More than 4,500 cruise ship passengers experienced a terrifying vacation after running into Winter Storm Mars on the Southeastern coast.
Thirty foot waves and 125 mph wind gusts battered Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas for several hours on Sunday, February 7. The storm tossed the massive ship from side to side, throwing furniture within the ship in every direction. Four passengers were injured, though none of the injuries were severe.
To the comfort of many on board, the 1,141-foot ship never lost internet or television service throughout the storm.
Many people on board posted photos or videos to social media during the mayhem. Damaged parts of the roof, overturned furniture, and broken glass were among some of the images. Videos included footage of the crashing 30-foot waves and passengers who had difficulty standing up straight due to how much the ship was moving.
Scared for their lives, some passengers had to cling to their mattresses to avoid falling off of their beds. Many questioned if they would ever see their family and friends again. One passenger, George Sycip, recalled the events to CBS News after all of the passengers were forced to stay in their rooms during the chaos.
"You could hear the waves crashing against the hull, metal twisting and banging all night long. It was scary," Sycip said.
Royal Caribbean announced the day after the storm that the ship would be put back in route to its home port in New Jersey, turning away from its destination route in the Bahamas.
Federal transportation officials are investigating the situation since The National Weather Service’s Ocean Prediction Center issued a warning about the treacherous storm four days in advance, even predicting winds at hurricane-like speeds along the course that the ship was set to sail.
"The ship encountered the waves and strong winds associated with the rapidly strengthening area of low pressure associated with Winter Storm Mars on Sunday," said Weather.com meteorologist Chris Dolce. "Numerous gale, storm and hurricane-force wind warnings had been issued in advance of this developing storm by the National Weather Service."
The U.S. Coast Guard has confirmed that it is inspecting the cruise ship back in New Jersey as well.
"The Coast Guard will participate in an investigation that will help determine if there are any contributing causal factors or lessons learned from this event that could help prevent injuries or damage in the future, as occurs with any commercial vessel operating in U.S. waters under similar circumstances," the Coast Guard released in a statement.
Captains of cruise ships are provided with multiple weather reports and forecasts daily. Royal Caribbean has issued a statement regarding the incident, stating that whether or not the ship goes out is up to the captain and the captain only.
“"He's responsible for the ultimate safety," said Bill Baumgartner, the senior vice president of Global Marine Operations for Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited.
Guests that were aboard the Anthem of the Seas throughout the storm will receive a refund in full and an additional complementary cruise. Passengers were extremely satisfied and delighted with the accommodation after such a nerve-racking and fearsome experience.