Ships should not sail into the path of a storm; especially one with thousands of lives on board

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Anthem pool deck Elwell photo

Anthem pool deck Elwell photo

Ships should not sail into the path of a storm; especially one with thousands of lives on board

By Ken Rossignol

Seamanship is not a theory, it is an art. One practiced and taken seriously by all masters of vessels of any size and anywhere in the world.

Predicting bad weather and storms is also not a theory but science, aided by the most sophisticated instruments and technology.

El Faro lost in hurricane due to Captain's decision to sail

El Faro lost in hurricane due to Captain’s decision to sail

For Captains and companies to sail their ships into bad weather is foolhardy, dangerous and when someone is killed, criminally negligent.

When Hurricane Sandy was sweeping up the Atlantic in 2012, the storm was well forecast, there was no surprise at its power, it was not unexpected, yet the Captain of the tall ship Bounty sailed from a safe port into the storm, losing his own life, injuring others and sinking the vessel.

The freighter El Faro that sailed from Jacksonville into the path of Hurricane Joaquin in 2015, causing the ship to sink with all thirty-three hands on board disappearing forever, was a direct result of corporate stupidity and cowardice on the part of the captain to fail to stand up for the lives of his crew. The National Transportation Safety Board will finalize its investigation in another year or so. However, the official cause will likely mirror what was widely apparent: a failure to heed a forecast of a hurricane.

Royal Caribbean’s decision to adhere to a scheduled cruise from Bayonne, New Jersey to the Bahamas was again a case of a Captain failing to take a proper path out and around a forecasted major storm or stay in port until it passes.

Everything associated with a cruise is weather dependent and the cruise lines make it clear that ports will be missed should weather turn bad, itineraries will change and plans will be turned upside down.

I was on the Celebrity Eclipse where the weather blew up in our intended route and the Captain wisely changed the port calls to different ports to avoid the worse of a late fall storm off the coast of France and Spain in 2011. It was a good thing he did, as while we skirted the storm, the seas were in were rough and dangerous.  People were tossed, dishes scooted off tables and the adventure was in full drama. Not as bad as on the Anthem but enough to make one remember and appreciate that the Captain removed us to calmer waters.

To Royal Caribbean’s credit, the cruise line immediately issued a notice to its customers that their fare would be refunded and a future cruise would be half the cost of what they paid on the Anthem.  Ironically, had the ship detoured out and around the storm or simply stayed in port for two days, the monetary loss would likely have been similar without the risk to life.

Anthem balcony stateroom wrecked photo 2 Elwell

Anthem balcony stateroom wrecked photo 2 Elwell

Weather Expert Slams Royal Caribbean as Negligent

From NJ.com

The decision by Royal Caribbean to let one of its cruise ships head into the path of a powerful storm system swirling in the Atlantic Ocean this past weekend has not only come under attack by frightened passengers, but also by a weather expert who was closely monitoring the development of the storm.

Ryan Maue, a digital meteorologist for WeatherBell Analytics, said it’s hard to believe no one at Royal Caribbean had been aware of a storm system that had been forecast — and included in official advisories and warnings issued by the National Weather Service — days in advance.

Storm that wrecked Anthem

Storm that wrecked Anthem

“The storm was well forecast by many different weather models from every agency. This was not a surprise to anyone watching the weather on a daily basis,” Maue said Monday afternoon. “The extreme impacts were also quite predictable and expected by meteorologists at NOAA OPC (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Ocean Prediction Center) and private forecasting companies. Folks all marveled at the extreme intensity of this storm on Twitter.”

Passengers on storm-rocked cruise ship: ‘The worst is over’

The Royal Caribbean’s ‘Anthem of the Seas’ ship is on its way back to New Jersey after facing 75-mile-per-hour winds in a storm off the coast of the Carolinas.

The strength of this storm, which was technically classified as an “extratropical cyclone,” was on par with that of a low-level hurricane, he said.

“This cyclone was not a hurricane by definition since it did not form in the manner seen with tropical cyclones. The storm was an extratropical cyclone that combined strong upper-level jet stream energy with moisture from the very warm Gulf Stream ocean surface — resulting in a massive size/intensity cyclone,” Maue said.

“The impacts were the same or worse than a Category 1 hurricane at sea,” he added. “Waves of 30-feet-plus and wind gusts above 80 knots were experienced over a very large area” of the Atlantic Ocean.

“This situation is no different in practice to purposely sailing a vessel into the path of a rapidly developing Category 1 or 2 hurricane,” Maue said.

Last fall, when Hurricane Joaquin was swirling in the south Atlantic, the El Faro cargo ship headed into its path and ended up sinking to the bottom of the ocean. The 790-foot vessel, owned by a New Jersey company, went missing on Oct. 1, 2015, with 33 crew members presumed dead.

Several people were injured aboard the Royal Caribbean cruise ship, the Anthem of the Seas, on Sunday when the ship got caught in the storm off Cape Hatteras, N.C. The ship, which sustained some damage, was headed to Port Canaveral, Florida, but ended up turning around and is returning to its home port in Bayonne on Monday.

In a statement sent to USA Today, the cruise line said the “extreme wind and sea conditions” were unexpected. Also, in a statement posted on Twitter Monday morning, the company said this: “Yesterday, Anthem of the Seas encountered an unexpectedly severe storm off Cape Hatteras. Weather has improved & the ship is operating safely.”

Royal later tweeted an apology to its passengers: “We appreciate our guests’ patience and cooperation. We know it was tough day on Sunday, apologize for their discomfort.”  ….MORE

Anthem damage during storm photo by Chief Meteorologist Eric Elwell 020816

Anthem damage during storm photo by Chief Meteorologist Eric Elwell 020816

From the Anthem of The Seas Cruise Critic Roll Call

Feb. 5, 2016:

“Our flight from Boston has been cancelled. Expecting 4-8 inches of heavy wet snow Friday. We have been rescheduled for later in the evening, but the best Jet Blue could do was give us seats near the bathroom in the back of the plane. At least, we will be able to get out Friday. God knows what we will smell like. See you all soon.” — Frank and Joan Landry

Feb. 6, 2016 11:10 am

“Made it to NYC 1:15 AM dead tired. Hotel lost our reservation. Got room anyway. Found our Park West group. Bus to Bayonne leaves at noon. Can’t wait to get onboard unpack and crash until dinner. I might probably explore around until I get weary. Most of our Park West events/ dining/auctions will take place in different restaurants, Chic, Silk, Grande, American Icon, Music Hall.  Still feeling groggy, and it will take 24 hours to unwind from the 8 hours at the airport uncertain if we would get away.  Stress level is still up from the miserable airport experience last night/ early morning and did not get much sleep overnight, but it should dissipate later today as soon as we get on the ship.” Frank & Joan

Feb. 7, 2016:

8: 59 am. 

“We’re Rocking and Rolling pretty good today on the High Seas, but, Anthem is handling it well. Suppose to get rougher as the day goes, but, to be expected as we near Cape Hatteras. Safe travels to everyone.” — Anita and Len

6:20 pm

“Not enjoying the cruise right now. We are in the middle of the worst storm I’ve ever seen and the ship is getting destroyed. Well, our cabin is anyway. Waves are over 50ft and I’m really scared” – Zeva 1960

“I would fear not – seas are very rough – like Captain just said no one expected anything like this. But truthfully ship is handling it well and it will be over and tomorrow is a new day. So you now have bragging rights because not many cruisers ever experience anything even close to what we are experiencing. Stay in your room, try to stay off your feet, and hang on and look forward to much better day tomorrow. It will be OK.” — AdvGirl

Feb. 7, 2016: 11:09 pm

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone on Anthem of the Seas and we hope everyone will be safe and can enjoy the rest of the cruise free of any more bad weather. We hope the ship does not have too much damage and we can still enjoy our cruise on the 21st. Again, be safe everyone.” –  Raymond & Berta

“We were on the transatlantic Oct27-Nov. 4th and also had some very rough seas – shows cancelled, upper deck closed, etc., but this one sounds worse, as we were never asked to remain in our cabins and we never were told the mini bar was now complimentary! What’s happening in the dining rooms?  I’m sure within a few hours this will all be over and you’ll be talking about it for many years to come – stay safe and keep us up to date.” —  bobgail

Feb. 8, 2016 12:01 am —

“It’s midnight and earlier the captain advised the worst would be over. NOT! Everything in stateroom on the floor, some furniture toppled. Does anyone have info on the storm?” — mcfreck

“Well, it’s the next morning and all is well. I’m still here. The ship gave us free bar in our room cause it was all we had to eat or drink. Being ever the opportunist, I took all the booze, pop and water and put it in our luggage for use later on. We checked out the damage and some of it are pretty bad. Bulkheads down, panels on our neighbor’s balcony are down. The crew said it will all get fixed in no time. I’m not sure how they are going to deal with cancelled excursions, reservations and paid activities. I see big refunds in Anthem’s future.” — zeva1960

Scheduled itinerary of Anthem of The SeasComments on a Cruise Critic interview with Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain:

Francis Landry ·

We are on the Anthem with rough seas now. I am sure he is following our situation and will arrange for a generous compensation package for the guests. 2/7/2016

Joe Mair

Yeah RCCL, why did you arrange those storms and rough seas? Give everybody their money back – and a free future cruise, it’s only fair.

Rick Lundquist ·

Why did the idiot captain sail into the storm it could have been tragic, every time I have been on a cruise with Royal Caribbean they stayed away from storms not sail into them.

Royal Caribbean cuts short Anthem voyage after ship was hit hard by 100 mph winds off of Cape Hatteras; refunds money to passengers

From Cruise Critic:

Updated, 12:49 p.m. – Anthem of the Seas’ current sailing will be cut short. The ship will return to Cape Liberty where passengers will be disembarked. All passengers will receive a full refund and a future cruise certificate worth 50 percent of the cruise fare paid.

In a tweet, Royal Caribbean cited forecasted weather conditions as part of the reason for the cancellation. “We’re also sensitive to what guests have already been through,” the line tweeted.

(12:11 p.m. EST) – Royal Caribbean has not yet determined whether its newest ship, Anthem of the Seas will be able to continue on its current sailing, after the ship was hit by an unusually severe storm on Sunday, February 7, as it sailed off the coast of the Carolinas, on its way from Bayonne, New Jersey to Florida. The storm caused some damage and forced some passengers to change rooms; four injuries were also reported on the line, none life threatening. The ship’s arrival into Port Canaveral has been delayed

At the height of the storm, wind speeds of more than 100 miles per hour were recorded according to Charlotte-area TV Channel WFTV 9’s Severe Weather Center.

Due to the severity of the storm, the ship’s captain instructed passengers to remain in their cabins at approximately 3:30 p.m. Sunday. People remained confined to their cabins until early Monday morning.

“On Sunday, February 7, while sailing to Port Canaveral, Florida, Anthem of the Seas experienced extreme wind and sea conditions, with wind speeds higher than what was forecasted,” said Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez. “In an abundance of caution, the Captain asked all guests to stay in their stateroom until the weather improved. At this time, there have not been any serious injuries reported. The ship has sustained some damage to the public areas and guest staterooms, which in no way affect the seaworthiness of the ship.”

Martinez added that passengers in cabins damaged during the storm “will be relocated if they haven’t been already.”

Cruise Critic members posted regular updates on the Cruise Critic boards during the storm, reporting on interior damage, overturned furniture, and smashed glassware and crockery.

Cruise Critic member KarinaGW posted: “Captain has sent everyone to their cabins. The ship is dealing with 115 mph winds and severe seas… Much water had come through the deck doors on deck 5 before they shut the watertight [doors].”

Jjohnb wrote: “We have been stuck in 125+ mph winds 30+ foot waves for 4 hours… At the height of storm waves breaking above the top of lifeboats and ship listing almost 45 degrees, with wind looked like a total white out.”

The 16-deck Anthem of the Seas, which launched last year, departed New Jersey on February 6 for Port Canaveral, the first port of call on a seven-night Bahamas cruise.

Anthem of the Seas

Anthem of the Seas

From CruiseLawNews

ABC News reported that “after seeing pictures and people’s comments on Twitter and other social media platforms, the USCG contacted the Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas to check in.”

Passengers contacted us indicating that several guests were injured in the mayhem caused by the hurricane strength 125+ MPH winds and 30+ foot waves.

The cruise line said initially that it would be late getting to Port Canaveral but later said that The Anthem would return to Bayonne. Passengers would be refunded 100% and, also, receive 50% of their fares a future cruise credit in compensation.

The storm and damage to the ship remind me of a harrowing incident on the Brilliance of the Seas when several passengers were seriously injured when a storm hit the Royal Caribbean cruise ship in December 2010. The ship tried to outrun a known storm into Alexandria, Egypt. Royal Caribbean tried to spin the story in the media, saying that the storm was far worse than expected.

Watch Top Five Worst Cruise Ship Disaster Videos.

February 8, 2016, Update: Seems that Royal Caribbean is playing the “unforeseeable” game again. Weather professionals are not buying it  – Royal Caribbean ripped by weather pro for routing ‘Anthem’ cruise ship into the storm. Also, read 4,000-passenger cruise ship inexplicably sails into Atlantic mega-storm.