The U.S. Coast Guard says it will inspect the storm-damaged Royal Caribbean cruise ship Anthem of the Seas upon its scheduled return to New York Harbor Wednesday evening following a nightmare cruise into a hurricane-force storm off Cape Hatteras.
Once the vessel docks in New Jersey, a team of inspectors from the Coast Guard Sector New York will board the vessel to inspect the extent of damages and ensure repairs are completed before the ship will be allowed to depart on its next voyage next Saturday.
The Coast Guard says it will also be participating in an investigation that will help determine if there are any contributing causal factors or lessons learned after the Anthem of the Seas, with more than 6,000 people on board, sailed directly into a forecasted storm over the weekend. Since the Anthem of the Seas is a Bahamian-flagged vessel, Bahamian investigators will take the lead in the investigation with assistance from the U.S. Coast Guard.
The 168,666 ton Anthem of the Seas departed from Cape Liberty Cruise Terminal in Bayonne, New Jersey last Saturday with approximately 4,500 guests and 1,600 crewmembers for a scheduled 7-day roundtrip to the Bahamas. By Sunday, the vessel was well on its way to a schedule port call at Port Canaveral, Florida when the it encountered a large, hurricane-force storm off of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, with wind gusts of more than 75 mph and rough 30-foot seas, according to the Coast Guard.
Photos, video and accounts from scared passengers have flooded social media since the cruise ship first start to bear the brunt of the storm late Sunday afternoon, forcing the Captain to lock down the ship as they rode it out. The weather turned so bad in fact that the Captain has even described it as “the worst day at sea” he has ever experienced, reportedly struggling to keep the ship turned into the wind.
Royal Caribbean has said that the storm turned more severe than expected, but the company has come under fire by critics who say that the severity of the storm was well forecasted and should have been avoided altogether. Some have even called on the National Transportation Safety Board to investigate the voyage.
A forecast last Thursday night (Feb 4) from the NWS Ocean Prediction Center said that by Sunday night, the Atlantic Ocean off the Carolinas would experience winds up to 50 knots (57.5 mph) and seas up to to 31 feet. By Saturday afternoon, forecasts were calling for 65 knot winds and seas to 11.5 meters (about 38 feet) by noon Sunday.
Crewmembers reported some passengers with minor injuries but there has been no indication of any life-threatening emergencies, the Coast Guard said.
The cruise ship sustained largely cosmetic damage, but the vessel remains both seaworthy and maneuverable.
Following the storm, Royal Caribbean decided to abandon the remainder of the cruise and return to New York.