The 168,666-ton Anthem of the Seas is one of the world’s newest and largest cruise ships, but it was hardly a match for the powerful storm that caused severe damage to the vessel and left passengers shaken up.
"I'm not going to lie: It was truly terrifying," said Robert Huschka, executive editor of the Detroit Free Press, who was onboard the Royal Caribbean cruise ship that sailed through an extreme storm on Sunday.
The cruise line, in a statement sent to USA TODAY, suggested the "extreme wind and sea conditions" that hit as the ship sailed south from the New York area to Port Canaveral, Florida, were unexpected, noting that the wind speeds were higher than what was forecast.
"The captain told everyone this morning that the day was among his most challenging — if not his most challenging — at sea," Huschka said.
The ship is now returning to Bayonne, New Jersey and what was supposed to be a seven-night sail to Florida and the Bahamas has been cut short.
Passengers tweeting from Anthem described the hurricane-like forces and mega waves that rocked the ship, overturned furniture, smashed glassware and even collapsed part of a ceiling. Four passengers were injured, but not seriously, according to USA Today.
A buoy in the Atlantic about 260 miles south of Cape Hatteras reported wave heights of 30 feet and wind gusts of 74 mph late Sunday, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
While the captain was busy trying to safely get the vessel through the storm, a cruise director was reportedly tasked with keeping passengers informed.
"A very nervous cruise director kept coming on. He didn't sound very reassuring. He said, 'We are OK,'" Huschka recounted.
Royal Caribbean said passengers will receive full refunds of the fare they paid for the cruise and a credit for a future cruise equal to 50 percent of the fare.
"We know it was tough day on Sunday and apologize for (passenger) discomfort," the line said. "Safety is our highest priority and ships are designed to withstand even more extreme circumstances than Anthem of the Seas encountered. While the weather was unpleasant, the ship remained seaworthy at all times."
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