Hoover, AL

Hoover Man Falls Overboard the Night Before Thanksgiving & Miraculously Survives Floating in the Ocean for 20 Hours

Zack Love

A Hoover, AL man that fell overboard from a Carnival Valor cruise ship survived for 20 hours by floating in the Gulf of Mexico among sharks and jellyfish and had to eat a bamboo stick to survive the ordeal. He believes there is a reason he survived, and it is nothing short of a miracle.

Carnival cruise ship and airliftPhoto byOfficial U.S. Navy Page, CC BY 2.0 (modified)

One man is certainly lucky to be alive after his harrowing ordeal of treading water in the ocean for 20 hours just to survive in the Gulf of Mexico after he fell off of a Carnival Valor cruise ship. He credits the Lord for keeping him afloat in the ocean while he was unconscious.

James Michael Grimes Fell Overboard from a Carnival Valor Cruise Ship

CBS News reported that 28-year-old James Michael Grimes from Hoover, Alabama was on a Carnival Valor cruise ship that departed from New Orleans, LA heading to Cozumel, Mexico with 18 other family members.

On Wednesday, 23 November 2022, the night before Thanksgiving, James had just won an "air guitar" contest on board the cruise ship. Around 11 p.m., he was last seen at a restaurant with his family and told his sister that he was going to the bathroom. What happened next, exactly, remains a mystery.

The next memory he has is when he "regained consciousness in the water with no boat in sight." People reported that James "admitted to having a few drinks prior to falling off the ship, but did not recall how many."

He has no recollection of how he fell off the boat and was terrified to wake up in the ocean.

Over the next 20 hours, he had to survive in the ocean, without anything except the clothes he was wearing.

James Grimes' Family Alerted the Crew of His Disappearance Over 12 Hours After He Fell Overboard

It was not until Thursday, 24 November 2022, that his family realized James Michael Grimes was not in his cabin, and they alerted the Carnival crew at 2:30 p.m. This was more than 12 hours after James had initially gone overboard into the water.

The Carnival crew then notified the U.S. Coast Guard of their missing passenger.

James described in an interview with Eva Pilgrim from ABC News the details of his ordeal over the next 20 hours on Thanksgiving day.

James Was Interviewed by ABC News for 'Good Morning America'

James told Eva Pilgrim in an ABC News Exclusive that he had apparently been floating for some time when he woke up in the water. He didn't know how he got there. He only knew that he was alive, and he never gave up hope while he was treading water over the next 20 hours with nothing but the clothes on his back.

James Michael Grimes interview on Good Morning America.Photo byABC News

The ABC interviewer, Eva Pilgrim asked him, "So, you, for a while were passed out in the water?"

He replied, "Yes, ma'am. Yeah, and I can't float myself, even when I'm trying to, so there had to be...the Lord was with me, when I was out there because something was holding me up the whole time while I was passed out." -James Michael Grimes, survivor of falling overboard a cruise ship (Source: ABC News)

ABC News reported that the water that James was alone and floating in an area known to be a feeding ground for sharks.

At one point he saw a large fin approaching him in the water as he was swimming.

He told ABC News:

"...it came up on me really quick. I went under and I could see it, and it wasn't a shark, I don't believe, but it had more like a flat mouth, and it came up and bumped one of my legs, and I kicked it with the other leg. It scared me, not knowing what it was...or...at the time, how big it was. All I could see was a fin." -James Michael Grimes, survivor of falling overboard a cruise ship (Source: ABC News)

While he was floating in the ocean, he had to do what he could to maintain his energy.

He told ABC News:

"A stick came floating by...it looked like bamboo, so I started eating on it, and it actually, I'm not gonna say it tasted good, but it gave some type of flavor in my mouth other than saltwater." -James Michael Grimes, survivor of falling overboard a cruise ship (Source: ABC News)

Eva Pilgrim asks him, "Was there any point, while you were out there, where you thought, "I don't know how much longer I can keep doing this?"

He told ABC News:

"When it started going, getting back towards nighttime again, the water started getting colder...at that time, I thought..you know, 'How much longer am I gonna have to be out here?'" -James Michael Grimes, survivor of falling overboard a cruise ship (Source: ABC News)

He continued to believe he had hope, of a higher power. He had faith that he was meant to survive.

He told ABC News:

"You know, the fall didn't kill me...sea creatures didn't eat me...I felt like, I was meant to get out of there." -James Michael Grimes, survivor of falling overboard a cruise ship (Source: ABC News)

James was Rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard 20 Hours After Falling Overboard

It was nighttime, and dark on 24 November 2022 when James saw the lights of a tanker, and he got a final burst of energy to get their attention from the ocean. They contacted the U.S. Coast Guard about the man in the water.

James told ABC News that he had taken off his socks and everything and was waving them over his head to get their attention.

James saw a bright light shine down on him and heard a man from the helicopter say, "We got him," and saw a man come down from the helicopter to airlift him out of the water.

When the U.S. Coast Guard showed up, the first thing James told him was, "I don't have any clothes on, because I didn't. I had stripped down of everything." The rescuer said, "That's fine."

The rescuer gave him a life vest, and James thought, "You're like a guardian angel coming down for me."

ABC News reported that the rescue team with the U.S. Coast Guard believed that James was within seconds of "not making it." The rescuer said he collapsed almost instantly of reaching James.

The whole experience has given James a new purpose. Since the incident, he put on a pair of khaki pants that he was planning on wearing during the cruise. He reached into the pocket and found a fortune from a fortune cookie that read: "Life's a beach, enjoy the waves."

James found a fortune: "Life's a beach, enjoy the waves."Photo byABC News

James Michael Grimes is truly thankful to everyone that helped rescue him, and told Eva Pilgrim that "the whole experience has taught him the true meaning of being grateful."

A GoFundMe was Created for James Michael Grimes's Medical Expenses

GoFundMe set up for James Michael GrimesPhoto bySherry Boleen

Unfortunately, James did not have any health insurance during this ordeal and he now has medical bills. His sister, Sherry Boleen has set up a GoFundMe page to help cover his medical bills.

At the time of publication, $1,325 had been raised toward the $10,000 goal.

Please help share this miraculous story on social media with family and friends.


Adams, Abigail. "Passenger Who Fell Off Cruise Ship Was 'Dead Set' on Surviving 20-Hour Ordeal: 'My Worst Fear Is Drowning'." People. 2 December 2022.

CBS. "He told his sister he was going to the bathroom. Then he came to in the Gulf of Mexico." CBS News. 2 December 2022.

GoFundMe page for James Michael Grimes.

YouTube: "Cruise ship passenger who went overboard was ‘dead set’ on surviving." Good Morning America (ABC News). 2 December 2022.

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Zack covers interesting and inspiring news stories that impact local communities. He has a bachelor's degree and an MBA.

Huntsville, AL

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