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Crashing waves, breaking glass: when a hurricane-strength storm hits your cruise ship

Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

Sunday night, the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Anthem of the Seas was caught in a fierce storm off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Winds gusted to 150 miles per hour. Thirty-foot waves rocked the boat.

Four passengers were injured, none seriously, according to Royal Caribbean.

The ship's 4,500 passengers were confined to their cabins as the ship tossed and turned. Their photos from after the storm show the devastation during and afterward: water sloshed from pools, deck chairs airborne, and broken glass everywhere.

"I was terrified — although I did my best to hide it from my wife," wrote Robert Huschka, the executive editor of the Detroit Free Press, who was on board. "The ship rocked side-to-side — sometimes hanging at an incline longer than seemed safe. Large noises came from within the ship. We heard crew members run through the hallway. My wife and I tried not to look out toward the balcony of our small cabin. Our small son was with us. We each held one of his hands."

When the Royal Caribbean first docked at New York Harbor in November, a press release announced its arrival this way: "Attention Adventure Seekers: Your Ship Has Come In!"

That turned out to be truer than the company ever intended. "None of us really expected an adventure like this," Huschka wrote.

"Trapped in a small room, all by myself," wrote Brett Michael Dykes, a New York Times contributor, in notes on the cruise that the newspaper published Monday:

Broken glass everywhere. I’d secured most of the breakables in the room but forgot about two cocktail glasses in the bedroom. Boat is shaking. Sound of swirling wind is constant… No other sounds. Eerily silent. No human voices other than the occasional announcement from the captain. The only sounds are those of rancor, things breaking, clanking, etc.

This was just a little of what we experienced. #anthemoftheseas #stoptherocking

A video posted by Scott-Sandy Graby (@sgraby83) on

The National Weather Service had issued warnings about the storm days in advance. It didn't technically qualify as a hurricane, but the wind and waves were equivalent to a Category 1 or Category 2 storm, digital meteorologist Ryan Maue told

The ship returned to Cape Liberty, New Jersey, where the trip originated, on Monday.

#overthis #rocktheboat #anthemoftheseas #damage

A photo posted by @leanna_nicole_ on

Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, has called for an investigation from the National Transportation Safety Board. "The thing about this storm was that it was forecast for days," he said on the Senate floor Monday. "So why in the world would a cruise ship with thousands of passengers go sailing right into it?"