Royal Caribbean ship to return to Jersey after battling strong storm

PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. — A Royal Caribbean cruise ship that was expected to dock in Port Canaveral Tuesday morning, following an encounter with a severe storm, will return to Cape Liberty instead, cruise ship officials said.

According to a tweet from Royal Caribbean Monday, "#AnthemoftheSeas will turn around & sail back to Cape Liberty. This decision was made for guests' comfort due to weather forecasts."

Passengers were locked down in their cabins.

The strong storm hit the Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas hard off the coast of the Carolinas as it was en route to Port Canaveral from New Jersey.

Raw: Passenger aboard ship records rough seas

The ship trudged through winds of more than 100 miles per hour, according to Severe Weather Center 9's meteorologist Brian Shields.
The U.S. Coast Guard said it has not received any calls for assistance from the Anthem of the Seas.

"After seeing pictures and people's comments on Twitter and other social media platforms, the U.S. Coast Guard contacted the Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas to check in. The ship said that everything was fine, and no distress calls have been issued. The ship was caught in the storm off the shore of Charleston. There are 40 plus knot winds and large swells. The USCG will continue to monitor the situation," said U.S. Coast Guard Southeast representative Mark Barney.

Royal Caribbean released this statement Monday morning: "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."

One passenger said she was "shaking all over" and suffering panic attacks as the ship experienced high wind and rough seas.

Shara Strand of New York City said she's been on 20 cruises but never experienced that kind of weather. She said via Facebook that she "thought we were done for," describing 30-foot waves rocking the ship.

Passenger Gabriella Lairson, 16, said via Facebook on Monday that the storm started about 3 p.m. Sunday. She said the captain of the Royal Caribbean ship Anthem of the Seas instructed everyone to go to their staterooms.

Gabriella Lairson and her father, of Ocean City, New Jersey, said they heard glasses in their bathroom shatter, and they put belongings in drawers and closets to prevent them from flying across the room.

Her father, Sam Lairson, said in an email, "The winds were so strong that I thought the phone would blow from my hands."

Gabriella Lairson said that by about 1:30 a.m. Monday, the storm had calmed.

She praised the captain and crew and said the ship held up well, with damage in only a few places.

The ship should return to Cape Liberty by Wednesday. Passengers will receive a full refund plus a certificate for 50 percent off their next cruise.

According to Royal Caribbean's website, the ship departed from Cape Liberty, New Jersey.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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