The incident happened about 1 a.m., when a 35-year-old man from Brazil fell from the Oasis of the Seas while the vessel was traveling 17 miles east of the Turks and Caicos Islands, the cruise line said.
The man, who had been on the seventh deck of the vessel, apparently jumped into a lifeboat one deck below, the Coast Guard said.
"He was spotted by Oasis of the Seas crew members intentionally going over the side of the ship," Royal Caribbean Cruises spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez said in an email.
A video posted on YouTube shows passengers calling to the man who is holding on to a life boat as the sea churns below.
"Let go of me!" he shouts. "You don't touch me!"
A crowd of bystanders watches as he continues talking to someone on board, "Because of you, this happened...I'm not going anywhere...Let go of me! Get off of me!"
The man, shirtless and wearing a red swimsuit or shorts, appears to try and pull himself up onto the edge of the lifeboat. But he seems to lose his grip or slips on the boat surface and falls into the ocean.
A woman passenger shouts, "He's there, he's there! Get the life thing, throw it over!"
The video was later removed from YouTube.
The Coast Guard is searching with a long-range plane and a helicopter deployed from the Clearwater air station, Petty Officer David Schuhlein said.
We have one aircraft with seven crew members on it that took off this morning at 4 a.m., and they're flying all the low search patterns in the area," he said. "So we have one C-130 and one helicopter in the air."
Cruise passengers used social media to transmit updates on the search and images from the vessel.
A tweet shortly after 6 a.m. indicated that it was light and that at least two rescue boats could be seen searching the water for the fallen passenger. An earlier tweet from about 3 a.m. read, "Horrible rain hampering rescue efforts."
The cruise departed Port Everglades Oct. 31 and will return there Saturday.
As the search continues, the cruise line said it was comforting the missing passenger's relatives.
"Our Care Team is providing support to the guest's family and our thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time," Martinez said.
Searchers are focusing in the area around where the ship's crew estimated the man went overboard, Schuhlein said. The Turks and Caicos Islands are in the Atlantic Ocean, north of the Dominican Republic.
"[We're] using our algorithms and drift techniques to see exactly where he could be at now, given the drift pattern hours later, to search in that area for him," he said.
One of the world's largest cruise ships, the Oasis of the Seas is more than 1,100 feet long and weighs more than 225 tons. It is returning from a week-long cruise in the eastern Caribbean.
Its base has been Port Everglades since 2009, but is scheduled to move to Port Canaveral, along the central Florida coast, in 2016.
Source: Doug Phillips-Sun-Sentinel (Nov. 6, 2015)
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Featured photo credit: Royal Caribbean