Coastal Empire residents were stuck on cruise during Hurricane Irma

Coastal Empire residents were stuck on cruise during Hurricane Irma

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Cruise ship passengers finally made it back to dry land after being stuck out at sea during Hurricane Irma.

The Carnival Vista was finally able to dock at the Port of Miami late Tuesday night after the cruise ship was diverted four extra days at sea while the storm passed.

Several of those passengers were from Savannah. I spoke to one of them Thursday who says they left on Sunday, Sept. 3, back when there was still so much uncertainty about Irma and where exactly she was headed.

"Our evacuation was hosted by Carnival," Moses Calhoun said.

Calhoun and 40 others from the Savannah area were celebrating the 150th anniversary of Beach High School by taking a Caribbean cruise to Jamaica, Grand Cayman Islands, and Cozumel. They left for the seven-day cruise from the Port of Miami Sunday, Sept. 3rd, back when Irma was still far out into the Atlantic with a very fickle path.

It wasn't until the latter part of their trip that they realized Irma was not only headed straight for Miami but it was also a threat to Savannah.

"We were supposed to go to Cozumel and stay a few hours and then head back to Miami, and it be an overnight run to Miami. Well, we get to Cozumel and they say we are going to stay here tonight," Calhoun said.

In an attempt to stay behind the storm, they slowly made their way back towards Miami.

"We saw the devastation on the news because that's all they would play, so we knew it was bad. So, when you see all of that and knowing that's where we were going, we're thinking what are we going to get when we get there," he said.

And as they started to see the Miami skyline, they became part of the recovery efforts.

"There was a capsized raft right out of Miami that the Coast Guard asked Carnival to check," Calhoun said.

The raft turned up empty but there were many other cruise ships that surrounded them, full of passengers waiting to dock.

"They had to assess the port. They had to make sure it was still deep enough because you know sand and stuff moves with hurricanes, that it was still deep enough to handle the ships," Calhoun said.

After waiting for more than 12 hours, the ship finally docked Tuesday night. Four days after their trip was originally supposed to end. And they didn't know what to expect when they finally got off.

"Is the bus underwater? We didn't have any idea," he said.

Besides a few minor scratches and dings, their bus was fine and they made it out of Miami without a problem.

He says Carnival did a great job keeping them comfortable and entertained those four extra days but he says he'll think twice about how he will plan his next one.

"Me personally, I think I'm going to leave hurricane season alone," Calhoun said.

They all made it back to Savannah on Wednesday and Calhoun says no one had any significant damage to their homes. So, they all feel very lucky but they probably won't chance it like this again.

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