A couple’s proposal was ruined when passengers on board the ‘cruise from hell’ started brawling just metres from where the romantic moment was unfolding.
Michael Barsoum was in the middle of proposing to his partner Mary on the pool deck of the Carnival Cruise when a violent fight broke out.
‘That moment is ruined forever now,’ Mr Barsoum told the Sunday Herald Sun.
Mr Barsoum, from Cranbourne in Melbourne’s south-east, said he was forced to turn his attention away from his new fiancé in order to rescue innocent passengers from the gang of thugs.
‘Women and children were getting pulled into the fights … I was punched in the face pulling two girls out of the brawl,’ he said.
Mr Barsoum was one of hundreds of passengers on board the Carnival Legend which has been described as the ‘cruise from hell’.
Passengers on board revealed they were terrorised by some members of a big family who provoked terrifying fist fights over three days, before the ship docked in Melbourne on Saturday.
Several of the Barkho family, from Melbourne, were kicked off the Carnival Legend cruise ship on Friday after shocking footage showed 30 passengers and security guards in a brutal brawl in the ship’s nightclub.
Upset passenger Lisa Bolitho said some members of the family spent a few days insulting and attacking ‘Aussies’ with people ‘getting strangled and punched up’.
She said the ‘full-on’ attacks were ‘very violent’ and went on for three days.
Ms Bolitho said her son Jarrah was targeted by the family, with the pair fleeing and locking themselves in their cabin.
‘I was watching the fight and one guy came up to me and said “Do you want to go too bro”?’ Jarrah said, adding the offenders were in their late teens and early 20s.
‘One guy was having a smoke right next to the stairs on the top deck,’ he told ABCnews, recalling the fight.
‘Three of the gang members came down and started attacking him for no reason, one was from behind strangling him, the guy on the left was punching him in the head and the right was just trying to rip his shirt off.
‘My mum had to drag me away from it all. They were trying to pick on any Aussie they could find.’
Ms Bolitho said security staff ended up ‘jumping’ the family, and had no choice but to do so. ‘They deserved everything they got – they were the aggressors.’
She went on to question management’s handling of the incident. ‘The captain said ‘What do you want me to do about it – throw them overboard?” she said.
‘We dropped them off at Eden yesterday, but that was after three days of violence.’
Naomi, another passenger on board, said she watched on in terror as fights erupted around her.
She said a group of men were calling passengers ‘dogs’ and even frightening young children who were swimming in the shared pool.
Fellow passenger kellie Petersen said the group of thugs were looking for trouble from the day they boarded the cruise ship.
Mrs Petersen said the group even threatened her husband when he tried to protect their three young children aged 11, 9 and 6 from the violence.
‘My husband said to take it away, because there’s kids here, and five of them surrounded my husband. They told us to watch our backs,’ she said.
Passenger Jacob Summers also questioned the security team’s response to the violence.
‘I think the security made it worse. I saw security hit a younger girl who saw her mum getting hit. It’s not good,’ he said.
Other passengers remained blissfully unaware of the violence, describing their trip as ‘fantastic’.
A NSW Police investigation is now underway into the brawl, which was well into its 10-day cruise of the South Pacific. No one has been charged.
Carnival Cruise Line said it was offering guests a 25 per cent future cruise credit as a ‘goodwill gesture’ but some passengers rejected the offer.
‘I won’t be travelling Carnival ever again so a 25 per cent off a future cruise in my eyes is unacceptable,’ passenger Mark Morrison said.
‘To add insult to injury, they charged us a $19.54 credit card convenience fee to settle accounts before disembarkation this morning.’
Carnival general manager Jennifer Vandekreek said there were ‘limited and isolated events with the family in question’ in the lead-up to the brawl.
‘We sincerely apologise to our guests who were impacted by the disruptive behaviour,’ she said in a statement.
Six men and three teenage boys – accompanied by family members – were taken ashore and then to Canberra where they made other travel arrangements, according to police.
Carnival Cruise Line has launched an internal investigation into the incident.
It comes after the patriarch of the Barkho family spoke to Daily Mail Australia to deny claims his relatives incited a ‘bloodbath’ of violence on board the vessel.
David Barkho’s 20-year-old son George was on board the Carnival Legend with other members of his family when groups of warring passengers engaged in violent clashes that left guests bruised and bloodied.
Mr Barkho, who was not on the ship, said: ‘It’s all lies. None of what is being said is true. It’s all in the hands of our legal team.
‘Members of my family are receiving medical attention at the hospital now.’
Daily Mail Australia is not suggesting George Barkho was involved in the brawls.
Shocking vision of fights erupting in a common area of the cruise ship showed several passengers locked in savage brawls.
The filmed scuffle allegedly broke out while the ship was 220km off Jervis Bay, Australia, around 1am on Friday.
One witness, named only as Zac, alleged the brawl started after two men tangled feet, leading to a bitter exchange of words between two family groups.
It then allegedly escalated into an all-in brawl, with Zac accusing security of escalating the situation before allegedly piling into the foray with vicious kicks and punches.
Mr Barkho told 3AW he received a frantic phone call from his injured son at 1am.
‘He said, ”Please Dad, please, call the Federal Police”,’ Mr Barkho said.
‘I could hear a lot of screaming, crying in the background.’
Mr Barkho also alleges cruise security staff are attempting to destroy images and footage from the incident.
‘He (George) said, ”The security came in and took his phone, and deleted a lot of images”,’ he claimed.
After passengers complained they were forced to barricade themselves in cabins to avoid the shocking violence, the cruise made an unexpected stop on the NSW-Victoria border to evict the group.
Daily Mail Australia is not suggesting all members of the Barkho family were involved in the brawl.
Paul Pincini, coach driver at Merimbula Coach Tours, told Daily Mail Australia the group appeared ‘very sore and sorry’ as he drove them to the airport.
‘They were as quiet as church mice on the drive,’ Mr Pincini said.
‘They were very battered and bruised but there were no arguments, they were good as gold.’
Mr Pincini said police officers did not escort the group to the airport and they were free to fly home without being detained.
The remaining passengers have disembarked the ship in Melbourne, brimming with witness accounts of the alleged brawls.
‘There were loud, disruptive people but they kept to themselves. They weren’t harming anyone else,’ one man told Seven News.
‘I saw people getting hit and I was coming down the elevator at one point and the elevator opened and I saw a guy sitting down with blood all over him,’ another passenger said.
Carnival Cruise Line Vice President and General Manger Australia, Jennifer Vandekreeke also ‘sincerely apologised’ to the guests impacted by the disruptive behaviour.
A spokesperson for Carnival Cruise Lines told Daily Mail Australia: ‘All guests have now disembarked from Carnival Legend in Melbourne following completion of their 10-day South Pacific cruise. Carnival Cruise Line has announced guests will be offered a 25 per cent Future Cruise Credit as a goodwill gesture.
‘We sincerely regret that the unruly conduct and actions of the passengers removed from the ship in Eden yesterday may have prevented other guests from fully enjoying their cruise on Carnival Legend,’ said Ms Vandekreeke.
‘Carnival Cruise Line is conducting a full investigation to ensure that a situation such as this never happens again.’
A police operation investigating allegations of violence on board the Legend is ongoing and no arrests have been made.