The massive Royal Caribbean cruise ship that left New Jersey over the weekend only to hit a tempestuous wintry storm at sea Sunday will double back and return to port, the cruise line announced.
The massive Anthem of the Seas is turning around and will head back to Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, according to Royal Caribbean. The more than 4,000 passengers aboard will receive a full refund for the cruise along with a voucher for 50 percent off a future voyage.
"#AnthemoftheSeas will turn around & sail back to Cape Liberty. This decision was made for guests' comfort due to weather forecasts," Royal Caribbean tweeted Monday.
The decision comes after the cruise liner sailed into a massive winter storm off the Carolina coast. The 1,183-foot ship was tossed about by massive, storm-swept waves amid blasting wind gusts. The ship sustained damage during the storm, and guests were ordered to take cover while crews attempted to ride out the rough weather.
Video taken on board the ship shows big, blue waves tumbling alongside the vessel, along with overturned plant pots and chairs and other cosmetic damage.
Chris Carver, 43, of Salt Lake City, was on vacation with his family and mother aboard the ship during the storm.
The father of six said the captain told passengers around 11 a.m. the ship would try to "beat" a big storm out at sea. The captain later said in an update the storm got much worse than he had expected.
Conditions deteriorated quickly and the ship was forced to turn around and steer into the wind, Carver said.
"We were watching a musical put on by the crew in the theater and all the sudden they stopped the show. We went back to our rooms and then the cap came on and said, 'Stay in your rooms,'" Carver recalled.
"We listed way right. I was telling the kids we were fine, but I was scared," he explained. "Stuff was falling all over in the room and we had to sit. We were listed so far right that we couldn't stand."
Sixteen-year-old Gabriella Lairson says she and her father, Sam, could feel the ship Anthem of the Seas begin to sway by 2:30 p.m. Sunday. The captain directed passengers to their cabins. There, the Lairsons heard glasses shatter in the bathroom, and they put their belongings in drawers and closets to prevent them from flying across the room. They ventured to the balcony, where Sam Lairson shot video of wave after wave rising below.
"The winds were so strong that I thought the phone would blow from my hands," Sam Lairson, of Ocean City, New Jersey, said in an email. "After that we had to keep the doors to the balconies sealed."
Royal Caribbean released a statement Monday morning saying the ship had "encountered some high winds and seas during its transit" and that "out of an abundance of caution, the Captain asked all guests to stay in their stateroom until the weather improved."
There were no reports of injuries or damage to the ship, according to Royal Caribbean, although some passengers were scared enough to call relatives on land.
The ship took off from New Jersey and was expected to make stops in Port Canaveral, Florida, and the Bahamas, a passenger said.
The ship attempted to continue to Port Canaveral, but the decision was made to turn around in part because the storm would have impacted the cruise's original itinerary.
The Anthem of the Seas is one of three of Royal Caribbean's Quantam class cruise ships and is the third-largest such vessel in the world. It would dwarf the RMS Titanic and is nearly 100 feet longer than the largest aircraft carriers in the U.S. Navy.
The same storm that damaged the ship is the same one that slammed the tri-state with coastal flooding and blizzard-like conditions on the eastern end of Long Island.