CLEVELAND (WJW) – A Northeast Ohio family is finally back home after their dream vacation went up in smoke when their cruise ship caught fire.

Rashelle Caldwell and seven family members, including her husband, Lavar, were celebrating his recent kidney transplant, her mothers 70th birthday and a cousin’s graduation on the Carnival Cruise Ship Freedom last week.

“It starts out fun. It was great, everybody having a good time just laughing and joking,” said Caldwell.

But when the ship docked at Grand Turk in Turks and Caicos last Thursday morning, the party went from full steam ahead to abandon ship. 

Still, they didn’t realize it at first.

“We heard yelling and screaming and he (Lavar) looked out of the window and said, ‘Oh, we’re docked,’ and we saw the Mardi Gras, the other Carnival ship, we just saw people waving, but they were actually warning us that the ship was on fire,” said Caldwell. “There were no alarms to let us know. I actually let my cabin steward know what was going on.”

Nearly 2,500 passengers were on board at the time.

Flames and thick black smoke could be seen billowing from the ship and was recorded by multiple passengers.

Caldwell says her husband, who is a Navy Veteran, was surprised that alarms weren’t sounded and that the ship wasn’t immediately evacuated.

At one point, however, they were told to put on life vests and to assemble at the Muster Station.

“We’re like, ‘Okay, this might be serious.’ I mean, it took us back to the movie Titanic. Like, come get life vests, but still no alarms,” said Rashelle.

Passengers were told that the ship was no longer seaworthy and that they’d have to remain at Grand Turk for two additional days until another ship could pick them up and return them to the United States.

In a statement, Carnival said, “Freedom’s emergency response team quickly activated and extinguished a fire inside the ship’s funnel.”

They also noted that no crew members or passengers were injured in the fire.

Passengers finally arrived at Port Canaveral Florida Monday morning, but the Caldwell family faced yet another delay getting home to Northeast Ohio.

“We slept in the airport Monday night. Our plane didn’t leave until Tuesday because we had to rebook,” said Caldwell.

Carnival offered each room $100 to spend during the extra days and to reimburse a portion of the airfare.

They also offered 50% off their next cruise.

But Rashelle says she and her family would rather have a portion of their other total lost expenses reimbursed.

 “We had plans to go to Disney World and that was cancelled, all the plane tickets we had to rebook, we had a rental car reserved that was cancelled,” said Rashelle, “I would say we probably lost about 4-grand.”