Clinton couples grateful after surviving Viking Sky cruise nightmare

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COVER PHOTO_Tennessee couples share Norwegian cruise ship rescue_0328_1553813509203.JPG-727168854.jpg

Best friends for more than 30 years, the Wolfes and Reisses decided to take a cruise to celebrate big birthdays and to see the Northern Lights.

They headed out to Norway and started their voyage on the Viking Sky cruise ship on March 14.

     MORE | The Latest: All Viking Sky passengers, crew safe; ship docks

For most of the two-week cruise, Jamey Kennedy, her husband Allan Reiss, and Laura and Richard Wolfe enjoyed their time together.

“It was fun until it wasn’t,” they said.

It’s how they described the horrific events that came shortly before the cruise was scheduled to end.

Kennedy said waves hitting the ship woke her and Reiss up in the early hours of March 23.

The waves never truly stopped. In fact, they got worse.

Kennedy and Reiss went to one area for lunch, while the Wolfes went to a buffet on the cruise. That would be the last time the couples saw each other for nearly 24 hours later.

The couples said that everything became chaotic around 2 p.m.

“Port-side of the ship went way up… and when it came back down it went up the other side. That’s when the power went out, and plates and glassware and silverware were flying across the dining room,” Richard Wolfe said.

“The captain came on and said we had lost all engines,” Kennedy said.

The ship had been hit by a bomb cyclone.

Kennedy and Reiss were trying to grab items from their room, but Reiss started to go into health distress. Reiss suffers from COPD and asthma.

The couple were escorted down to the medic clinic with a few crew members helping to stablize Reiss as the boat heavily rocked side to side.

They said they thought they were going to die.

“I realized that if Laura, Richard, Alan and I died, my dog was in a doggie daycare center and no one knew where she was,” Kennedy said.

Neither were given life jackets because they were located on a separate floor from the clinic.

Five helicopters flew to the ship to rescue passengers.

“The ones who were medically affected the worst went on the helicopters first. And then it was just a question of trying to get the rest of the passengers off the ship,” Reiss said.

Because Reiss was medically affected, he and Kennedy were taken to be loaded onto a rescue helicopter.

“The helicopter rescue guys were like ‘no they need life jackets.’ And the crew was like, ‘we don’t have any,” Kennedy said.

They were lifted up together, without life jackets, while the wind was still blowing hard.

“I kept thinking it was going to blow the helicopter into the ship,” Kennedy said.

Reiss was dangling with only boxers on. His pants had fallen down after the two were getting lifted.

Kennedy said the helicopters left early because a freight ship in the same area had also failed. Crews on that ship allegedly fell into the water so the helicopters had to change course.

Meanwhile, the Wolfes had a completely different nightmare.

The Wolfes said they were sent with the rest of the passengers to a large theater room.

They were in that room without food and very little water for 20 hours.

“We sat on the floor and the captain would come on a few, I think it was every 15 minutes, and said, ‘I don’t have anything new to tell you. Just stay put. We’re doing the best we can,'” Laura Wolfe said.

The couples were trying to text each other during the chaos, making sure everyone was okay.

Kennedy was the only one able to get information. She would relay as much as she could, when she could. Reiss was in the hospital and the Wolfes were still aboard the ship with very little battery life left.

Finally, tugboats came and escorted the ship to shore.

The couples said the Viking Sky crew members and the Norwegians who volunteered to help the passengers were all amazing.

Kennedy said when they landed off the helicopter, a mass of Norwegians were waiting with food, water, nurses and doctors.

The crew members worked 48 hours without sleep while they made sure passengers were safe.

“I’m still pretty torn up. I am. I’m very grateful to be alive I’m very grateful my people are alive,” Laura Wolfe said.

Despite the nightmarish experience at the end of their trip, one of them said she would go back, but, not take the same route. 

The group laughed as Laura Wolfe said, “I’d go right back to Norway in a heartbeat. Not by ship.”

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