Passengers on board a Royal Caribbean cruise ship that ran into a fierce storm in the Atlantic Ocean described a harrowing journey that saw hurricane-force winds and waves swell to over nine metres.
The cruise line said the storm on Sunday off Cape Hatteras, N.C., was worse than anticipated, forcing the captain to ask all passengers to stay in their cabins.
“On Sunday, February 7, while sailing to Port Canaveral, Florida, Anthem of the Seas experienced extreme wind and sea conditions, with wind speeds higher than what was forecasted. In an abundance of caution, the Captain asked all guests to stay in their stateroom until the weather improved,” Cynthia Martinez, a Royal Caribbean spokesperson said in a statement.
Shara Strand of New York City described to The Associated Press via Facebook the fear she experienced of being caught in the storm.
“I was shaking all over,” Strand said on Monday. “Panic attack, things like that. . . I’ve been on over 20 cruises, I’ve been through a hurricane, it was never like this. Never.”
The company said no one was injured and the ship suffered only minor damage.
Other passengers took to social media to post pictures of the storm and its aftermath that saw collapsed ceilings, chairs overturned and smashed windows.
Robert Huschka, executive editor of the Detroit Free Press, who was on the ship, wrote to the Associated Press: “I’m not going to lie: I was terrified – although I did my best to hide it from my wife.
“The ship rocked side-to-side – sometimes hanging at an incline longer than seemed safe,” he said. “Large noises came from within the ship. We heard crew members run through the hallway.”
“The good news?” he tweeted. “They never lost the Super Bowl signal. Perfect TV picture throughout storm!”
The Anthem of the Seas, carrying more than 4,500 passengers and 1,600 crew members, sailed Saturday from Cape Liberty, N.J. and was scheduled to arrive for a stop at Port Canaveral, Fla., at noon Monday, before heading to other stops in the Caribbean.
Royal Caribbean said in a statement that the ship would turn around and sail back to Cape Liberty where it was scheduled to arrive at 7 a.m. Tuesday morning.
“This decision was made for guests’ comfort due to weather forecasts,” Royal Caribbean said via Twitter.
The incident has also prompted calls for a federal investigation. Florida Senator Bill Nelson said crews should have known not to sail the ship into the “the heart of a hurricane-force storm.”
“The thing about this storm was that it was forecast for days. So why in the world would a cruise ship with thousands of passengers go sailing right into it?” Nelson said Monday on the Senate floor, according to a news release from his office.
“I want the National [Transportation] Safety Board to come up with answers very quickly and make an admonition to mariners: when the storm is brewing you don’t go out of port.”
*With files from the Associated Press
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