The boat appeared to be sinking when it was spotted by passengers on board the Carnival Paradise en route from the U.S. to Cayman.
The refugees were apparently trying to make it to Honduras where many migrants make the long land journey across Central America and into the United States.
They were picked up at around 6 p.m. on Tuesday and arrived in Grand Cayman with the cruise ship at 7 a.m. Wednesday morning, according to Gary Wong, the deputy chief immigration officer for the Cayman Islands.
The 23 men and one woman were brought to shore on a cruise tender and were being processed by immigration officials on Thursday. None were said to be ill or injured and all will be repatriated to Cuba unless they apply for and are granted asylum.
Mr. Wong said, “The boat was just a makeshift vessel and didn’t appear to have an engine. From the information we were given by the captain, it seemed to be sinking.”
Carnival confirmed that it had come to the aid of the refugees, in a statement to news agency Reuters.
“In keeping with a longtime tradition of aiding mariners in distress, Carnival Paradise altered its course and brought on board 24 individuals from Cuba who were provided with food, water, fresh clothing and accommodations and evaluated by the ship’s medical team,” it stated.
Last April, the Carnival Conquest and the Disney Wonder rescued 21 Cuban migrants on stricken boats in two separate incidents in the Florida Straits, the sea passage separating the U.S. and Cuba.