That Time Our Cruise Ship Stopped to Save Refugees

Rachel Khona
Big Boobs and Big Dreams
3 min readJul 14, 2021

There I was minding my business sipping on a virgin piña colada,
when suddenly the ship tipped to the left.

The tip was so sharp and sudden almost everyone around me had fallen down. Drinks were spilled, people had stubbed their toes, and I think some pool water even splashed out. Gasps and screams were let out.

As for me, I was on a lounge chair. I rolled off, banging into another chair and sloshing my drink all over myself.

What was going on? I wondered nervously. We were in the Caribbean, so there’s no way we hit an iceberg. Maybe a giant whale?

I ran over to the railing, where I noticed everyone gathering. My sister ran up to me.

“There are people in the water!” she said, her eyes wide. “Maya [a friend of ours on the trip with us] saw them and told a waiter.”

We peered over the edge. There, in the Atlantic Ocean, was a small raft with what looked like a family of four.“OMIGOD!” I whispered. “Are they fleeing Cuba?!” Cuba was so close we could see it in the distance.

My sister was only 13 at the time and was never good at geography, history, or politics, so she just gave me a shrug.

We watched as the cruise ship rescued the family bringing them onto the ship with us. After it was all over, the captain came on to announce what just happened and assured everyone they would be taken care of by the staff doctors.

Returning back to the pool, we sat there in a state of shock. How bad does your life have to be to get into a raft into the ocean with your children and cross your fingers that you make it to America without getting eaten by sharks? I shuddered thinking about it. I was nervous getting into the deep end of a pool without my noodle, much less the ocean.

For the rest of the trip, all I could think about was how I was watching a magic show/ scoping out peen/ trying to sneak into the nightclub (I was 17 at the time) while there were 4 people on the boat who just escaped an authoritarian dictatorship. Would they be allowed into the U.S.? Would they be sent back to Cuba? Unfortunately, we never found out.

It’s so exciting to see the Cuban people rise up and yet sad and heartbreaking that they even have to do it. It really bums me out when I see all these people living under these brutal governments. From Hong Kong to North Korea to Cuba. 💔⁠ ⁠ If you want to do something — not specifically about Cuba, but in general — I write emails for Amnesty International. It’s easy and takes a few minutes. AND YES IT WORKS!⁠ ⁠⁠ ⁠ .⁠



Rachel Khona
Big Boobs and Big Dreams

Humor Writer @ Playboy, Allure, Marie Claire, The New York Times, Cosmo, WashPo. Follow IG: @rachelkhona