Cruise ship tossed in hurricane-force storm turning around, officials say

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The thousands of cruise passengers who endured a violent Atlantic storm with 100-mph winds will be heading back to their starting point in New Jersey instead of continuing to Florida, Royal Caribbean announced Monday.

The Anthem of the Seas cruise liner is turning around and returning to Cape Liberty to avoid sailing into even more rough weather, officials said. More than 6,000 people are on board.

Officials promised full refunds and 50% off a future cruise if passengers ever wanted to set sail again. They also gave guests free Internet access and a complimentary cocktail hour, spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez said in an email.

"I can't wait to get home and kiss the ground," said passenger Jacob Ibrag, who saw water flowing down stairs and helped some people who were stuck in an elevator Sunday as he made his way to his cabin per the captain's orders.

"We appreciate our guests’ patience and cooperation. We know it was tough day on Sunday apologize for their discomfort," Royal Carribean tweeted.

The cruise liner, reportedly the third-largest ever built, sailed right into the storm off the Carolinas Sunday afternoon, one day after it left New Jersey on its way to Port Canaveral. Waves of up to 30 feet rocked the ship back and forth.

Fortunately, nobody was seriously hurt, according to Royal Caribbean. But photos and video posted on social media showed toppled chairs and tables, shattered vases and broken ceiling tiles.

Many passengers said they were stuck in their rooms for several hours after the captain urged them not to go anywhere until the seas were calmer.

"I was shaking all over," passenger Shara Strand of New York City wrote to The Associated Press via Facebook on Monday. "Panic attack, things like that ... I've been on over 20 cruises, I've been through a hurricane, it was never like this. Never. Everyone is saying they never saw anything like last night."

More than 4,500 passengers and more than 1,600 crew members are on board, a spokeswoman tells USA Today. The voyage was originally scheduled to last 7 days, continuing on to the Bahamas, according to ABC News.

"The ship has sustained some damage to the public areas and guest staterooms, which in no way affect the sea-worthiness of the ship," the company reported.

Robert Huschka, the executive editor of the Detroit Free Press, was aboard and found a silver lining in the storm. On Monday morning, he tweeted: "The good news? They never lost the Super Bowl signal. Perfect TV picture throughout storm!"

The Associated Press contributed to this report.