Skift Take

It's not unusual for cruise ships to run into bad weather, but such a large evacuation is rare. Passengers are praising crew, as they often do following an emergency, but Viking needs to provide answers about why the ship ended up in the path of the storm and what happened to the engines.

An hours-long rescue of passengers on the distressed Viking Sky is over after 479 people were plucked by helicopter from the heaving vessel.

In a statement Sunday morning, Viking Ocean Cruises said the 47,800-ton ship was heading to the port city of Molde accompanied by a tugboat and two supply ships.

The ship was “under its own power” after earlier suffering a loss of engine power during a violent storm. Another 436 passengers and 458 crew remained on board.

Passenger Alexus Sheppard, who posted harrowing videos throughout the ordeal, gave an optimistic update in a tweet at 8:48 a.m Eastern time.

“It’s getting better!” she wrote. “Life jackets off and only an hour to port.” She used the hashtag #AwesomeCrew.

The ship arrived in Molde at 4:30 p.m. local time Sunday, or about 11:30 a.m. Eastern, the company said. Viking has arranged for passengers who were airlifted and those who stayed on the ship to fly home, some as early as Sunday.

Twenty people were injured, according to the cruise line, and were being treated on the ground in Norway.

In a tweet, the Norwegian Red Cross said passengers had suffered bruises, broken bones, and cuts.

“Many need a hand to hold, a shoulder to lean on, someone to talk to,” the organization said in the tweet.

Viking has sent a task force to Molde, the company said. The Associated Press reported that Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen told the VG newspaper in Norway that the situation was among the worst he had been involved in, “but now it looks like it’s going well in the end and that we’ve been lucky.”

“Throughout all of this, our first priority was for the safety and wellbeing of our passengers and our crew,” the company said in its statement. “We would like to thank the Norwegian Redningssentral and the Norwegian emergency services for their support and skill displayed in managing the situation in very challenging weather conditions. We would also like to thank the local residents who throughout the whole process have been extremely supportive and hospitable.”

The company canceled Viking Sky’s next trip, which was scheduled to depart on March 27 and sail through Scandinavia and the Kiel Canal. No more cancellations are expected.

Viking was founded in 1997 with a handful of river ships, a fleet that grew to 72 earlier this month with the christening of seven longships at once. Its ocean business has expanded rapidly since 2015. Viking Ocean Cruises now has six 930-passenger vessels.

This story has been updated to note that the ship arrived in port Sunday afternoon local time.


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Photo credit: Passengers are shown on Viking Sky as an evacuation operation takes place in this photo provided by a passenger. 332261 / 332261

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