A cruise ship that was thrashed in a major storm on the Atlantic Ocean returned Wednesday to its home port in New Jersey. On board during the frightening journey were Wingate residents Clark and Rebecca McCorkle.
Their story began Saturday when they boarded the ship around noon after flying to New Jersey on Friday. It was the 13th time they had boarded a cruise ship, but they had never imagine what was in store for them.
“Every couple of years Clark and I decide to go on a nice vacation,” Rebecca said. “Clark got online and found the Anthem of the Seas and we wanted to check it out. They have some features on-board that other cruise ships do not have.”
The ship pulled out of the bay in New Jersey on Saturday and headed toward the journey’s first stop at Cape Canaveral. By Tuesday, the couple was to be basking in the sun in the Bahamas. It never happened.
On Sunday, the Anthem ran into some rough seas and passengers were told to expect some rough weather. At around 2 p.m. the ship’s captain
ordered all passengers and staff to their cabins, he said it was going to get bad — and it did.
Soon 30- to 40-foot waves fueled by winds in excess of 165 miles per hour were pounding the ship. The captain then informed passengers he was being forced to turn the boat around for safety reasons. As he turned the ship, it began to list. The ship, with 4,500 passengers on board, was listing at 30 percent for nearly two hours. Rebecca and Clark hunkered down on their couch.
Things got worse. The ship continued to turn over on its side and was listing at 45 percent. The McCorkles admitted they were scared while they stayed inside their eighth floor cabin.
“Clark was laying with his head on my lap and his feet pressing against the dresser just to keep us from falling off the couch,” Rebecca said. “We had an eighth-floor balcony room in the
middle of the ship. When we looked out the balcony door we could see no skyline, only water.”
The ship continued to be battered by the storm and remained at the 30 percent lists or more for nearly four hours. During the worst of the storm, Rebecca said they made contact with loved ones at home, including their three college-aged children.
“We knew we had to contact our kids and let them know we were still OK,” Rebecca said. “Even though we had not said it to each other, we knew we needed to text home in case things got worse.”
In the text Rebecca told her daughter to start praying and to pass the prayer request to others. Soon Rebecca started to feel at ease.
“I just felt an ease come across me as more and more people evidently started praying for us,” she said. “It really was amazing how quickly I started feeling much calmer.”
After four hours, the ship started to right itself as the storm lessened. The captain informed all the passengers to remain in their rooms as the crew started to clean up the ship.
Thankfully, the boat never lost power through the ordeal.
“We were both very happy that our television still worked and we were able to watch the Super Bowl,” Rebecca said.
During the ordeal, all the couple had to eat was a small can of Pringles and candy bars. Later in the evening another can of Pringles was offered by a member of the service staff.
When the sun started to rise Monday, passengers were allowed to leave their rooms and head for breakfast. Rebecca said there was a lot of debris and broken glass spewed all over the ship. Some of the floors had suffered some flooding, especially the rooms toward the front of the ship. Rebecca said it was obvious the ship sustained a lot of damage, including one of its two engines.
“The staff had their hands full preparing breakfast,” Rebecca said. “The kitchens had refrigerators tipped over and one restaurant had all of it dinnerware broken as it fell off the shelves. But really, the staff did a good job and fed us a decent breakfast. Then as the passengers started telling their stories, a special bonding started happening. That ended up being a pretty neat thing. We had survived a potential disaster together and we had become friends.”
The voyage back to New Jersey continued without incident. Slowly but surely, the staff and crew started putting the ship back into normal condition. Some of the boats features were not opened again.
“The pools all had debris including broken glass in them and a lot of doors and windows were broken,” Rebecca said. “Everything was pretty much in shambles.”
When they made it back to port, the McCorkles decided to stay on board Wednesday because they did not have a return flight to Indianapolis. They did eventually arrive home Thursday afternoon.
Carnival has since announced it will refund all cruise fares and offer a half-priced fare on a future trip. Rebecca, who has previously worked as a travel agent, said they will probably use the reduced price on a future trip.
For now, the McCorkles are just happy to have their feet on the ground of their Wingate farm and memories of a voyage they will never forget.