Marriott Had 200+ Empty Spots on a Boat But Refused to Help Non-Guests Escape Hurricane

Marriott had a boat evacuate guests from the Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort on St. Thomas after Irma had passed and in advance of Hurricane Jose.

Marriott St. Thomas, Credit: Marriott

The US Coast Guard, knowing the boat was on its way, instructed others looking to get off of St. Thomas to meet the boat on its dock.

“Once we got to the docks and learned that it was for, Marriott guests only, they told us that we could get in a different line and wait — so we got the impression that we would, if there was room, they would let us on,” Terry said.

However Marriott wouldn’t let these people on the boat. They reportedly had room for a couple hundred people beyond their own guests on the 600 person boat, but refused transport to 30 or more people looking for help off the island.

A woman desperate to be off the island took video as the boat turned off its lights trying to disperse the crowd after Marriott’s own guests were onboard.

“This was a decision of Marriott who did not let us get on this boat so we could get on flights home.

“Instead we have to ride out Hurricane Jose when we just went through Hurricane Irma a few days ago.

“We don’t have food or water, we are stranded.”

In a statement Marriott said more or less ‘yeah, we did it.’

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.

With Hurricane Jose on a path to St. Thomas, the ferry had a tight window to pick up passengers and safely depart.

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.”

Claiming that the ferry couldn’t take non-guests because of a ‘tight window’ to safely depart is absurd because everyone was on the dock ready to go. (Update: and no Marriott’s statement doesn’t claim that their guests were permitted to depart while others had passport issues going from the US Virgin Islands to Puerto Rico.) In fact the time spent shooing these people away likely took as much time as rescuing them would have. Saying they ‘weren’t able to’ help non-guests simply does not appear to be true. They chose not to. Marriott should either own that or apologize for it.

People left behind claimed the boat “called the CEO and he said they didn’t want the liability” although it’s highly unlikely the decision was made at that level.

And in fairness the woman who took the video “eventually found safe passage on a private evacuation boat to Puerto Rico.”

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Lili says, “If you want real facts rather than the inflammatory crap here, try reading something beyond blogs” then directs to the Forbes’ article, which is just as biased in favor of the company. “Dramatic high-seas rescue?” Ridiculous.

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