Florida-Bound Cruise Ship Damaged in Hurricane-Force Winds

On Saturday, thousands of passengers on the Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas sailed out of New Jersey into calm seas, sipping margaritas and dreaming of balmy beaches. Just off the coast of the Carolinas, meanwhile, a monster storm was brewing, with winds howling around a huge low-pressure front.

Last night, the two collided with calamitous effects. The huge, Florida-bound cruise ship plunged right into hurricane-force gale winds that tossed the massive boat so hard that ceilings crumbled, furniture flew like missiles, and horrified passengers tweeted Perfect Storm-esque photos and videos.

"They told everyone on the Titanic to stay in their rooms," wrote a passenger who goes by Asper Gus on Twitter. "That way you can't really know how bad things are."

Anthem of the Seas is one of the biggest cruise ships in service, a 4,180-passenger behemoth that regularly docks in South Florida. The boat was headed toward Port Canaveral yesterday as the first stop on a Jersey-to-the-Caribbean cruise that left under sunny skies. 
But the captain must have known he was sailing toward trouble; the National Weather Service had forecast hurricane-force winds off the Carolinas. In a statement sent this morning, Royal Caribbean says the storm strengthened far more than predicted. 

"Anthem of the Seas experienced extreme wind and sea conditions, with wind speeds higher than what was forecasted," the company says.

Either way, by yesterday afternoon, the captain stopped the ship to wait out the weather, which was already nasty:
 It would get much worse overnight. There are unverified estimates that winds topped 100 miles per hour.  
Passengers, meanwhile, chronicled a nightmarish experience at sea. 
           The damage onboard, meanwhile, looks extensive. 

In its statement, Royal Caribbean says that no one was seriously injured during the storm and that the ship is still seaworthy after the terrifying experience; the ship is due into Port Canaveral later today.
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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink