Passengers aboard the Carnival Sunshine cruise ship who thought they were in for a leisurely end to their vacation instead experienced a nightmarish voyage back to port over the Memorial Day weekend.
A strong storm churning off the coast of the Carolinas unleashed powerful wind gusts of up to 60 mph and turbulent seas on Saturday, May 27, with huge waves pounding the ship as it tried to make its way back from the Bahamas to Charleston, South Carolina. The stormy weather caused extensive flooding and damage inside the vessel — throughout hallways, cabins and recreation areas — and broken glass strewn about.
Video shared by passenger Brad Morrell from the deck showed dark clouds looming and white caps on the choppy ocean, according to Storyful. The footage was filmed outside Morrell’s 12th deck room on the ship while it was off the coast of Charleston. Morrell was one of about 3,000 passengers onboard the Carnival Sunshine.
Several other passengers also posted videos and photos describing the harrowing and terrifying ordeal and conditions they endured as the ship maneuvered through the waters. RJ Whited and his fiancé, Tracy, told ABC News 4 that she was advised to quarantine in their room because she was feeling ill. While in her room recovering, the ship began to shake.
“It was shaking us so violently,” Whited told the TV station.
Fear and confusion spread among passengers as the ship continued to shake and rock along the rough seas without any communication from the crew. Passenger Christa Seifert-alicea said it took over 12 hours for the crew to communicate what was going on.
“What we endured is indescribable, not only to feel it yourself but to hear and see it set in on every single person around you from adult, child and the elderly is something I will never forget,” Seifert-alicea told ABC News 4.
A buoy situated well off the coast of Charleston was reporting wind gusts of around 50 mph into the morning hours of May 27, according to AccuWeather data. The gusts got stronger, increasing to about 60 mph later in the day, with sustained winds of about 40 mph. The towering waves reached up to 18 feet in the morning as the center of the storm passed just to the west of the ship and buoy.
“The ship likely remained in the strongest part of the storm through its arrival in port in Charleston during the day on the 27th,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alyson Hoegg.
Other passengers, such as Daniel Taylor, echoed the travelers’ fears of not knowing what was happening with the ship.
“They’re not reassuring us, not telling us what was going on, they could’ve updated us and let us know something,” Taylor told ABC News 4.
Carnival said that passengers were safe during the trip back to port, according to a statement released to ABC News 4:
“Guests on board the ship were safe. Our medical staff helped a few guests and crew members who needed minor assistance… We appreciate the patience and understanding of all our guests,” the statement read.
The ship eventually reached shore, docking around 5 p.m. ET on Saturday.
AccuWeather forecasters had been monitoring the storm’s development days in advance due to the possibility that it could become a tropical or subtropical system. At least one meteorologist said on Twitter that he thought the storm looked to be subtropical on Sunday.
Produced in association with AccuWeather
Edited by Sterling Creighton Beard and Alberto Arellano