Several passengers aboard the Norwegian Escape cruise ship were injured Sunday when what cruise officials described as a "sudden, extreme gust of wind" made the ship list.
In a series of tweets, Norwegian cruise officials said the 20-deck ship suddenly tilted just before midnight Sunday under the force of an unexpected gale topping 100 knots, or about 115 mph. "Two years ago, I was on (a cruise): 70 mph winds all throughout the night, just a bad storm. And those two minutes were worse than that whole night," Boston resident Cam Dube said Tuesday afternoon, shortly after the ship docked at Terminal 10 at Port Canaveral.
"I thought it was tipping," he said.
A string of Brevard County Fire Rescue ambulances responded to the terminal at the north side of the port after the ship arrived about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.
“Since learning of this incident on the Norwegian Escape, we deployed additional staff at our hospitals to care for passengers possibly in need of medical care. As of now, about eight passengers have been transported from the cruise terminal to Cape Canaveral Hospital and Holmes Regional Medical Center,” Pat Guerry, Health First vice president of marketing and communications, said Tuesday afternoon.
The offshore incident happened as a strong weather front moved across the eastern seaboard of the U.S., generating a string of tornadoes across Georgia and Alabama. The ship had departed from New York hours earlier on Sunday. Montreal resident Rhona Pervin got tossed out of the shower in her eighth-level cabin — "the door opened, and the water sloshed out onto the floor." Another Montreal resident, Jennifer Anthony from the fifth deck, said children and adults were crying after the incident.
"Several injuries were reported and those guests and crew received immediate attention and were treated by the ship’s medical staff. There was no damage to the ship; she remains fully operational," Norwegian Cruise Line officials wrote in a statement. The Norwegian Escape can carry up to 4,266 guests and a crew of 1,733. The ship was on a seven-day round-trip cruise that departed from New York on Sunday. After Tuesday's Port Canaveral port of call, the ship is expected to head on to the Bahamas before returning to New York.
The response was prompted by the report of a passenger on social media, who Tweeted: "The scariest (expletive) just happened on this cruise. Chairs, tables, glass, people went flying to one side of the ship." Another passenger gave a harrowing account of the incident on Facebook: "All the plates and glassware smashed on the floor. A lotto machine fell on a lady. Blood everywhere. My mom spoke with a lady today who has been working cruises for 18 years and she said never has anything this bad ever happened."
Dube said the cabin he shared with his girlfriend, Sarah Rogers, tilted so steeply that it got stuck in place "like a hill." "Glass was everywhere. Everything went flying off our counters: the coffee maker, anything we had in the bathroom. Our housekeeper said it was awful outside of our room," Rogers said.
Bill Hanson, a licensed boat captain from Wrentham, Massachusetts, and his wife, Anitra, were in their 12th-deck cabin when the ship listed without warning. "My goodness, we heard glass crash and all the noise. Then from there, the boat started listing even more — and that's when the panic hit," Hanson said at Port Canaveral.
"We were looking for the life preservers. And I was looking to jump out the window and jump on the nearest thing around," he said.
"It's a brand new ship. The captain kept calm. They did their job. But let me tell you, Mother Nature whacked us," he said. In September, the Norwegian Escape was one of two cruise ships forced to detour because of Hurricane Florence, diverting to Port Canaveral instead of the Bahamas. The other ship affected by Florence was Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas.
Avi Boas of Brooklyn, New York, is an EMS volunteer with Hatzolah EMS of North Jersey. After the ship listed, he rushed upstairs from the casino to check on his wife and seven children. They escaped injury.
"One of our next-door neighbors, she actually fell out of her bed during that situation, and she injured her back. I ran downstairs to the sixth floor, contacted the ship crew, and they ended up sending up personnel and brought her down to the clinic," Boas said.
Contributing: J.D. Gallop and Jennifer Sangalang, FLORIDA TODAY
By Eric Rogers and Rick Neale, Florida Today
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