Sep 13, 2017, 10:58 AM ET

Tourists say Marriott rescue boat left them behind because they weren’t hotel guests


An evacuation effort organized by Marriott hotels is facing criticism after some American tourists said they were denied entry onto a ferry chartered to help stranded guests in the Caribbean.

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The U.S. Coast Guard boat chartered by Marriott on Friday was sent to transport hotel guests from hurricane-battered St. Thomas to Puerto Rico. "These were guests who had to stay behind after the airport closed in advance of Hurricane Irma," Marriott said in a statement.

But dozens of American tourists were left stranded in St. Thomas when dock security would not let them aboard because they were not Marriott guests on the manifest.

"We had a group, probably 35 people that there was plenty of room for, that were not allowed access to the boat," Craig Schweiger told ABC News.

Naomi Michial Ayala, who was also stranded, posted a video on Facebook of the boat at the dock, writing that 30 people were turned away despite the ferry having 1,300 open seats

The company defended itself in a statement that it didn't have authorization to take passengers who weren't staying at the hotel.

"There were a number of additional people gathered at the dock who were not our guests who also expressed a desire to leave St. Thomas. We very much wanted to assist these other travelers to Puerto Rico, however, the Marriott team on-the-ground was told they had no authorization to board additional passengers who were not on the manifest. This was enforced by dock security," the company said.

Dock security did not respond to ABC News' request for comment.

Additional private companies, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Puerto Rico National Guard are continuing rescue efforts to airlift tourists out of islands struck by Irma and those people left behind are believed to now be out of St. Thomas.

News - Tourists say Marriott rescue boat left them behind because they weren’t hotel guests

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  • Dwight Francis david

    Profit before people boycott Marriott

  • Night_Fury

    Marriott has always been my favorite hotel chain. They're still my fave after reading this. It's great knowing they cared so much about their customers they sent a ship to rescue them.

  • yetanother1

    What in the world has happened to humanity?

  • Joshua

    Marriott has cemented my loyalty with this, awesome job!!!

    Amazing how many people below are angry at Marriott. They are a private company and did something governments haven't/couldn't do, which is solve the issue with action.

  • bullit

    Marriott is not obligated to run rescue boats for the general population. What happens if someone gets hurt on the boat? Yep, Marriott pays them for the rest of their lives. What if someone who gets on board has nowhere to go once they reach the evacuation point? Can Marriott just dump them? Marriott is responsible for Marriott guests & staff, period- not all tourists where they may have a property. If I evacuated my family in a white SUV does that mean I'm responsible for all families in white SUV's? When does this Nanny State end?

  • Ubee

    Well, it looks as if Marriott actually only cares about people's lives IF they are staying at a Marriott venue during an emergency that requires evacuation. Sure seems as if their statement is just a really poor lame ass excuse to try to save what little face they have after this episode.

  • Will Postthetruth

    The headline is wrong and Marriott is owed an apology.
    The Marriott-chartered boat did NOT leave anyone behind - they tried to take them but dock security would not allow it unless they were on the Marriott-guest manifest.
    It says so right in this article!

  • Gimme__A__break

    I'm sorry but if you went to the Caribbean when there were at least a week or two warnings of a hurricane then you deserve whatever happens to you

  • Dicazi

    I was not there, so I don't know what really happened.
    But I cannot imagine local officials would not want to get all tourists off ASAP.
    So they could use limited supplies for their own people.
    I can imagine a large corporation not wanting to help people that hadn't been their paying customers.

  • Kobrakai7272

    With all due respect, why the heck is it Marriott's responsibility to "rescue" random people for whom they have no documentation and no way to confirm whether they even have a legitimate need to get to Puerto Rico? Especially when local authorities are explicitly saying, "no, you can't do that". It would be a different story if local authorities or even neighboring resort owners had made a request for assistance and Marriott had said no.

  • John swepston

    That seals the deal for me. If I go to the Caribbean during Hurricane Season I'm only staying at a Marriott Hotel

  • Prophet With Honor

    I'm hearing now that it wasn't a USCG vessel.
    Perhaps a Dominican civilian ferry.
    Anyone else heard that?

  • Turned around

    Rules is rules.

  • Full Story

    Actually if you follow the article in details the full picture. The security personnel for the dock company would not allow non-marriott passengers to board the ship since they were not on the pre-approved manifest. Marriott tried to plea with them, but to no avail.

  • Pangaea 47

    There is protocol and there is common sense. Common sense, and compassion in a disaster should come first not rigid adherence to protocol.

  • The Troll Slayer

    The Coast Guard has to be chartered now, in order to render assistance?


  • Bruce Williams

    Article 98 (1) of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS) requires masters of vessels sailing under the flag of signatory States to render assistance to those in distress at sea. It is primarily a State duty fulfilled by the master of the vessel. The master is freed from this requirement only in circumstances where the assisting vessel, the crew or the passengers on board would be seriously endangered as a result of rendering assistance to those in distress.
    And standing on the dock you are technically "at sea". So anyone that was on the dock or the docks property should have been given the protections of this law.

  • ralphpetrillo

    This is a horrible tragedy. Sounds like they would leave them there to die for a company manifest was not signed. No drinking water, no food, no lodging, this is a criminal act. Marriot should be prosecuted.

  • Steve Jarrett

    I thought government was our great salvation? Perhaps Marriott thinks that because it pays so much in taxes that it doesn't need to be a charity. Why doesn't the government charter a rescue boat for these people?

  • Joseph Colorado

    Looks bad, but you all were there with plenty of warning that the train was speeding down the tracks (the hurricane) and still chose to stay on the island.

    Then, thank all of the lawyers that represent the 'injured' for making it impossible to do the right thing without first talking to your own lawyers to determine the risk.

    Marriott took care of those who had paid to stay in their hotels. Makes sense they would get their guests out. Why are these 'tourists' not complaining about the company that owned their hotels not doing enough?

    Why ... because that would make sense.