BUENOS AIRES – A damaged cruise ship reached Argentina's southernmost port early Friday with its 88 American passengers and 77 crew members safe after a large wave broke its bridge window and cut off its communications and radar.
The Clelia II was to stay four days in Antarctica but had to sail back to its scheduled port of Ushuaia after only two days because of the incident on Tuesday, according to passengers.
It was a very slow trip in heavy weather, said passenger Denis Smyth, a 68-year-old U.S. Navy veteran from Rockville Point, New York.
"I am an ex-Navy person, so I was used to it, but it was very rough. There were a lot of days when people were too sick to eat," he told the Associated Press by telephone from Ushuaia.
Smyth said a large wave broke loose a a railing that smashed through the window of the bridge. Water then poured in, short-circuiting the communications and radar.
"About five or six fell and several had black eyes and bruises," Smyth said. "When the ship lurched, several people went flying across the lounge."
At another point, a half-dozen people fell off their chairs during a wildlife lecture, but no one was seriously injured, he said.
The Clelia II declared an emergency on Tuesday when it was northeast of the South Shetland Islands and about 500 miles (845 kilometers) from Ushuaia, the Argentine Navy said in a statement.
The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators said in a statement there were "no injuries to passengers, although one member of the crew sustained minor injuries."
Smyth said "the only concern I had was when we lost all communications and radar. We were basically blind out there."
"But I don't think we ever were totally in fear of our lives," he added.
Another ship, the National Geographic Explorer, accompanied the Clelia II most of the time day and then sailed alongside it in support.
Smyth said the passengers, aged between 50 and 85, paid upwards of $9,000 a person for their berths.
The 77 crew members were 44 from the Philippines and the rest from Greece, Bulgaria, Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Chile, Croatia, France, Denmark, Hungary, Indonesia, Ukraine, Romania, Britain and the United States.
The ship had set out from Ushuaia on Nov. 30. It is operated by Travel Dynamics International of New York and owned by Helios Shipping of Piraeus, Greece.
Despite the accident and having had to cut his Antarctic tour short, Smyth said "everybody enjoyed the experience overall" because they were able to see penguins, sea lions and lots of birds.
"I am very satisfied. I saw what I came down to see," he said.
(This version CORRECTS wording of some quotes.)