Guests debarking Carnival Sunshine after a rough cruise impacted by the massive storm system that spread from the Gulf of Mexico to the Bahamas over the weekend were in for an even rougher surprise when they reached their cars.
Flooding in downtown Charleston, South Carolina – Carnival Sunshine‘s homeport – caused extensive damage to many vehicles, with saltwater soaking engines and ultimately totally the cars.
Guests who enjoyed Carnival Sunshine‘s December 14, 2023 sailing had an unpleasant surprise once they arrived back in Charleston, South Carolina on Monday, December 18. The ship was delayed in returning to her homeport due to rough weather while sailing back from the Bahamas, but that was only the beginning of passengers’ difficulties in getting home.
The vicious coastal storm that contributed to the ship’s delay caused extensive flooding in Charleston, including several feet of flooding in cruise terminal parking lots.
According to WMBF News, dozens of travelers found their cars totaled and completely unable to start after having soaked in saltwater from the flooding. This led to confusion and frustration, particularly as there was little communication or assistance available to sort out the situation.
Carnival Cruise Line did respond to guests’ concerns through their Public Relations department, but is unable to completely resolve the situation.
“We regret that some of our guests’ vehicles parked in the garage were impacted by the recent storm. We have let officials know that people were unhappy, and we suggest you contact the parking authorities,” the cruise line explained. “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.”
All travelers should be aware that most parking facilities, even secure facilities with hefty parking fees, do not assume responsibility for any theft, loss, or damage that may occur while a vehicle is parked.
The South Carolina Ports Authority also responded to concerns, confirming that some passenger vehicles were damaged and outlining what assistance they were able to provide.
“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 South Carolina Ports Authority said.
Port employees remained on site until all passengers had been able to leave the terminal and parking area, and helped impacted passengers collect all necessary documentation to file reports with their insurance companies. The staff helped call tow companies, pumped water out of vehicles, provided jump starts, and assisted with finding transportation to local hotels if needed.
Furthermore, if guests are leaving their totaled vehicles in the parking lot for the time being, they are not being charged for additional days and can leave their vehicles as long as necessary.
“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 authorities said.
Exactly what compensation individual guests will receive will depend on the insurance coverage they may have on their vehicles, as neither the cruise line nor the cruise port are liable for the damage.
It can be nerve-wracking to park one’s car in an unfamiliar place and potentially expose it to storm damage, flooding, theft, vandalism, or other damage.
To minimize these risks, cruise travelers should always thoroughly research where they plan to park their vehicle, including reading reviews of available parking facilities as well as checking expected weather reports, recent crime statistics, and other available information. Reading the terms and conditions of parking facilities can also be helpful.
When parking, choosing to leave one’s vehicle in a covered, elevated location – such as on the second story of a multi-level parking garage – can be helpful to minimize potential risks from hail, flooding, or other storm damage, though of course this is not always an available option.
Of course, guests should always be sure their vehicle is locked with any valuables removed or stored out of sight. Windows should be rolled up and lights turned off so there is no easy way to enter the vehicle and the battery will not accidentally drain.
In case problems were to occur, it can be helpful to take a few photos of the car and its surroundings before leaving for the cruise. This can provide valuable information to an insurance company if something were to happen while the vehicle is parked.
If travelers do return to a damaged vehicle, it is important to document the damage as thoroughly as possible and to contact one’s insurance company immediately to follow their claims process as closely as possible.
Alerting the parking authorities and the cruise line can also provide further evidence for a claim, though it is unlikely that either party will bear any liability for damages.
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