Statesville family on cruise ship that listed at sea: 'It felt like a scene from Titanic'

PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. — Passengers on a Carnival cruise ship that had just left Port Canaveral, Florida, got quite a scare last month when the ship suddenly started listing.

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The ship had just left Port Canaveral for a five-day journey to the Caribbean when Carnival said an electrical switchboard malfunctioned Oct. 28 night, impacting the ship’s fin stabilizers.

A Statesville family was on board the cruise ship when it departed and spoke to channel 9 Wednesday about the ordeal.

John Cole said it was a family vacation they will never forget.

Cole, who sent Channel 9 video of the chaos on board, said he’s been on at least five cruises and had never experienced something like this.

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Video from other passengers shows dishes scattered across the floor as the ship began to list.

Cole said an incident like this makes him reconsider going on any future cruises.

"It felt like a scene from the 'Titanic,'” Cole said. “Being on the boat, it's very different from any other vacation."

On the first day of the cruise, Cole said he and his family had just sat down for dinner when things got rocky.

"All the plates and all the stuff was coming to the end of the boat,” Cole said. “I was trying to hold onto it. It was falling onto the floor."

Cole showed Channel 9 photos of the torn apart dinner table. In the moment when the ship took a serious tilt, Cole said he could only think of one thing.

"I honestly thought we were about to go down,” Cole said.

Cole said many guests were grabbing life vests and carrying them the rest of the night.

It wasn’t until the second day when crews received clarity about what had happened.

“They made an announcement that one of the fin stabilizers had went out and they had fixed it,” Cole said.

Cole estimated there were 3,000 people on the ship. He said he wishes more would have been done before the ship departed.

"I would like for them to check and make sure before they leave port that everything is fine,” Cole said.

Tony and Kyla Williams, who live in the Atlanta area, were also on board when the ship tilted.

“This was very much the ship rolling to one side and everything falling down,” said Kyla Williams. “It was just something you’ll never forget.”

Carnival said the listing lasted for about one minute before it was corrected and the ship continued its journey.

The cruise line said in an email that the ship's fin stabilizers "are not a safety feature; they are deployed solely for guest comfort to minimize any potential ship motion while at sea. There was never any issue with the safe operation of the ship and our officers quickly intervened to correct the situation."

'“I was shifted. Falling out of my seat. [Tony] had to hold me at arm's length so I wouldn’t fall,” Kyla Williams said.

The Williamses said they were so shaken they decided to cut the trip short on the third day. Carnival paid for them to fly home and refunded their cruise, the couple said.

Carnival also apologized to its passengers.

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