ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. – A Roanoke County couple is back home after a cruise they will never forget. Rough seas tossed a Viking cruise ship around like a rag doll off the coast of Norway last month, and the Hack family was there for it all.
This was Nancy and Mike Hack's 10th cruise and they are no strangers to the water. The emergency on the seas that ensued, however, was not what they were expecting when they booked the once-in-a-lifetime trip. But they survived and gained a little something else along the way.
The water in a pool on the top deck rocked back and forth to the awe of guests. But those waves were just the tip of what was coming next.
"It was a 12-day cruise. Nine of those days were wonderful. The last three days were when it got dicey," Nancy Hack said.
The Hacks live in Roanoke County and are world travelers, but one goal had eluded them. They wanted to see the northern lights and the cruise was the way to do it, but they got way more than just the aurora borealis.
"I looked outside and I could either see nothing but sky or nothing but water," Mike Hack recalled after a large wave smashed into the side of the ship. "So the boat was rocking so tremendously that the horizon was never visible."
They were passengers on the Viking Sky, the cruise ship that lost its engines during a freak storm last month. Waves off the Norwegian cost tossed the ship around, sending furniture and people flying across the decks.
"The captain came on the loudspeaker and the muster alarm sounded just like we did when we practiced muster," Nancy Hack said. "And [the captain] said, 'This is not a drill, everyone to your muster station.'"
Two muster stations were set up on the ship, one in a restaurant overlooking the sea and the other in a theater with no view of the outside world. The Hacks were in the theater, which they said was a blessing because they could not see how bad it was outside. It also was a blessing because a wave crashed into the ship and flooded the restaurant out, tossing passengers around and injuring some.
At that point, all of the passengers from the other station were moved to the theater with the Hacks. Many of them were cut up and bruised. Others had just had all of their belongings they had with them sucked out to sea. Most of them were soaked in frigid water and the Hacks said what happened next was a highlight of the trip.
"This man next to me took his sweater off and said, 'Give them my sweater.' People were taking their hands and coats and really stepping up to help the people that were injured. It was very touching," Nancy Hack said.
Rescue helicopters began lifting passengers one by one off the deck of the ship. The Hacks hunkered down in their life jackets inside the theater, riding out the storm. When it was all done, everyone piled their life jackets on the stage, and then the Hacks said all the passengers pitched in to help organize and pack them back up. The CEO of the company boarded the ship and, on the last night, praised the crew and passengers for their response.
"I have great memories of [everything before the storm], but it was traumatic, and it's not something that I'm going to forget anytime soon," Nancy Hack said.
Viking Cruises refunded all of the Hacks' costs and invited them to cruise again for free on the house. The Hacks also said the cruise line has invited them to be passengers on the maiden voyage of a new cruise ship, although the jury is still out if they'll be going along on that one or not. They say they'll cruise again. They're just not quite sure when.