Cruise ship headed to Florida encounters rough seas, will return to New Jersey

NEW YORK (WABC) -- A Royal Caribbean cruise ship headed from New Jersey to Florida encountered rough seas and high winds in the Atlantic Ocean Sunday, forcing frightened passengers into their cabins overnight as their belongings flew about and winds howled outside. Those onboard described waves as high as 30 feet, but the cruise line says no one was injured and the ship suffered minor damage and was safe to remain at sea.

It was initially expected that the ship would continue to Port Canaveral, but officials announced Monday that the Anthem of the Seas would turn around and sail back to Cape Liberty, New Jersey.

Video posted on Twitter by a passenger shows furniture overturned by the rocking ship. (Courtesy Twitter/@LeannaPetrone)

The same passenger tweeted pictures of broken planters.

The ship left Cape Liberty Saturday afternoon and is due to arrive in Florida sometime Monday.

Royal Caribbean issued a statement:
"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. At this time there have not been any serious injuries reported. The ship has sustained some damage to the public areas and guest staterooms, which in no way affect the sea-worthiness of the ship."

There appears to be some damage to the ship:

This video shows what the conditions are like outside the ship:

Despite the ordeal, the ship's crew kept serving passengers:

Sixteen-year-old Gabriella Lairson says she and her father, Sam, could feel the ship 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."

The ship, with more than 4,500 guests and 1,600 crew members, was scheduled to arrive in Port Canaveral around noon Monday. It is unclear when it will arrive back in New Jersey.

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."

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.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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