Anthem: ‘Bad luck’ but not ‘cursed’ as media says

Anthem of the Seas safely in port. Picture: Daily Star, UK.

Anthem of the Seas safely in port. Picture: Daily Star, UK.

‘Storm-battered’, ‘bad luck’ and even ‘cursed’ are just three of the epithets applied by the media to Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas cruise ship after the early return to port after its latest voyage was curtailed.

And, although the shipping line said that the ship was turned around to avoid another storm, passengers have said that it was sickness, not weather, that forced this cruise to have an early finish.

According to reports from passengers, on Monday the captain informed them that 109 passengers were sick with norovirus but this figure was increased on Tuesday when the US Centers for Disease Control’s data line listed the ship. It said 125 passengers and 16 crew were infected at that stage. Although the CDC listed the cause as ‘unknown’, if it turns out to be norovirus, it would make Anthem the fourth America-based cruise ship to suffer that fate this year.

Of the descriptions given by the Press, the ship was certainly battered by the stronger than forecast storm that hit it last month. However, the damage seems to have been restricted to elements of the hotel aspects of the ship; the actual structure and sea-worthiness was unaffected.

That the ship has now run into another difficulty, a second cruise cut short, it certainly indicates that it has encountered some bad luck. But to go so far as to describe the vessel as cursed is a complete and unfair overreaction by journalists sensationalising their stories. The ‘cursed’ cruise ship theme made a great headline for the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper which asked “Is the Anthem of the Seas Cursed?” Meanwhile, in the US, news stories in the Inquisitr, Newsmax, and the Examiner all joined in by calling Anthem as ‘cursed’.

After a career in journalism, I feel qualified to agree that Anthem was storm-battered last month and this incident does point to some bad luck – but ‘cursed’? Really? Pure nonsense of course.

Now the ship is back in its home port of Cape Liberty in Bayonne, New Jersey, and undergoing a deep clean to rid it of the norovirus or anything else it may be. I say this because some passengers have claimed that CDC personnel boarded the ship in Puerto Rico to test for e-coli. In the days and weeks to come, we will all be told the findings of the CDC and any element of mystery regarding the infection will be dispelled.

One criticism that must be levelled at Royal Caribbean was that it was wrong to blame the early return to port as a precaution because of a storm threat. Even if that was true, the outbreak of illness should not have been ignored – some may say hidden. Passengers were correctly kept informed by the captain and it should have been the company who told the world at the same time – not leaving the story to leak out via passengers. On this occasion, RCI’s public relations team did themselves and the company no good at all.

One final point. As I am so confident that the ship is not ‘cursed’, would I sail on it again? Absolutely, I have every faith in the ship, its captain and crew.  I’d go on its next cruise, if I had the chance.

Royal Caribbean cruise ship Anthem caught in storm but don’t panic, Captain Claus is so cool in command

Captain Claus Andersen with me on board Anthem of the Seas while crossing the Atlantic last year.

Captain Claus Andersen with me on board Anthem of the Seas while crossing the Atlantic last year.

News that Royal Caribbean’s cruise ship Anthem of the Seas was hit by a bad storm with hurricane force winds and huge waves on its current trip took me back to Lisa’s and my time aboard that very ship last year.

We sailed from Southampton in late October and docked in Bayonne in early November, having just enjoyed a nine-day crossing of the Atlantic Ocean.

It was the latest in a series of voyages that we have taken since the UK Multiple Sclerosis Society gave us a grant of £1200 to go on a two-week cruise in 2013.

Last year’s trip was the ship’s major relocation journey to its new home port in New Jersey.

That cruise experienced bad weather too. We went through two storms separated by some 100mph winds. There were huge waves too. At one point, while enjoying a meal in one of the ship’s many restaurants, we could see waves reaching the top of the windows.

Distances are so far on board a ship that they are well beyond my walking ability, so I have to rely on my wheelchair but, having a left-side weakness because of my MS, Lisa has to push me. Not that she minds, joking that she enjoys ‘pushing me about’.

Yes, it was a bit rocky for a couple or three days but nothing that the ship or its crew could not handle. However, for Lisa it was more difficult as normally level floorways could suddenly become uphill, downhill or even have a sideways slant. Still, we managed it without incident.

Throughout the rough seas, the calmness of all on board was personified by the ship’s master, Captain Claus Andersen, who exuded confidence and control.

Anthem of the Seas.

Anthem of the Seas.

At one point before encountering the first storm, he was addressing passengers assembled on the Esplanade. He asked if they thought the trip so far had been calm or rough. Having got a chorus of replies of ‘calm’, he said with a smile that, in that case, we could look forward to some variations of calm in the next few days.

Every day, Captain Claus (which he pronounces ‘Close’) went on the ship’s TV channel with the cruise director to look at the weather ahead. It was all explained easily and very clearly.

I had an opportunity to speak with the captain and asked him how much time he actually spent on the bridge, bearing in mind he has a team of experienced officers there. He explained that the job of captain was so demanding that, in fact, very little of his time was actually spent there. However, he agreed that during stormy weather, that was exactly where he was. That was where he needed to be, he explained.

During the storm that hit the ship this time, I am sure that Captain Claus remained as calm and in control as he was when crossing the Atlantic last year. He is a credit to not only himself but to Royal Caribbean too.

Also, in response to the captain’s decision to curtail the cruise and return to port, I have to commend the cruise line’s very speedy decision to refund all passengers 100% of the cruise ticket price plus give them 50% off the cost of their next cruise.

Well done, Royal Caribbean.

Patricia hits Mexico while UK is on ‘storm alert’

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UPDATE: Hurricane Patricia has made landfall in Mexico’s Jalisco province in which major tourist destination Puerto Vallarta is situated. Hundreds of thousands of people are said to be in its path.

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Storms lie ahead. Nothing strange in that, it is just a difference in scale. As the British news media gets its figurative knickers in a twist (USA translation ‘panties in a bunch’) about the country being on storm alert, the people of Mexico are facing the threat of a hurricane said to be the strongest ever in either the eastern Pacific or the Atlantic.

Apparently, shock horror, Britain is bracing itself to be battered by torrential rain and gales that will accompany temperatures as low as -4C (25F). Well, that should give them something to talk about – after all the weather is one of the favourite subjects of their conversations. (And don’t bother even thinking about taking issue with me for making such a generalisation; remember, I am a Brit).

Wind speed alone puts these two events of nature into perspective as “This weekend will see 60mph winds while downpours will threaten flooding in parts of Britain.” That’s obviously serious headline news; well, let’s look a bit further westward. There we can see that Hurricane Patricia, has sustained wind speeds of up to 200mph. Now, that IS a storm.

Hurricane Patricia has been designated as a category 5, the worst possible. Its power is similar to that of Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 7,300 dead or missing in the Philippines two years ago, according to the UN’s World Meteorological Organisation.

So, while the British ‘brace’ themselves for a supposedly wintry storm, those unfortunate enough to be living in the path of Hurricane Patricia have been warned by the US Hurricane Center to expect it to make a potentially catastrophic landfall.

Homes are being boarded up, doors are being sandbagged to try and prevent flooding and people are rushing to stores to buy non-perishable foods as emergency provisions. A State of Emergency has been declared in Colima, Jalisco and Nayarit. An estimated 50,000 people are being evacuated from the areas considered most at risk.

The Hurricane Center, which is based in Miami, has also said that preparations should be completed quickly, warning that Hurricane Patricia could cause coastal flooding, destructive waves and flash floods. A powerful storm surge is expected to make a severe impact, followed by heavy rain over the mountains with the rainwater draining back to the already flooded lowlands. “First it will get the saltwater flood and then, as that goes away, the freshwater flood will come,” said one US television weather forecaster.

It is expected to hit the Mexican coast, somewhere around Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo areas during Friday afternoon or evening, local time, which means late evening or very early hours of the morning for readers in Britain or mainland Europe.

Talking of Britain, although the storm expected there is so minor in the scale of things, one thing can easily be predicted; no matter how accurate the warnings and predictions, neither the authorities nor the people will be prepared.