As the Anthem of the Seas heads back toward New Jersey the question remains: Why did the ship sail into a storm in the first place?
The Royal Caribbean cruise ship left Bayonne on Saturday for a seven-day cruise for the Bahamas and advised passengers about the storm. According to an account of the cruise in USA Today, the captain said he would “speed around” the storm. Instead, the ship was rocked by 30-foot waves and passengers were confined to their cabins as the ship made its way through the storm.
“Jonathan”, a Hoboken resident who was aboard the ship but did not want his real name used in this story, wrote in an email that in a looping video played all over the ship “the captain admits he knew the system was developing as early as 6:30 a.m., but wasn’t forecasted to be nearly as strong as it was. At 3 p.m, when we were in the heart of it, he says it suddenly and rapidly blew up and we were stuck.”
A spokeswoman for the cruise line said the ship “experienced extreme wind and sea conditions, with wind speeds higher than what was forecast. The ship has sustained some damage to the public areas and guest staterooms, which in no way affect the sea-worthiness of the ship.”
The ship is now scheduled to arrive in Bayonne on Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m. according to Royal Caribbean, which did not respond to other questions about the cruise. Others were far more critical of the cruise line and its explanation.
“Sailing a billion dollar boat with 4,000 passengers into a well-forecast hurricane-force cyclone is negligent & Royal Caribbean should admit it,” tweeted Ryan Maue, the founder of WeatherBell Analytics. He told NJ Advance Media that the storm was not a surprise. “The storm was well-forecast by many different weather models from every agency. He said that the storm was not a hurricane but the impact was the same.
“Waves of 30-feet-plus and wind gusts above 80 knots were experienced over a very large area,” Maue said. Florida Sen. Bill Nelson spoke Monday on the floor of the U.S. Senate and called on the National Transportation Safety Board to investigate the decision to sail right into the heart of a storm. Nelson is the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees the NTSB.
“I want the National Safety Board to come up with the answers very quickly and make an admonition to mariners when the storm is brewing you don’t go out of port,” he said. “Jonathan” said there are also “catches” with the refund passengers will receive for the cruise and a 50 percent discount off a future cruise.
“We only get our cruise fare refunded. That means the docking fees taxes etc are not being refunded,” he wrote. “Basically, whatever the fare was for this cruise, we’ll get 50 percent of that as a credit on a later cruise.” He also said that the ship continues to make noise as it heads home at half-speed and is still off the coast of North Carolina. “Every little sway of the ship causes loud groans and creaks that can be heard all over the ship.”