 2023 Rescue at sea #celebritybeyond #cruiseship #rescue #rescueatsea ♬ Epic Music(863502) – Draganov89

Ms Howard said: “You see it on TV; you don’t ever imagine seeing it in real life.

Look how that boat’s been put together. Those poor people.”

There couldn’t have been a starker juxtaposition between the struggling, scrappy boat and the luxury of the 3200-person capacity Celebrity Beyond and its 17 decks, 18 dining venues, 4500-piece art collection, multiple infinity pools and more. 

Ms Howard wrote on Facebook: “19 lives saved with less than an hour before nightfall. We were located 12 hours from land, they had already spent 5 nights at sea, I don’t believe their craft would make it through another night and the wind has really picked up. 

“Thanks to Captain Kates’s keen eye noticing the small makeshift tinny sloshing in the Caribbean Sea and turning this large vessel around and then to scour the waters again and find them.

“You certainly went Beyond today”

Watching the rescue proved perspective-shifting for Ms Howard and the other guests. 

To see it in real life, and to realize how many people must be doing this – and I don’t just mean in that area, but worldwide – in a day, or in a year.

“You have to have a lot of guts to do that. You wouldn’t go into that not being terrified. For me, that’s the point, that they’re just so desperate to make such a decision and take such a risk and not know that it’s going to work, or if they’re even going to live.”

Rescues like this are not uncommon for cruise ships, with Ms McHue already reporting another two rescues since this incident. 

After the rescue, the migrants were given food and water, as well as a chance to call home and let their loved ones know they were okay.

Scenes from the dramatic rescue onboard the Celebrity Beyond.