A Calgary couple says they’re thankful to be alive after their cruise ship ran aground and capsized off the Tuscan coast.

Laurence and Andrea Davis were on a cruise around Italy, celebrating their birthdays’ aboard the luxury liner Costa Concordia.

They had just sat down to a meal inside the dining room when the ship jolted and began to list.

The couple had to take shelter under a table as falling cutlery and glassware began to rain down on their heads from the three-tiered dining room.

Son-in-law David Hornstein says pandemonium and panic immediately set-in and there was little to no direction from staff.

“I’m not even sure if they even got to hear the evacuation alarm sound from the ship before they left because the ship had only announced there was an electrical issue not that people had to leave,” he says.  “But it sounded like everyone was trying to get off the ship before they had even announced to get off.”

The one life boat the couple managed to find appeared to be stuck and taking on water, that’s when they decided to jump and swim to safety.

Laurence told reporters in Italy he did the back-stroke as he watched the ship tilt listlessly over their heads.

Together the couple braved the choppy waters, swimming more than 100 metres before they reached the rocky coastline.

Barefoot, cold and wet, the Davis’ then spent Friday night in a school shelter in Grosetto, Italy with other survivors before contacting the consulate.

Hornstein says it’s been an emotional rollercoaster ride for the couple who have laughed and cried together for five minutes at a time.

In a Facebook post, their daughter, Leora Hornstein, says her parents have received new passports and are looking forward to returning home later today.

A seasoned cruise-ship connoisseur, Laurence Davis told reporters in Italy future plans the couple have, including a trip to the Caribbean this summer, have now been put on hold.