It was lunchtime when a violent jolt shook loose the closet doors and flung a water pitcher made of glass across the room. The pitcher reduced to shards was their first clue that something was wrong.
Bewildered and startled, Kermit and Patsy Quick decided to abandon their top-deck cabin aboard the Viking Sky cruise ship. As they headed to the dining room on Saturday, they caught a glimpse of the ocean outside — menacing, churning, wild with waves.
They’re back home in Northern Virginia after a long-anticipated vacation turned into a harrowing rescue effort and left several passengers hospitalized. The ship’s four engines cut out in the middle of an intense storm off the Norwegian coast, and it hardly feels real, the Quicks said.
“I’m sitting here thinking, ‘Wow, was that just yesterday?’ ” said Patsy Quick, 71, who returned home to the Mount Vernon area of Fairfax County late Monday.
“Did I really go through that?” added Kermit Quick, 74.
“It’s very surreal,” Patsy Quick said.
The cruise ship, a 47,800-ton ocean liner that carried more than 1,300 people on a trip to see the Northern Lights, issued a Mayday call Saturday afternoon as some passengers were sitting down to eat.
The Quicks, who had just arrived at a cafe aboard, said their own table toppled over as shouts and a crash from the kitchen carried into the dining area. Then the emergency lights came on.
“You know, at first you couldn’t really figure out what was going on,” Patsy Quick said. “People were holding onto things, holding onto each other, tables were falling over. It was too much.”
As she took in the deteriorating scene, Patsy Quick said, crew members began to usher passengers to their assigned “muster area,” where they waited for 23 hours.
Gathered inside a theater, the Quicks and fellow passengers shared stories and social media posts, interrupted every 15 minutes by the captain, who provided updates on the status of the ship.
What he did not tell the passengers, the Quicks said, was how close the vessel came to running aground in the storm — 330 feet, before the engineers were able to restart an engine and redirect the ship.
With no windows in the theater and little access to news from other parts of the vessel, passengers did not know how bad conditions were outside.
Waves topped 60 feet as winds blowing at the strength of a Category 3 hurricane pounded the vessel. Helicopters were sent in to rescue the passengers — a mix of American, British, Canadian, New Zealand and Australian citizens — but each chopper could take only 20 at a time, taking passengers off the ship by cable winch.
It went on for hours.
Weary passengers stretched out on the floor and in their seats, adjusting their bright orange life vests to get comfortable. The Quicks couldn’t sleep.
At some point, crew members brought in a group of passengers who had been near the stern of the ship. They were soaking wet.
A wall of water had crashed through a glass door and windows, knocking passengers off their feet and sweeping them across the floor. One man arrived bleeding from a gash on his head, the Quicks said, although even he did not seem panicked.
“We kept hearing crew members call for stretchers, but even those poor people who came in and were wet and injured seemed so calm,” Patsy Quick said. “I guess they were doing the best they could in a difficult situation. People took off their clothes — sweaters, sweatshirts, anything they had — and gave it to the people who were wet. Everyone was just in it together.”
When it was their turn to board a helicopter, the Quicks said, they opted to remain aboard. Engineers now had three engines running, and the couple felt safe enough to stay.
Four hundred seventy-nine passengers were airlifted from the vessel, officials said, and the rest remained aboard until the vessel reached port.
It is not known what caused the engines to fail. Kermit Quick said he wonders why the captain decided to enter the path of a storm rather than wait it out in port.
Patsy and Kermit Quick have vacationed on cruise ships before, including trips to Alaska and the Bahamas. They took a Viking cruise to Russia a few years ago and enjoyed the experience so much, they decided to book the company’s new tour originating in Norway, “in search of the Northern Lights.”
The cruise was to visit the Norwegian towns of Narvik, Bodo and Alta, and the cities of Tromso and Stavanger, before docking Tuesday in the British port of Tilbury on the River Thames.
With the help of two tug boats, the cruise ship docked Sunday at Molde, Norway, where passengers were greeted with whoops and cheers as they disembarked.
At a hotel, workers and cruise executives wanted to throw the passengers a party, the Quicks said, but they were too tired.
Back in Virginia, they’re planning their own get-together with fellow passengers from Loudoun County and Fredericksburg, Va., who became friends on the ship.
And, already, they’re looking forward to their next cruise.
Maybe next time, they said, they’ll go to Antarctica.