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NEW YORK (CBS News) — Thursday’s winter storm pummeled the Tri-State Area, but imagine being in the thick of it on a cruise ship in the Atlantic Ocean. For 21 members of the Ross family, of Stony Brook, it was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime, CBS New York reports.

They were cruising to the Bahamas for their patriarch’s 80th birthday. Instead, they returned Friday after what they called a nightmare onboard the Norwegian Breakaway.

“I thought I’d never be in a situation where I would say that’s the scariest moment of my life. This was the worst moment of my life,” said Karoline Ross, speaking exclusively with CBS New York.

She and Del Ross spoke with the station while they were en route to New York, after they said their 4,000 passenger cruise ship sailed right into the storm Tuesday night for two harrowing days in ocean swells up to 30 feet. The seasoned boaters called it traumatic.

“When you’re on a boat in the middle of the ocean and water is pouring down the stairs, you’re thinking ‘this is not going to end well,” Karoline said.

“Our room was full on two inches of water. The elevator shafts were dripping water everywhere,” Del said.

Water poured from the ceiling, as the ship began leaking. Passengers described panic and seasickness on social media. Dozens huddled in the ship’s atrium to sleep.

“There were people crying, everyone was throwing up. it was a nightmare,” said Olivia Ross. “It was so tilted I was shaking.”

The family said there was broken glass everywhere and the showers were exploding.

“I’m completely traumatized. I’ll never go on any type of boat again in my life after this,” fellow passenger Emma Franzese told CBS New York once the ship docked.

“I was holding on for dear life. I honestly wasn’t sure we were going to make it through the night. The boat was tilted like crazy,” said passenger Conor Vogt.

“Everything fell off our shelf, glasses broke in the middle of the night. There was no announcement made,” passenger Luisa Franzese said.

CBS New York asked Norwegian Cruise Line why the decision was made to sail back to New York in the middle of what was forecast to be a monster coastal storm.

The cruise line initially released a statement, apologizing to travelers that were delayed for the company’s next embarkment, but made no mention of those who weathered the storm:

“Due to winter storm Grayson, Norwegian Breakaway will have a delayed arrival into New York today. As a result, Norwegian Breakaway’s 14 day cruise that was originally scheduled to depart on January 5, will now depart on Saturday, January 6, at 3 p.m. Due to the ship’s late arrival today, and the ongoing weather situation, embarking guests are encouraged to arrive to the pier on Saturday morning. All guests must be onboard by 1 p.m. on January 6. Guests unable to adjust their travel are welcome to board on Friday evening between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. The ship will now sail a slightly adjusted itinerary, which will be communicated to guests onboard. All guests will receive a refund of one day of their cruise fare, in the form of an onboard credit. We sincerely thank our guests for their understanding of this unexpected change due to the weather and apologize to our guests for any disruption to their schedule,” the statement said.

They later sent a second statement:

“During the early morning hours of January 4, Norwegian Breakaway encountered stronger than forecasted weather conditions due to winter storm Grayson during the trip’s return to New York from the Bahamas. All guests and crew are safe. We sincerely apologize to our guests for these stronger than expected weather conditions and any resulting discomfort they may have experienced.”

“The captain should’ve told us a little more. He kept saying, ‘we’re in rough seas.’ Well no crap we’re in rough seas,” passenger Brenda Wriedt said.

Elizabeth Vogt, of the Upper East Side, praised the crew.

“Some of them were scared, but they put on a really happy face,” she said, but added the ordeal was terrifying. “I flew across the room, landed in the bathroom, and then I got up, I got into my bed and said a prayer. That’s how I felt that night.”

Back on terra firma, the Ross family said they will be asking for a refund for nine stateroom, but what they really want are answers.

“He took all our lives in his hands, and we were really in a bad spot. It was really horrible,” Karoline said.

“It’s more about revenue. It wasn’t so much about safety,” said Del. “We were dead center of the storm, and I really think it was a poor decision.”

“If they knew the storm was coming in, they should’ve already just taken us back. We’d rather get home a day early than have to go through something like this,” fellow passenger Barbara Stevenson-Felder said.

The Breakaway was supposed to embark on another cruise from the West Side on Friday, but instead will leave Saturday.

CBS New York reached out to other cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean, which said its ships were safely south of the storm when it hit.

**PHOTO: CBS NEWS

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Comment on this Story

  • john_lightner

    They should have asked President Dotard to fly his helicopter onboard and steer them out of harm’s way. He could have done it. Only he and you know who can walk on water.

    • TheDarkOne

      President Dotard was too busy playing golf and attempting to quiet Sloppy Steve Bannon to worry about some ship caught in a dangerous North Atlantic storm. Plus any self-described genius such as Trump would be way too busy cutting BIG deals with the Russian mob to even care.

  • Paul Smith

    The person describing the weather encountered by this cruise ship as a boat is not a veteran sailor. And probably has little if any idea of the risks posed by rough weather. In fact today’s cruise ships can handle almost any severe weather, although the ride can be scary for people who have not experienced rough seas.

    A cruise ship is just that: a ship. The little ships hanging from the along the sides of the main ship, usually on or deck 4, are boats.

    Ships can and do encounter rough seas. If you don’t like that idea, stay off of cruise ships.

    Having spent time as a Marine on a cruiser, I can tell you that 30 foot seas are an everyday occurrence in the North Atlantic. But if you have never been in rough weather, then you inexperience may tell you that you are sinking.

    The media grabs passenger accounts without any knowledge of the passengers sea experiences. And then they blow it out of proportion.

    • Famj Jensen

      A person who has never been in a fight and gets assaulted is traumatised. A person who fights all the time will brush it off. Thanks Capt Obvious. Tell us the name of your book so you can flesh out more of your war stories since that’s the real reason you are here.

    • Zee Bollinger

      Paul, your reply is ridiculous, and frankly insulting. These people aren’t tough diaper Marines like you obviously are. They are normal folk vacationers who trusted a cruise line to care for them. Care for them not like veteran Marine personnel, but normal civilian folk who because of their inexperience need a specific type of care and handling. The cruise line failed to live up to that standard. That you can’t or refuse to acknowledge that is beyond insensitive. It’s boastful and demeaning.

      • Paul Smith

        The issue is the credit worthiness of the passenger’s account of the incident. Most people don’t understand the risks.

        The media frequently picks out one or two passengers who describe a scary situation. Describing a situation as scary is different than being able to understand and describe the real the risks.

        I am also a pilot. I hold every license the FAA issues. I frequently read stories of folks on a commercial airplane describing a harrying experience. In fact, in most instances, they don’t know what they are talking about. Most people don’t even know why an airplane is able to over the forces of gravity and fly.

        One of the best examples are the stories of people on a commercial flight that hits turbulent air. To hear them tell it the plane dropped 1,000 feet, when in fact they have no idea how far it dropped or whether it dropped at all.

        • TheDarkOne

          These are passengers some elderly. I’ve worked as a merchant marine all over the globe and your dismissive comments that they should have known what they were in for and to suck it up is ridiculous. It’s a PASSENGER CRUISE SHIP not a military or merchant vessel. Get off your high horse buddy!

  • JeanSC

    Recently I finished reading Sir Ernest Shackleton’s book “South: The Last Antarctic Expedition of Shackleton and Endurance”. The “worst journey in the world” was in a small, relatively open boat from Elephant Island to South Georgia, in the frigid waters of the Southern Ocean – and the men suffering from the cold and wet had to actually do all the work to help the boat get from one island to the other, instead of having the luxury of being mere cowering passengers. I think every passenger who endured this scary cruise should be given a copy of this book to read.

  • Bunch of landlubbers. They should have been charged extra for that ride.

  • MiMi’s Heart

    Never ceases to amaze me how some will belittle the feelings of others based on nothing other than their own experience. Humans are not cookie cutter beings. If someone dear to Mr. and/or Ms. HardasNails comes home with a terrifying tale only to be met with shrugging shoulders and a laugh, what does that say about all of us? Traumatized? Keep it to yourself because no no one cares. Or tough and never frightened? Just wait ’til that one moment when fear comes, and it does. Will those you denied comfort and understanding to be there for you?

    This cruise should have never happened. It was a corporate decision to sail into that storm. A schedule had to be kept. While grateful that all are physically safe, that does little to sway me in trusting a company with my loved ones in the future. All should pay heed to how much a human being is worth, or in this case, 4000 humans, when it come to a bottom line.