Ken and Cindy Treadwell of Wellington had to be evacuated by helicopter from the crippled Viking Sky cruise ship in Norway Saturday after it experienced engine trouble.

WELLINGTON — When Ken and Cindy Treadwell booked their dream trip aboard the Viking Sky cruise ship, they never imagined they'd spend part of their vacation dangling in midair during a helicopter evacuation.

The Wellington residents were nearing the end of their scheduled 13-day vacation Saturday when the ship encountered engine trouble in an area known for rough, frigid waters.

The crew issued a mayday call, and more than half of the ship's 900 passengers later were airlifted by helicopter to safety, including the Treadwells.

"Everything was going smoothly for most of the trip, until Saturday," Ken Treadwell said.

They were in the ship's theater watching a movie when the lights began flickering, and then went out. When a nearby mini bar toppled over, throwing glass and china to the floor, they headed back to their rooms.

They got halfway there when the captain announced an emergency muster. The Treadwells reported to their muster station inside a restaurant on the second floor. Crews were handing out life jackets, Ken Treadwell said, when the ship listed violently and a wave of water blew out a door.

"The force of the North Sea, which was probably under 40 degrees at that point, blew into the restaurant and pushed everybody back — tables, chairs, people," he said. "We were soaked above our ankles. I talked to people later who had gone under water. They thought they were going to drown from the distance to where the door was to where we were. That was when you could see the shock and panic on everybody's face at that point."

The Treadwells and about 400 other passengers were moved to the theater. The captain updated them regularly while they were there, and they were told that helicopters would evacuate the passengers 20 at a time.

The Treadwells were selected for helicopter evacuation, and began a four-hour trip up the stairwell to get to the seventh deck.

As they waited to be hoisted up into the helicopter, the ship listed again and the Treadwells were thrown against a wall.

"A squall came up, and it was sleeting sideways in our faces," said Ken Treadwell, an attorney.

The Treadwells eventually were evacuated with about 15 other passengers. They were taken to a soccer practice facility in a remote town on the Norwegian coast, where they were met by members of the Norwegian military and the Red Cross.

"They were wonderful," Cindy Treadwell said.

The passengers were bused to a hotel in the town of Kristiansand — about an hour away — and spent part of Sunday at a shopping mall.

"Viking gave us 2,500 Norwegian Krone — about $300 — to spend to get some clothes, because when we got off the ship we had no passport, no ID and no money," Ken Treadwell said. "Just the clothes on our backs."

They returned to the hotel, and later Sunday were bused back to the ship, which had been towed to the nearby port of Molde along with the remaining passengers and crew. They packed their belongings, spent the night onboard and took a charter flight to Oslo the next day. They returned to Fort Lauderdale later Monday, and arrived home around 1 a.m. Tuesday.

Ken Treadwell said he and Cindy, who have three children and five grandchildren, woke up Tuesday a little shaky and stunned by what happened on the Viking Sky, but also grateful. The WiFi stayed up while they were in the theater waiting to be evacuated, and Ken Treadwell was able to connect with fellow volunteers at CROS Ministries' food pantry in Lake Worth.

"We know we had a few prayer chains going there with us," Ken Treadwell said. "I think while we were going through the ordeal, that had an impact." The Treadwells' church, St. Peter's United Methodist in Wellington, mentioned the couple during Sunday services.

 

The Treadwells credit the Viking Sky crew for remaining professional throughout the ordeal and keeping everyone calm. The chairman of Viking also visited passengers at their hotel in Norway to apologize for the ordeal and to offer a full refund for the cruise — which the Treadwells say cost about $18,000 — as well as a complimentary future cruise on Viking Sky.

Ken Treadwell said he and Cindy, a retired public health nurse, probably will go back on Viking Sky, but with a different itinerary.

"I will not go to the North Sea again," he said.

jwagner@pbpost.com

@JRWagner5

 This story was originally published on palmbeachpost.com and shared to GateHouse Media's Florida properties.