The ship was returning to port in Charleston, South Carolina, when the storm started blowing in Friday evening, CNN reported.
It was on a five-day trip to the Bahamas, with a capacity of more than 3,000 guests and 1,040 crewmembers over 14 decks.
The storm surge lasted for 12 hours and had 80 mph winds with up to 17-foot swells, NBC News reported. According to the National Hurricane Center, it was a non-tropical area of low pressure that was first seen off the Florida coast and was tracking north over the Carolinas over the weekend. Forecasters warned of gusty winds, dangerous surf and rip currents.
A Carnival cruise spokesperson told CBS News , that while some passengers and crew members needed “minimal assistance” from medical staff, “guests on board the ship were safe.”
It was the first time William Blackburn had been on a cruise.
“It was terrifying,” he told CNN . “We stayed in our cabin, and prayed we’d be OK.”
He said he and his family made sure they knew where the life jackets were, but said that he didn’t think they would be enough to survive if they ended up in the ocean.
“[We] discussed the fact that it would be very unlikely to survive in the water even with life jackets and doubted that lifeboats could even be launched in those conditions,” Blackburn told CNN .
Passenger Bill Hassler told CNN he was “surprised I’m still alive” and that fellow passengers were “white as ghosts” when they finally reached land. He recorded video of water in the corridors and items thrown from the shelves in the ship stores. Hassler said that a wave broke the window of his cabin.
Another passenger told NBC News that it sounded as if the ship split in two.
The Sunshine was delayed getting into port. It made it about 9 hours after it had been scheduled to be there on Saturday night, NBC News reported. It was able to sail for its next voyage. It was delayed leaving and some crew cabins were taken out of service temporarily due to water damage, CBS News reported.