Freak Wave Bashes Norwegian Dawn; Delays Return

April 17, 2005
As Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Dawn cruised north on its way home to New York Saturday, it was slammed by a 70-ft. "freak wave" that broke windows in two cabins and flooded another 60.

Also damaged, according to media reports, were windows on the 9th and 10th floors, gift shop, and theater, not to mention bars, which lost of much of their glassware, and the lido buffet, whose food displays wound up on the floor. On the crew deck, two whirlpools were destroyed and a railing was wrenched from its mooring. Passenger injuries have not been reported.

The ship had been battling rough seas through the night although reportedly the storm had begun to pass. The battered Norwegian Dawn suffered no serious damage but was diverted to Charleston Saturday afternoon for repairs. Crew members immediately began to clean up the mess, according to Cruise Critic community member EileenN, who posted from the ship. "Most of all [there was] a great, great, crew willing to do whatever they could to make you comfortable. Clean-up started immediately and spirits are high." The ship also offered passengers "open bar" service.

According to a company statement, folks in the affected cabins are being flown home. The rest of the passengers stayed on board. All passengers will receive a 50 percent refund and 50 percent discount on a future cruise.

Upon completion of the repairs, Norwegian Dawn will return to New York. Because of the delay, however, the ship is not expected to dock in Manhattan until sometime on Monday -- which means that travelers booked on Sunday's April 17 departure will have to wait another day.

Also, in some cases, damaged cabins -- particularly those that lined the front of the ship -- will not be fixed in time and passengers who'd booked those staterooms have been notified of their own cancellation.

Norwegian Dawn left Charleston at just after midnight on Sunday following completion of the repairs and inspection of the repairs by the U.S. Coast Guard. An updated company statement notes that it anticipates Norwegian Dawn will dock in New York at noon on Monday and expects to begin embarkation at 3 p.m. In the meantime, the itinerary, as we noted earlier, has been altered (and actually may be changed again, according to the company statement). The ship will depart on Monday, be at sea on Tuesday, call in Orlando Wednesday, Miami on Thursday, and Nassau on Friday before returning to New York. But -- in response to passenger complaints about missing a call at Great Stirrup Cay, NCL's private island -- the ship's captain has said that if weather conditions warrant, the ship will skip Miami instead. Norwegian Dawn will return to New York as scheduled next Sunday.

In terms of compensation for folks boarding Monday, the NCL announcement, which appears on its website, says that "in accordance with Norwegian Dawn's Winter Weather Guarantee, guests on the upcoming cruise will receive a $100 per person ($200 maximum per stateroom) onboard credit and additionally, the cruise fare will be prorated by one day, which will be refunded to the passenger's onboard account along with the onboard credit."

This isn't the first rogue wave ever to hit a cruise ship -- not by a long shot. Rogue waves, defined as unpredictable waves that occur at random, have already sidelined two ships this year alone. The University of Pittsburgh's Semester at Sea, which has chartered the M/V Explorer (formerly known as Royal Olympic's Olympia Explorer), was battered by one in the Pacific and Iberojet's Voyager (formerly known as Royal Olympic's Olympia Voyager) was slammed off the coast of Spain.

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