Tourists abandon ship as ferry sinks in the Bahamas

A U.S. passenger died in the incident, the cruise company reported.
A Platteville woman had to abandon ship when the ferry she was taking to the Blue Lagoon Island started sinking in the Bahamas. (Source: WMTV)
Published: Nov. 18, 2023 at 12:57 PM CST
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PLATTEVILLE, Wis. (WMTV/Gray News) - A Wisconsin woman had to abandon ship when the ferry she and other passengers of a Royal Caribbean cruise were taking started sinking in the Bahamas.

Another passenger, an unidentified 74-year-old woman from Colorado, died following the sinking, according to Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.

The boat was supposed to take Kelly Schissel, her husband Chad, and other tourists from the main island to Blue Lagoon Island on Tuesday, but it instead started to sink halfway there.

The excursion is an optional ride for cruise passengers they can take separately from the main ship.

“You never think it’s going to happen to you until it does,” Schissel said. “You can see that our boat is actually getting pulled into the water.”

She took videos on her phone as the ferry started to tip over.

Schissel said the ferry staff was not helpful and should’ve been more prepared to assist passengers during an emergency.

“One of the ferry staff members came upstairs, crying, freaking out, and grabbing herself a life jacket,” Kelly said. “Everyone went ‘Oh!’ And we put two and two together that we needed to go and get our life jackets too. We’re going to go under.”

Schissel and her husband decided to jump into the ocean before the boat continued to sink. They did not know if it would entirely go under. During the chaotic swim to a nearby fishing boat, Schissel said the waves were crashing into her and made it hard to swim.

In all of the chaos, she and her husband were separated.

“I didn’t know if my husband was OK,” Schissel said. “He has a defibrillator in his chest, so I didn’t know if an event like that would stress him out enough to trigger shocking him. And in the ocean? He’d probably go unconscious and then just lay there.”

The couple reunited after he took a different boat to Blue Lagoon and met Schissel there.

“It honestly wouldn’t have been as bad as it was if a single word came out of the staff members’ mouth to direct us, ensure us or inform us on anything,” Schissel said. “But we all just had to fend for ourselves.”

The Royal Caribbean Group sent a statement to WMTV, saying in part that they were saddened by the tourist’s death.

“Our hearts are with the families involved and our Care Team has been activated to support them during this difficult time,” said the company in the statement.

Schissel said Royal Caribbean Cruise Line refunded her room fee and the extra excursion cost.