A Royal Caribbean cruise ship that faced high winds and rough seas Sunday is making an early return to its home port in New Jersey, a Royal Caribbean spokeswoman said Monday.
The cruise line’s latest mega ship, Anthem of the Seas, faced howling winds and waves as high as 30 feet, forcing frightened passengers into their cabins as their belongings flew about. The cruise line says no injuries were reported and the ship suffered minor damage.
The ship, with more than 4,500 guests and 1,600 crew members, was scheduled to arrive in Port Canaveral at noon Monday but instead will turn around and sail back to Cape Liberty, New Jersey, said Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez. The ship will arrive there Wednesday morning.
“This decision was made due to weather forecasted for the next few days that is likely to impact the ship’s original itinerary,” Martinez said. “We are also sensitive to the fact that our guests have already been through an uncomfortable ride... We are optimistic that they will have a smooth sail home.”
Martinez said that guests will get a full refund for the cruise and a future cruise certificate for 50 percent of the cruise fare.
But passengers were left rattled after Sunday’s storm. Posts to social media show lower deck cabin windows submerged by the 30-foot waves and hurricane-force winds.
"I was shaking all over," passenger Shara Strand of New York City wrote to The Associated Press via Facebook 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. Everyone is saying they never saw anything like last night."
Sixteen-year-old passenger Gabriella Lairson says she and her father, Sam, could feel the boat begin to sway by 2:30 p.m. The captain directed passengers to their cabins. There, the Lairsons heard glasses shatter in the bathroom, and they put their belongings in drawers and closets to prevent them from flying across the room. They ventured out on the balcony, where Sam Lairson shot video showing wave after wave rising below them.
"The winds were so strong that I thought the phone would blow from my hands," Sam Lairson, of Ocean City, New Jersey, said in an email. "After that we had to keep the doors to the balconies sealed."
Gabriella Lairson says that by early Monday morning, people were out and about on the ship, checking out the minor damage in some public areas. Some staterooms also were damaged, according to a Royal Caribbean statement.
Lairson praised the crew and captain. "They did everything they could to make us feel comfortable even though they were not allowed to be out around the ship that often," she wrote to The AP on Facebook. "The Captain regularly gave us updates when he could through the whole storm."
Martinez confirmed that passengers were asked to stay in their rooms and said they were given complimentary access to their minibars.
Robert Huschka, the executive editor of the Detroit Free Press, was aboard and started tweeting when the inclement weather hit. He told USA Today that the ordeal was "truly terrifying." He described the cruise director nervously giving updates, and he later posted photos of shattered glass panels on a pool deck.
But Huschka was among passengers who found a silver lining in the storm. On Monday morning, he posted: "The good news? They never lost the Super Bowl signal. Perfect TV picture throughout storm!"
And despite her own worries, Strand said her daughter, 8-month-old Alexa, slept through the entire episode.
This report contains material from the Associated Press.