Cruise passengers return to port in Charleston and find their cars flooded

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passengers from a Carnival Cruise return to the port of Charleston, SC to find their cars damaged from flooding

Some Carnival Sunshine passengers found out their cars had flooded when they returned to port in Charleston on Monday.Stephanie RoyalCNN — 

After a rainy cruise to the Bahamas, some Carnival Sunshine passengers returned to port in Charleston, South Carolina, on Monday to a very unpleasant surprise: flooded cars.

“It was left up to us to find out that our cars wouldn’t start and were totally destroyed,” said passenger Stephanie Royal, who was on the four-night cruise with her husband, Wesley. She said passengers did not receive any notice of what they would face upon their return, which was delayed by about six hours.

Downtown Charleston saw record rainfall over the weekend, with close to 4 inches on Sunday. The record rain combined with strong winds pushing water onshore to cause widespread flooding issues in Charleston on Sunday.

At first, everything looked fine when the cruise passengers got back on Monday. The sun was shining and the parking lots were clear. The cruise line and port staff the Royals encountered said nothing about the cars as they disembarked, she said.

“It wasn’t until we actually got to our cars that people realized that hey, they aren’t starting,” Royal said. They saw evidence of flooding as they opened their vehicles.

The couple’s Chevy Equinox was totaled, Royal said, and was headed to the salvage yard on Friday.

The Statue of Liberty (R) is seen while the MSC Meraviglia cruise ship leaves the port of New York on December 9, 2023. (Photo by Charly TRIBALLEAU / AFP) (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images)

Bahamas cruise diverted to New England and Canada

“We regret that some of our guests’ vehicles parked in the port’s lot were impacted by the recent storm,” Carnival said in a statement, pointing inquiries to parking officials. “We assisted in some ways where we could, for instance with helping guests connect with their insurance providers, but ultimately this was not our facility.”

CNN has contacted the South Carolina Port Authority for more information. The Port Authority did not immediately reply, but it provided a statement to CNN affiliate WCIV.

“The South Carolina Ports team worked closely with passengers to provide assistance from the moment they arrived until the last passenger departed the terminal,” the statement provided to WCIV said, adding that police reports were provided for passengers to give to their insurance companies and staff assisted in calling towing companies and in finding transportation to nearby hotels.

“While SC Ports does not assume liability for vehicles or personal property left in the passenger parking areas, we are committed to continuing to support our valued cruise customers,” the statement said.

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passengers from a Carnival Cruise return to the port of Charleston, SC to find their cars damaged from flooding

The interior of the Royals’ Chevy Equinox. The car was totaled, Stephanie Royal said.Stephanie Royal

In an advisory that Royal shared with CNN, which was sent by Carnival Cruise Line on behalf of the South Carolina Port Authority, SC Ports said: “The storm’s path was not certain until after Carnival Sunshine left on its voyage and proved to be greater than predicted; even The National Weather Service underestimated the height of the tide by more than 2 feet.”

The Port Authority said it was crediting parking charges back to passengers, acknowledging that many had also incurred additional costs.

Royal said she and her husband were told Monday that the Port Authority couldn’t help them with transportation and towing. They used a rideshare app to get to the airport to rent a car for their four-and-a-half hour drive home to Brevard, North Carolina — expenses that added about $700 to their trip. They are working on getting reimbursed by their insurance company.

Royal’s biggest frustration is the lack of communication — and she would like authorities to make it clear to passengers parking in those lots that this kind of flooding is possible.

“If the captain had communicated with the Port Authority and had let all of us know on the boat as to what happened before we got to the parking lot,” Royal said, “it would have been really beneficial.”

The cruise itself wasn’t amazing, Royal said. “From beginning to end, the weather was terrible.”

This isn’t the first Bahamas cruise this week affected by bad weather. Another cruise on MSC Meraviglia that was slated to sail to the Bahamas was rerouted to freezing New England and Canada, much to some passengers’ dismay.

CNN’s Sara Smart, Caroll Alvarado, Mary Gilbert, Elizabeth Wolfe and Robert Shackelford contributed to this report.

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