As the Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas makes its way back to New Jersey after having cancelled a seven night Bahamas cruise after only one day at sea, Senator Bill Nelson has asked the National Transportation Safety Board to carry out an investigation as to why the ship set sail, knowing they would face hurricane force winds and putting the safety of around 4,500 passengers and 1,600 crew at risk.
The cruise ship left Cape Liberty, New Jersey on Sunday and at around 8 a.m. began to feel the effects of the storm. By 2.30 p.m. when many guests were in the theater watching a musical the weather became so rough that only ten minutes into the performance the Captain asked all passengers to return to their cabins and staterooms for their own safety.
The captain initially made announcements every hour promising the storm would soon be over, but it was not to be and the guests were confined in their cabins for the whole afternoon and night with all public areas, including the restaurants closed until the morning, when the clean up began.
Questions are now being asked as to why the ship set sail in the first place as although Royal Caribbean called the event “an unexpected storm”, according to the meteorologists it was anything but unexpected.
The storm had been forecast from the previous Wednesday, some four days before the ship sailed, which warned of the arrival of Winter Storm Mars with winds of 45 to 60 knots and there seas up to 29 feet. By Saturday, the warnings said there would be hurricane force winds exactly where the ship was due to sail off the south east coast of the United States. The reason for the winter storm was a large trough in the jet stream which was being pushed towards the east coast and then when it hit the warm Gulf Stream it strengthened rapidly with winds up to 100 miles per hour, effectively a Category 2 hurricane.
Royal Caribbean has not explained why the ship set sail putting thousands of lives at risk, but having originally said there was no damage to either passengers, crew nor the vessel and the cruise would continue, later on Monday they decided to turn the ship round as there was more rough weather forecast ahead and they thought the passengers had been through enough.
Passengers are to receive full refunds and 50% voucher off a previous cruise, but many described the event as terrifying with several packing emergency supplies expecting the worse to happen at any time.
In addition, it appears that the ship did not actually contact the Coast Guard but it was passengers who were tweeting about the conditions which alerted the Coast Guard to the situation and they subsequently made contact with the ship who assured them that everything was fine.