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Marriott Rescue Ship Abandoned Stranded Tourists

TravelPulse logo TravelPulse 9/13/2017 Patrick Clarke

Charlotte Amalie harbor St. Thomas U.S. Virgin Islands © Travalliancemedia Owned Media (Staff Photo) Charlotte Amalie harbor St. Thomas U.S. Virgin Islands Marriott International has come under fire from a group of tourists who accused the hotel giant of deliberately leaving dozens of stranded people behind on the Caribbean island of St. Thomas after it was devastated by Hurricane Irma.

According to The Washington Post, Marriott chartered a ferry to transport guests staying at its St. Thomas properties to San Juan, Puerto Rico since the island's airport was closed and Hurricane Jose was approaching.

Irma destroyed approximately 70 percent of all infrastructure in St. Thomas and wreaked havoc on Cyril E. King Airport.

Despite having hundreds of seats available, the ship departed St. Thomas Friday night, leaving roughly three dozen tourists behind with limited supplies and hope for rescue.

"We just felt hopelessness," professional storm chaser Cody Howard told the Post. "We’re grown men. We could take care of ourselves. We didn't need a whole lot. But it was really hard to see people with kids and elderly people who don’t have anywhere to stay get turned away by this boat."

"For some people, that was the only [glimmer] of hope. After the boat left, they just felt hopeless and helpless."

"They had 600 and something seats," Naomi Ayala said in a Facebook post. "They filled it with 300 Marriott guests and there are 35 people over here waiting and we can’t get on this large boat that will hold at least 2[00] to 300 more people."

Fortunately, Jose turned north and missed the U.S. Virgin Islands.

While some stranded tourists blamed the hotel chain for the decision, Marriott said it was ultimately dock security and local officials who prevented it from assisting the other evacuees.

"We were told by the port manager...that if they weren’t on the manifest that we weren’t able to bring them on to the boat," Tim Sheldon, president of the Caribbean and Latin America region for Marriott, told the Post. "We were told we had to have our boat out of that port by nightfall. We knew that it was in our best interests and in the best interests of our guests to get that ship out of there that night."

Marriott reiterated Sheldon's explanation in a statement to the Post.

"As a company, Marriott places a priority on the safety and security of our guests, but we also have a long tradition of looking out for the greater community. In this case, we weren’t able to help and as grateful as we are that we were able to transport our guests, we are saddened that we were not able to do the same for more people. We continue to work with local authorities in St. Thomas to help support the relief efforts there."

On Monday, Marriott announced it has set up a resource line (866) 211-4610) for those seeking information about guests and associates impacted by Irma. 

"To date, there have been no reports of storm-related injuries to employees or guests at our hotels," the company said in a statement Tuesday. "While most of our hotels are open, some hotels in the affected areas have sustained damage. Efforts are underway to fully restore operations but some hotels may have temporary interruption or limited availability of guest services."

Marriott said most of its hotels in the storm's path are waiving cancellation fees.

Related  video: Man washes car with Hurricane Irma's rain (Provided by BuzzVideos)

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