The Viking Sky crew sent out a distress call on Saturday, after the ship suffered engine failure and remained drifted in rough waters in the Norwegian Sea to within 100 meters of land. Waves were reportedly 6 to 8 meters high.
Weather conditions were so extreme that no lifeboats could be launched. As such, search and rescue forces airlifted a total of 479 people, one-by-one on to helicopters, before the weather improved on Sunday and towing could begin.
Images and video posted by passengers on social media show the extent of the drifting the ship faced, with furniture sliding around and panels falling from the ceiling, as well as the panic onboard.
The weather conditions improved on Sunday and the ship arrived at the port of Molde. About 900 people were still onboard at that time.
Some 20 injured passengers were taken to hospital, while others had only minor injuries, Viking Cruises said.
Five helicopters participated in the rescue operations. Two of these also helped the general cargo ship 'Hagland Captain', which also experienced engine problems and the crew were evacuated.
An investigation has begun on the incident. UK MAIB informed it has deployed technical staff to support AIBN’s investigation into the loss of propulsion on the ship.
The water area when the incident occurred, known as Hustadvika and surrounding areas, is known for inclement weather and shallow waters dotted with reefs, according to Reuters.
The Viking Sky is a 227-meter-long cruise ship, built in 2017.