Litigation looms for Royal Caribbean for sailing into hurricane-force winds
FLORIDA, United States – A passenger is suing Royal Caribbean after alleging that he was flung nearly 18 feet against his cabin door and knocked unconscious during a stormy trip on the Anthem of the Seas earlier this month.
Bruce Simpson, who says that he suffered injuries to his face, torso and hands, is asking for compensatory and punitive damages.
The lawsuit, which was filed last week in federal court in Miami, alleges that despite knowledge of a well-forecast storm, Royal Caribbean acted in negligence when it let the Anthem of the Seas sail off the East Coast of the United States with 6,000 passengers and 1,500 crew members.
Simpson described the chaos on board as he sought medical treatment, saying there were insufficient emergency services available for passengers.
After regaining consciousness, he was told to wait in his room until the storm calmed before seeking further medical attention, the lawsuit claims.
“They took a calculated risk when they sent their passengers into the storm, and we don’t think the passengers should be the ones that pay for Royal Caribbean’s lack of judgment,” attorney Jason Itkin said in a written statement.
The incident took place on a scheduled journey from New Jersey to the Bahamas via Florida, and Royal Caribbean was eventually forced to turn the ship back due to storms off the Florida coast with winds well in excess of 100mph.
The cruise line maintained that the storm the ship encountered was much worse than predicted.
“If we knew that we were going to have those kinds of winds, the winds that we actually experienced with the ship, we would not have sailed into that. No. Absolutely we wouldn’t have (left port),” Bill Baumgartner, the senior vice president of global marine operations, told CNN.
In a statement at the time, Royal Caribbean said four people were injured but not seriously and the damage to public areas and cabins “in no way affect the sea worthiness of the ship.”
Passengers subsequently took to social media to comment and share photos and video of their experiences on the ship.
Shara Strand said she was “shaking all over” and suffering panic attacks during the high wind and rough seas.
Shara said she’s been on more than 20 cruises before, but never experienced anything like what happened on the Anthem of the Seas.
“I’m not being over dramatic by saying it was the scariest moment of my life – having no control in hurricane-like winds for hours on end with baby on board, not being able to leave our cabins.
“Royal Caribbean should be ashamed of themselves for continuing on a course Mother Nature deemed unfit,” Shara wrote on Facebook.
Pictures documented the wreckage of a ceiling that collapsed as the ship battled hurricane-force winds for hours on end, damaging furniture, fixtures and fittings.
At one point, a group of ten people were reportedly trapped between floors in an elevator.
Passengers Justin Scerbo and his wife Allison Musante, told CNN that the ship was leaning so much — Scerbo estimates 45 degrees — that water from a faucet hit the wall instead of going down the drain, and glasses were tumbling off the counter.
“After a vacation from hell, we’re good to just be at home,” Scerbo said.
Royal Caribbean issued an apology to passengers for “what they went through” and will refund their fares. Those who were aboard will also get a voucher for 50 percent of what they paid for use on a future cruise, the company said in a news release.
Senator Bill Nelson of Florida has called for the National Transportation Safety Board to examine why the ship set sail.
“The thing about this storm was that it was forecast for days. So why in the world would a cruise ship with thousands of passengers go sailing right into it?” Nelson asked earlier this month.