What was supposed to be a relaxing Nordic cruise turned into a seafaring nightmare for 1,373 Viking Sky passengers on Saturday when their ship became stranded off Norway's western coast during a spell of particularly bad weather.
Shocking footage from the ship, which swiftly went viral on social media, showed unmoored furnishings crashing into walls and nearly colliding with terrified passengers. Eventually, 17 passengers were hospitalized with related injuries.
After the crew radioed for help, deciding to drop anchor to prevent the ship from being pushed onto nearby rocks, more than 400 passengers were eventually rescued by the Norwegian coast guard in a painstaking rescue operation that involved five helicopters working throughout the night into Sunday.
Fortunately, the quick-thinking crew managed to save the vessel from a possible shipwreck. Coast guard official Emil Heggelund estimated that the ship was only 325 feet from striking rocks under the water, and 2,950 feet from shore when three of its four engines failed in an area off the Norwegian coast known for rough conditions, according to the AP.
Though tensions on the boat reportedly ran high into the night, once the first hundred or so passengers had been airlifted off the boat, the mood began to relax, one passenger told the AP.
Passenger Alexus Sheppard told The Associated Press in a message sent from the Viking Sky that people with injuries or disabilities were winched off the cruise ship first. The atmosphere onboard grew calmer after the rescue operation’s first dramatic hours, Sheppard said.
"It was frightening at first. And when the general alarm sounded it became VERY real," she wrote.
"We saw two people taken off by stretcher," another passenger, Dereck Brown, told Norwegian newspaper Romsdal Budstikke. "People were alarmed. Many were frightened but they were calm."
Eighteen hours after stalling out, the ship's crew managed to restart the failing motors. Two tugboats eventually led it back to port. The cruise, which included mostly Americans, Brits, Aussies and Kiwis, was scheduled to dock at a handful of Norwegian towns before sailing to its destination in the UK.
In video that circulated on social media, falling beams and sliding furniture nearly collide with terrified passengers.
We wouldn't be surprised to see a dip in global cruise bookings after this.
Oh yeah I’m in a real rush to go on a cruise pic.twitter.com/xNXh3lrpNE— Quoth the Raven (@QTRResearch) March 23, 2019