A Carnival cruise ship collided with a massive storm last week on its way from the Bahamas to Charleston, South Carolina. The storm flooded the bottom four levels of the ship, and caused panic for passengers when the ship was struck and turned to the side in the night, making national headlines.
Bryan Rife, 47, of Belmont, was aboard Carnival Sunshine, when the event occurred.
Rife recounts the events of the storm beginning late night Friday, May 26, and persisting into the morning of Saturday, May 26.
Friday, 3-3:30 p.m.
Rife was standing on the 10th floor Serenity Deck when the intercom sounded to let passengers know they should vacate higher deck levels because the ship was headed toward inclement weather.
At this point, Rife notes that the sky was clear and blue, and he did not see any signs of bad weather. Within an hour of this message, the water had become rougher.
The boat began rocking more abruptly. As Rife and his husband, Shane Elks, were walking the halls, he recalls hearing other passengers complaining of nausea. Rife adds that his own spouse was becoming a little seasick.
Somewhere in this timeframe, Rife and Elks went onto the deck to check out the condition of the sky and water.
“The difference was night and day,” Rife said. The sky was bright blue near their position on the ship. Straight ahead was a “wall of darkness.”
Despite the ominous weather they were approaching, Rife said he was still not too concerned about it at the time.
At this point, the wind was howling outside of the balcony doors. The weather information displayed on the television showed the wind speed rising and dropping drastically. At times, wind speed was even reaching 80 mph, according to Rife.
Around 10:45 p.m., Rife was thrown from his bed when the ship was struck by what is thought to have been a massive wave. He could hear other passengers screaming, and the sound of things being broken. Rife cannot recall exactly how long the ship stayed in this slanted position, but said that, “it felt like forever.”
While the ship was still in this sideways position, he grabbed a lifejacket for himself, and Elks.
“I thought, we were capsizing,” he said.
Rife and his husband left their room to find the other half of their party. He recalls finding broken glass scattered around, a passenger stuck in an elevator, and another passenger thrown from her wheelchair, which had been damaged by the jolt.
11:30 p.m.-5:00 a.m.
For the remainder of the night and into Saturday morning, Rife and Elks stayed in their room. The water remained turbulent, and rain poured through the ceiling of the balcony doors, but the ship was not struck with so much force again, Rife said.
Sometime after 6:15 a.m., Rife recalls the intercom finally coming on after complete silence from ship personnel in the night. Carnival Sunshine made port around 5 p.m., and passengers were able to exit the ship about an hour later.
Rife says he has three more cruises planned during hurricane season and is still planning to go on those trips.
“You can’t control the weather,” Rife said, though he does wish that ship personnel would have communicated with passengers during the storm, or even made the call to stay anchored where they were and wait for the storm to pass before heading to Charleston.
This article originally appeared on The Gaston Gazette: Belmont man recounts experience aboard cruise ship hit by storm