Passengers aboard the Carnival Sunshine had a nightmarish experience as the cruiseliner attempted to return to its home port in Charleston on Friday. The cruise ship was battered by rough seas and powerful winds, flooding the lower decks. The situation worsened late Friday night into early Saturday when passengers saw crew members putting on life jackets.
The aftermath aboard Carnival Sunshine after a severe storm.
The crew from Deck 0-4 evacuated to the theater, and anywhere they could rest… the crew bar destroyed. pic.twitter.com/MqsDJYvrSG
— Crew Center (@CrewCenter) May 28, 2023
— Gabby Whorley (@gabs_whorley) May 28, 2023
Bloomberg ship tracking data shows the vessel zig-zagged off the coast of Charleston while a low-pressure storm slammed the ship with monster waves and 80 mph winds.
Passenger Daniel Taylor shared his terrifying experience between Friday evening and mid-day Saturday with Daily Mail:
But at around 4.30pm on Friday, the trip took a turn for the worse as the ship approached choppy waters.
Just 15 minutes later, Taylor said, the captain made an announcement that due to the adverse weather conditions, the Sunshine may arrive back in Charleston later than it was scheduled to.
‘He said that the staff would do everything they could to minimize discomfort,’ Taylor recounted, noting that shortly thereafter vomit bags were put out on all the elevators.
By 7pm, he said, the ship started hitting large swells of water.
‘I went to a show in the Liquid Lounge at the front of the ship at that time,’ Taylor said. ‘The sound of us crashing into the swells could be heard over the music playing.
‘Stage lights mounted on the ceiling began to shake, the disco ball started swinging and the LED wall on the stage,’ which he said was probably about 20 to 30 feet tall and wide, ‘began rolling side by side on its own.’
Around 8pm, the staff started closing off and evacuating all the public deck areas, and just about one hour later, Taylor said he went to the buffet, where he saw plates and cups topple.
He then returned to his room on the second level of the ship, where he watched as a glass chalice fell off the counter and shattered.
Throughout this time, Taylor said, the ship was still traveling at 11 knots per hour, only reducing speed to 5 knots per hour at 11.15pm when winds started hitting the ship at 80mph.
At that point, he said, the ‘captain turned the ship from sailing northwest toward Charleston to head northeast heading directly into the eye of the storm.’
Taylor also said he watched as the cabin across from his started to leak from the ceiling, and told how there were no announcements from the crew.
At around 2am, he said, the staff changed the television screens to a standby announcement — thereby wiping off the screen showing the direction the ship was traveling and how fast.
‘We were no longer able to see where we were going, how fast we were going, what the wind speed was or anything,’ Taylor said. ‘We were blind to what was going on — especially with no weather or course update since 4.45pm the previous day.
‘This was also around the time our Internet went out, so we weren’t able to look at the weather online or contact anyone,’ he added.
‘At this point, we were hitting large swells over and over. They had to be anywhere from 10 to 20 feet.’
Meanwhile, he said, he saw crew members wearing life jackets.
It wasn’t until 7.30am, Taylor recounted, the cruise director came on the air and made an announcement that they were outside Charleston harbor but could not dock as scheduled.
The ship finally arrived at the port at around 5.30pm Saturday night — more than nine hours after it was scheduled to dock.
Another passenger posted on Facebook:
“I believe the Carnival SunShine Ship is in trouble. The ship is stop and We are sitting ducks with huge waves and 50 up to 70 knots of wind. Somewhere off the coast of GA-FL. Lock down in our rooms. Pray.”
That passenger continued:
“Piss and scared, the ship is still stop. No communications from Captain or staff. TV is out with message “Public announcement please standby:” The winds are hurricane Gail force and ship is leaning to the left. I believe the Captain was trying to our run the storm. Bad decision. I’m sure we will be breaking news tomorrow!”
Passenger Sharon Tutrone tweeted, “After 14 hours of high winds, rain and massive waves. The ship took a hit from a wave that sounded like the ship split in two.”
After nearly a day of hell, the cruise ship arrived in Charleston on Saturday evening. The vessel is back on the seas, sailing on a five-day Bahamas cruise.