Carnival Sunshine returns to Port Canaveral after listing mid-cruise

Passenger describes incident as 'pure chaos'

PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. – The Carnival Sunshine returned to Port Canaveral early Friday after a malfunction caused the ship to severely tilt to one side five days earlier.

Passengers sent News 6 several images of broken glasses, plates and other items that slid to the floor when the ship began to list after leaving Port Canaveral on Sunday evening.

Passenger Porcha Moore, from North Carolina, said she initially thought the ship had hit a big wave.

"Then you hear screams, yelling and people swinging, falling toward us. We tilted this way," Moore said. "That's when we realized something was wrong, when we literally saw the ocean and saw the boat that way. I was holding onto a beam, grasping for my life, and we saw water coming in and I'm thinking to myself to be sure we're not going underwater."

She said she'd never been more terrified in her life.

"People were running, people were crying, people were hurt, cut up. (There was) glass everywhere, it was literally a scene from the 'Titanic,'" Moore said.

According to a Carnival spokesperson, the situation happened when a malfunction impacted the use of fin stabilizers.  The cruise line said officers quickly intervened to correct the situation and there was never an issue with the safe operation of the ship.

Guests onboard said it was the first time they have experienced anything like that on a cruise ship.

"I didn't think anything of it, since it's not uncommon for ships to rock back and forth. But it didn't rock back. It kept leaning," David Crews, of Long Island, New York, said in a message to News 6. "Plates and silverware started sliding off the tables. Then the tables themselves started to slide. Glasses and plates started to fall and shatter. At this point, it was pure chaos. Screams. Cries. Panic."

Kristen Smith, who is from Lake County, said even after the ship recovered, she was on edge the rest of the cruise because she worried it could happen again.

The Sunshine ballroom on the Carnival Sunshine cruise ship after crews cleaned up the debris from the ship's brief tilt mid-cruise. (Image: Carnival Cruise Line)

"I guess the major panic was that they didn't tell us what was going on. It took them a while to make any announcement and they said they were investigating. We went down to our rooms and got our life jackets and literally carried them around the rest of the night," Smith said. "Every time you felt the boat move, you're like, 'Oh crap, is it happening again?'"

Records show the Carnival Sunshine is one of the oldest ships in Carnival’s fleet. It was built as the Carnival Destiny in 1996, the world's largest cruise ship at the time, but was renamed after an extensive renovation several years later. 

After the incident, Carnival released images which showed guests enjoying the remainder of the Caribbean cruise.

Passengers were scheduled to begin disembarking the ship at 8 a.m.

About the Author:

Mark Lehman became a News 6 reporter in July 2014, but he's been a Central Florida journalist and part of the News 6 team for much longer. While most people are fast asleep in their bed, Mark starts his day overnight by searching for news on the streets of Central Florida.