Giuseppe Romano, a 57-year-old Carabinieri on the cruise, said, "We lived apocalyptic scenes. There was a strident sound followed by a bang and plates and glasses started flying in the restaurant."
"After the first bang, the crew members said there was a fault and that we should stay calm... Then we heard another bang and I think that the ship hit the rocks again. Then the lights went out," Romano said.
"An officer on the ship asked me to help the people. Immediately afterwards I with other men started taking people off the ship. During this whole apocalyptic scene we saw few crew members," he said.
Mike van Dijk, a 54-year-old from Pretoria, South Africa, said crew members delayed lowering the lifeboats even though the ship was listing badly.
"We had to scream at the controllers to release the boats from the side," van Dijk said. "We were standing in the corridors and they weren't allowing us to get onto the boats. It was a scramble, an absolute scramble."
The ship's owner was as mystified by the crash as the passengers.
"At the time of the collision with the rock the captain of the Costa Concordia was on the command bridge," said the Director General of Costa Crociera Gianni Onorato speaking to journalists at the port of Porto Santo Stefano.
Onorato said the liner was on its regular, weekly route when it struck a reef.
"The ship was doing what it does 52 times a year, going along the route between Civitavecchia and Savona," Onorato said.
ABC News' Michael S. James, Mark Mooney and Katie Moisse, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.