NOVATO (KPIX 5) — A Marin County couple got caught up in the drama when passengers were evacuated from a cruise ship foundering in high seas off Norway last week.
Dr. Allen Dollberg and his wife Susan have returned home to Novato from a cruise that was supposed to be one of their bucket list items.
“We wanted to see the Northern Lights as one of our last major adventures,” Allen told KPIX 5.
The couple traveled with friends to Norway and they were lucky enough to experience the aurora on their very first night at sea. But, about a week into the 10-day cruise, the good luck—and good weather—ended. In a storm, the ship, the Viking Sky, was being rocked by 25-foot waves and lost three of its four engines.
“The ship was tipping this way and that way,” Allen said, “45 degrees in each direction. It was like being on an amusement park ride.”
Cellphone video captured wild the ride as furniture crashed back and forth across the floor and ceiling panels fell from above. The couple spent hours just hanging on in their cabin and at one point tried to calm their nerves by watching a movie.
“Video offerings on the ship included ‘Titanic’ and ‘The Poseidon Adventure,’” Susan said.
Eventually, they were called up to an emergency meeting spot in the ship’s restaurant.
“But you couldn’t stand still for any longer than five seconds,” Allen said. “It was chaos,” Susan added. “There was cutlery, there was broken glass.”
Finally, a Norwegian Navy helicopter arrived to save people. The Dollbergs happened to be standing next to an injured passenger on a stretcher so they were chosen to be among the first evacuated. The couple was strapped together as the chopper lowered its cable.
“And all of a sudden,” Susan said, “one of the helicopter crew just went, whoosh, just like that, and jolt…we were taken up into the sky, up to the helicopter.”
From there it was a 10-minute trip to the shore, then to a hotel, and three days later, a flight home. Now that they’re back in Novato and say the way the cruise ended was so dramatic they have to look at pictures to remember anything else that happened on the trip.
“Yeah, I gotta think of a few more items for the bucket list now.” Susan said with a laugh. “I don’t think anything could top this.”
The Dollbergs were lucky. Twenty people were injured, including one passenger who sustained a broken neck. The couple has already gotten their money back and Viking says passengers will be invited back for a future cruise.