Karen Kennedy returns home after Italian cruise ship disaster

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (AP) - A Virginia couple has returned to Hampton Roads after an Italian cruise ship they were on capsized.

The Costa Concordia was carrying more than 4,200 people when it hit a reef off the Tuscan island of Giglio on Friday.

Media outlets report that Karen Kennedy and Richard Langlands arrived in New York on Sunday and got back to Hampton Roads on Monday.

Kennedy works in Newport News and has homes there and in Virginia Beach. Langlands is her boyfriend and the pair frequently travels together.

"I'm fairly well-seasoned, but I've never experienced anything like this," she told The Virginian-Pilot.

VOTE: Will you still book a cruise after the disaster?

A few hours into their cruise, Kennedy heard a strange sound, the power flickered twice and passengers were told the ship was having trouble with its generator. The couple gathered a few items from their room, went to the top deck and then they were then lowered to the water on a lifeboat that fit about 100 people in it, she said.

As it was being lowered to the water, passengers afraid of getting stuck on deck began jumping into it.

"A lot of comparisons are being drawn to (the) Titanic," Kennedy told the Daily Press of Newport News. "When you're actually living it, it's more dramatic. What you see on the screen, you can separate yourself from it. When you're actually living it, you can't get out of it."

As an insurance agent, Kennedy said her mind turned to practical matters during the chaos as a way to stay calm.

"I was sitting there and I was thinking . I can't remember if I paid my life insurance off yet. If I didn't, someone's going to be in a world of hurt," she said. "I'm an insurance agent. What do you expect?"

Once off the life boats, survivors streamed into a local church and volunteers wrapped them in blankets.

The couple was eventually among a group of Americans taken to Rome so the U.S. embassy could issue them temporary passports so they could return home.

Despite the ordeal they went through, Kennedy says the couple would go on a cruise again.

"If a cruise piques our interest, we'll go for it," Kennedy told The Virginian-Pilot