SOMERS, N.Y. - Several members of the family that own Crystal Hall at Somers Community Center in Shenorock were stranded on Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas between Sunday afternoon and the wee hours of Monday morning, when the cruise ship was struck by what has been described as Category 5 hurricane winds.
“We were pretty much saying goodbye to each other,” said Ron Cardillo in an exclusive phone interview while he was aboard the ship on Monday night. Ron was on his honeymoon/babymoon with his pregnant wife, Dianna, and his parents, Ron Sr. and Margaret Cardillo.
The 18-deck, 1,141-foot-long ship left port from Bayonne, N.J. this past Saturday for what was intended to be a week-long excursion to Florida and the Bahamas. On Sunday morning, according to Ron, the captain of the ship announced that they would be heading into a storm. Over the next few hours, the captain continued to update his passengers.
At 3 p.m., when Ron was getting acupuncture, the captain, who sounded “distraught,” ordered passengers to go back to their cabins until further notice.
“The tone of his voice really caught my attention,” Ron said.
Ron quickly got Dianna and they went back to their cabin, which was on the 11th deck. Ron described a nightmare scenario in the ensuing hours. He said the ship was rocking back and forth at about a 20 percent angle and his balcony door was shaking violently.
“You were looking at these huge waves,” he said, describing the scene each time the ship rocked 20 percent toward his side, when he and Dianna stared straight at the depths of the ocean from their room. On the rest of the ship, he said pipes were breaking and sewage from some of the pipes was leaking into the rooms. He also said that there were projectiles everywhere.
“It was really hard to get your footing,” he said. His parents stayed confined to their own room throughout the storm and his mom was bedridden since it was so difficult to walk.
Throughout this ordeal, Dianna, who is in her second trimester, spent hours projectile vomiting. Ron added that people were vomiting throughout the ship.
At 5:30 p.m., they no longer felt safe, so they called 911 for security to come help them.
When the security guards arrived, Ron said they looked distraught. Security guards took them to a middle room down on the fourth deck, where the ship’s swaying couldn’t be felt as much.
They spent the next seven hours, give or take, in this large public room.
“Women were crying; people were panicking,” Ron said, adding that he also saw crew members hugging one another, but he said that the crew mostly “kept it together.”
To illustrate their dire situation, Ron pointed out that the winds were stronger than when 33 crew members were killed when a cargo ship sank during a Category 4 hurricane back in October. Several news reports over this past week cited winds up to 122 miles per hour, which is Category 3 hurricane winds. But a video recording of the captain on Ron’s Facebook page confirms that winds were as high as 180 miles per hour, which is Category 5 hurricane strength.
He said the captain kept the nose of the ship facing towards the waves in order to minimize damage and keep everyone safe.
“If one of the engines started to fail, it would have been game over,” Ron said, describing the scene as being right out of a movie.
Royal Caribbean did not respond to requests for comment by press time. But video of the captain’s statement on Ron’s Facebook page said the storm went from being “nothing” to exploding in size and strength.
“I have had severe weather before, but not to this extent,” the captain said.
Four passengers were injured during the event, though none seriously, according to news reports, which said there were 4,529 passengers and 1,616 crew members on board.
One person on Cruisecritic.com described the ship as being almost sideways. Another passenger on Deck 7 said the waves were at eye level.
“Definitely the scariest experience of our lives,” said Ron, who added that this was Dianna’s first cruise and her last.
At press time, the ship was headed back to port and was expected to arrive on Wednesday.