A boatload of 24 Cuban immigrants has been rescued at sea by a Carnival cruise ship, whose crew handed them over to authorities on the Cayman Islands, the company said Friday.

The Cuban immigrants were stranded in a wooden boat that had been adrift for five days, Carnival said in a statement.

When the crew of the Carnival Paradise sighted the boat, they made a detour to pick up the 23 men and a woman, offering them immediate aid.

"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," the Carnival company said.

The cruise ship, with a capacity for 2,000 passengers, reached the Cayman Islands on Wednesday, right on schedule, and there handed the migrants over to the authorities, who are expected to deport them back to Cuba.

Miami's El Nuevo Herald newspaper said that Cayman Islands authorities have reported a growing number of boats carrying Cuban immigrants in its territorial waters over the past year.

The Cayman Islands, a British overseas territory, are located some 200 kilometers (124 miles) south of Cuba. EFE