CALGARY - The bitter cold and heavy snow of a Prairie winter never looked better to a Calgary couple returning home from a harrowing escape on a capsized luxury cruise liner off the Italian coast.
Laurence and Andrea Davis were given a warm welcome by family and friends at the Calgary International Airport on Monday evening, just days after the ship hit a reef near the island of Giglio.
They were among 12 Canadians who survived the ordeal that so far has left six people dead and forced the evacuation of 4,200 passengers. Twenty-nine people are still missing.
The Davises were having dinner on Friday when they felt the ship hit something and quickly start to list.
As the situation descended rapidly into chaos, they ran to find a lifeboat but realized after two tries that staff were having trouble getting the boats launched.
"I just saw water starting to cover my shoes and I just looked at Andrea and I said this is it — we've gotta swim or we're going to die," Laurence, 60, told reporters.
"So we just jumped into the water and we just carried on swimming."
The ship was a mere 135 metres from shore when it capsized, but it was dark and many feared the partially submerged ship could sink.
Laurence and Andrea swam through the cold water of the Mediterranean Sea and made it to shore. However, climbing up the rocks to safety was no easy feat, especially as Andrea had removed her shoes to swim, and they suffered bruises and cuts.
Laurence said there never was any real warning about what was happening aboard the ship, and it appeared everyone was looking out for themselves.
Nevertheless, he is grateful beyond words for the good outcome for himself and his wife.
"It just feels like a second chance in life," he said. "It's just wonderful to see everybody, the support. The Canadian embassy in Rome was just fantastic."
The Concordia's captain, Francesco Schettino, was arrested early Saturday and faces charges of manslaughter, abandoning ship and causing a shipwreck.
Laurence said he isn't planning any legal action against the cruise line but does feel anger toward the captain.
"I do because he just screwed up everybody's holidays. He just did things that were not normal. Not once did we hear from the captain."
The couple, who are both self-employed, have travelled on cruise ships many times before and even have another cruise booked in eight weeks through Galveston, Texas.
The initial reaction was to cancel it but Laurence said they do enjoy cruises and there's no rush to make a decision.