Rough waters cause scare aboard Carnival cruise

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.

Some passengers criticized the cruise line for allowing the ship to be sailed into such extreme weather.

"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 Carnival Sunshine cruise ship as seen in a March 16, 2020, file photo, in Charleston, South Carolina. (AP Photo/Mic Smith, File)

"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.

Ship passenger Sharon Tutrone said "we sailed right into it" and those on board "spent 11 hours pitching, diving, and rolling. We were surrounded by lightning and the ship took a huge hit by a wave and sounded like it split in two."

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.

According to Tutrone, the only time the passengers heard from the captain was on Friday afternoon, when he announced that the ship would arrive late to port on Saturday due to the storm, according to Tutrone. The captain assured passengers that he had an "experienced crew" that would "minimize discomfort" as they encountered the rough seas, Tutrone wrote on Twitter.

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 small number of 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 Saturday.

Passengers took to social media, sharing they spent 12 to 14 hours enduring the rough seas before the ship finally made it to port.

"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," said Tutrone. "The Carnival Sunshine is finally in Charleston."

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.

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