CHARLESTON, S.C. – A seven-story wave damaged a cruise ship returning from the Bahamas (search) over the weekend, smashing windows, flooding more than 60 cabins and injuring four passengers.
The Norwegian Dawn (search) was diverted from its route when the ship ran into rough weather on the way back to New York on Saturday. The 965-foot-long vessel docked in the Charleston harbor for repairs, and departed for New York early Sunday after a Coast Guard (search) inspection, officials said. It was expected back in New York by noon Monday.
"The ship was hit by a freak wave that caused two windows to break in two different cabins," Norwegian Cruise Line said in a statement. It said 62 cabins flooded and four passengers had cuts and bruises. The wave reached as high as deck 10 on the ship, company spokeswoman Susan Robison said Sunday.
James Fraley, who was taking a honeymoon cruise with his wife, said they called their loved ones as the wave pounded the boat because they thought the ship was going down.
"It was pure hell. We're talking 47-foot waves hitting the 10th floor, knocking Jacuzzis on the 12th floor overboard — people sleeping in hallways in life jackets," Fraley told WCBD-TV in Charleston. "Just pure pandemonium."
The ship's hull was damaged but the vessel was not taking on water, said Keith Moore of the Coast Guard Group Charleston.
"All the passengers had donned personal flotation devices as a precaution," Moore told The (Charleston) Post and Courier.
The cruise line said passengers whose cabins were flooded were being flown home from Charleston and the safety of the ship "was in no way compromised by this incident." Each passenger on the ship got a refund of half the trip's cost and a voucher for half the price of a future cruise, Robison said.
Fraley said cruise ship employees also opened the bar.
"They tried giving free alcohol away to make up for it," he said. "That's not going to do it."
The ship left New York last Sunday with 2,500 passengers aboard. Robison said about 300 passengers decided not to return by boat. About 100 people were flown back to New York and the rest made their own arrangements, Robison said.