Royal Caribbean evacuates employees via a ship sailing away from Irma

As Hurricane Irma barrels toward South Florida, the safest place may be at sea.

That’s the reasoning Royal Caribbean International is tapping into for a novel evacuation strategy.

The Miami-based cruise line evacuated 1,500 employees, who work out of the company’s PortMiami building, on its 2,252-passenger Enchantment of the Seas. The ship set sail from Miami at noon Friday on a route away from the storm.

Royal Caribbean canceled Enchantment’s regular sailing scheduled for Friday earlier in the week, said spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez, and decided to offer the ship to employees and their families — free of charge.

“Felt that was the right thing to do,” Martinez said in an email.

Guests from the Enchantment’s previous sailings who wished to stay aboard because they could not leave Florida were allowed to do so, she said. No one will be charged for staterooms, food, entertainment or gratuities.

Enchantment will return to Miami once the port reopens.

On Thursday, competitor Norwegian Cruise Line was slammed by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio for arriving in Miami a day early and dropping off thousands of tourists, some of whom were struggling to get home due to mass flight cancellations. The cruise line was ultimately able to accommodate most passengers into another of its ships, also sailing away from the storm, or into area hotels.