Autistic children “traumatized” by Royal Caribbean storm cruise, but company says lawsuit meritless

The lawsuits are mounting for Royal Caribbean following its ill-fated February cruise that was rocked by hurricane-force winds off the Carolinas.

On Monday, 40 families of children with autism sued the luxury cruise company saying officials were negligent in their actions to sail the Anthem of the Seas into the storm despite forecasts that predicted turbulent weather.

Anthem of the Seas
Anthem of the Seas

According to the suit, which seeks class-action status and was filed in federal court in Miami, the families and their aides were “hurled against cabin walls, floors and furniture, sustaining bodily and psychic injuries.”

“There were 40 families with Autism Spectrum Disorder children aboard the vessel and parents and aides did their best to protect themselves and their children who were being severely battered and traumatized,” the suit claims.

This is the third lawsuit filed against Royal Caribbean in Miami federal court in relation to the Feb. 6 Anthem of the Seas cruise.

According to the three suits, the captain of the Anthem of the Seas told passengers there was a weather system building along the east coast and that he intended to “outrun the growing storm.”

Royal Caribbean said in a statement the suit does not have merit.

“Our crew took great care in attending to the needs of all our guests both during and after the incident,” a statement sent to The Post said. “The safety of our guests and crew is our first priority. Our captain has been commended for the skillful way in which he managed the ship in an unexpectedly severe storm, keeping the ship safe and minimizing injuries.”

The company has previously said planning “gaps” allowed the ship to sail into the storm. 

Map provided in the DeLuca lawsuit.
Map included in a lawsuit filed by Frank DeLuca.

Earlier this month, the Anthem of the Seas cut a trip short because of concerns over a similar storm that was threatening gale force winds off the Carolinas.

Last month, the Anthem of the Seas cut another cruise short fearing similar bad weather. 

The suit filed by the autistic families, Donna Incardone and Constance Savage vs. Royal Caribbean Cruises, claims negligent infliction of emotional distress and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

“Royal Caribbean’s conduct in both placing the subject vessel in a violent storm and subjecting fragile passengers and their caregivers to a reasonable fear of death and/or injury to their children or charges, despite Royal Caribbean’s prior knowledge of the impending storm, was outrageous,” the suit claims. “Royal Caribbean chose profit over the safety and welfare of its passengers.”

Photo provided in DeLuca lawsuit of damage to Anthem of the Seas.
Photo provided in DeLuca lawsuit of damage to Anthem of the Seas.

Man tries for class action after Anthem of the Seas “terror” cruise

A New Jersey man has filed a federal lawsuit in Miami against Royal Caribbean following last month’s storm-tossed cruise where the luxury liner Anthem of the Seas was rocked by hurricane-force winds.

Frank DeLuca is seeking class action status on behalf of the estimated 4,000 passengers who “were subjected to hours of sheer terror as the gigantic cruise ship was battered.”

The suit claims negligence and infliction of intentional and negligent emotional distress, including the “reasonable fear of death.”

Map provided in the DeLuca lawsuit.
Map provided in the DeLuca lawsuit.

The ship encountered a powerful low pressure system off the coast of the Carolinas that included 30-foot waves and 100 mph winds.

DeLuca claims the “terror” was amplified by the knowledge that the cargo ship El Faro sunk in Hurricane Joaquin during the 2015 hurricane season.

“Just months after one of the worst maritime tragedies in recent history, (Royal Caribbean’s) knowing, intentional and reckless conduct subjects it to the imposition of punitive damages,” the lawsuit states.

DeLuca’s suit is at least the second to be filed following the Anthem of the Seas incident.

Photo provided in DeLuca lawsuit of damage to Anthem of the Seas.
Photo provided in DeLuca lawsuit of damage to Anthem of the Seas.

 

A previous action was filed by passenger Bruce J. Simpson in federal court in Miami who claims Royal Caribbean knowingly sailed into the massive low pressure system, putting passengers and crew members in “serious risk.”

“We believe Royal Caribbean was under financial pressure to start the cruise on time,” said Simpson’s attorney Jason Itkin in a statement. “They took a calculated risk taking passengers into the storm, and we don’t think the passengers should be the ones that pay for Royal Caribbean’s lack of judgement.”

Itkin’s firm, Houston-based Arnold and Itkin, is also representing families of sailors who died when the cargo ship El Faro.

According to DeLuca’s suit, the captain of the Anthem of the Seas told passengers there was a weather system building along the east coast and that he intended to “outrun the growing storm.”

Royal Caribbean does not comment on pending litigation. Earlier this week, the Anthem of the Seas cut a trip short because of concerns over a similar storm that was threatening gale force winds off the Carolinas.

Photo provided in the DeLuca lawsuit to Anthem of the Seas.
Photo provided in the DeLuca lawsuit to Anthem of the Seas.

A post on Royal Caribbean’s Twitter account announced the turnaround Saturday, saying the ship was returning to Cape Liberty, N.J., immediately “to avoid a severe storm and provide guests with a comfortable journey back.”

The Miami law firm of Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina and Winkleman are representing DeLuca.

Anthem of the Seas turns around fearing more foul weather

Royal Caribbean’s luxury liner Anthem of the Seas is headed back to port for a second time this month after concerns over possible turbulent weather.

A post on Royal Caribbean’s Twitter account announced the turnaround yesterday, saying the ship was returning to Cape Liberty, N.J., immediately “to avoid a severe storm and provide guests with a comfortable journey back.”

Anthem of the Seas
Anthem of the Seas

The 1,141-foot ship, which can carry 4,900 guests, sailed into a hurricane-strength low pressure system with 100 mph winds on Feb. 7 and has since faced criticism about its decision to continue into the severe weather.

At least one passenger who claims he was injured during the Feb. 7 event has sued Royal Caribbean for negligence.

“Based on the most recent weather forecast, if Anthem of the Seas continues on its regular scheduled itinerary, the ship would encounter the brunt of the large and powerful storm on the return to Cape Liberty,” the company said in a statement issued today. “On a recent sailing, Anthem of the Seas experienced bad weather that was much worse than forecast; therefore, we want to be extra cautious about our guest’s safety and comfort when it comes to weather in the area.”

Capture
48-hour forecast from Ocean Prediction Center shows a developing gale off the Carolinas.

Royal Caribbean will provide each guest with credit in the amount of two days of the cruise fare paid for the Feb. 21 sailing. It will be applied directly to their on board account and may be used for any on board purchase or service, according to today’s statement.

A 48-hour forecast from the Ocean Prediction Center shows a developing gale off the coast of the Carolinas.

The lawsuit filed by former passenger Bruce J. Simpson in federal court in Miami claims Royal Caribbean knowingly sailed into a massive low pressure system that formed off the Carolinas earlier this month, putting passengers and crew members in “serious risk.”

“We believe Royal Caribbean was under financial pressure to start the cruise on time,” said Simpson’s attorney Jason Itkin in a statement. “They took a calculated risk taking passengers into the storm, and we don’t think the passengers should be the ones that pay for Royal Caribbean’s lack of judgement.”

Itkin’s firm, Houston-based Arnold and Itkin, is also representing families of sailors who died when the cargo ship El Faro sank during Hurricane Joaquin.

“As we file this lawsuit, a Marine Board hearing in Jacksonville is under way with the goal of discovering why 33 mariners perished when the cargo ship El Faro foundered during Hurricane Joaquin,” Itkin said. “It suggests an alarming trend of ship operators risking lives in order to maintain tight schedules and guard profits.”

Anthem of the Seas passenger says he was knocked out on storm cruise

A passenger on the luxury cruise ship Anthem of the Seas says he was knocked unconscious after the ship sailed into a massive storm and has filed a lawsuit alleging negligence.

The suit, filed by Bruce J. Simpson in federal court in Miami, claims Royal Caribbean knowingly sailed into a massive low pressure system that formed off the Carolinas this month, putting passengers and crew members in “serious risk.”

Anthem of the Seas
Anthem of the Seas

The 1,141-foot ship, which can carry 4,900 guests, was tossed in hurricane-force winds as high as 100 mph during the storm. Passengers were ordered to their rooms on Feb. 7 while the captain tried to negotiate the worsening storm.

Royal Caribbean could not immediately be reached for comment, but previously said the storm was called “unexpected” with wind speeds “higher than what was forecast.”

Simpson said he was hanging onto the bed in his room as the ship “pitched back and forth, sometimes tipping at a 45-degree angle.

When Simpson let go of the bed to use the bathroom, he said the ship “pitched violently, flinging him nearly 18 feet, from the edge of the bed, head first into the exit door of his room.”

“He was hurled across the room with such force, that he was knocked unconscious,” according to the lawsuit.

Meteorologists balked at the idea the storm was not predicted. According to National Weather Service spokeswoman Susan Buchanan, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Ocean Prediction Center was alerting to a strong storm four days in advance of its formation and issued a graphical alert Friday at 1 p.m. for “developing hurricane-force winds.”

From passenger photos, damage to the ship appeared to be mostly minor with furniture tossed around and broken décor. Anthem of the Seas took its maiden voyage less than a year ago, and remained “seaworthy at all times” according to the company. Four people reported minor injuries.

But Simpson’s complaint says that the medical office on the ship was overwhelmed with people.

“Some people were in wheelchairs and other had their arms in slights,” the lawsuit states.

Robert Huschka, the executive editor of the Detroit Free Press who was on the ship, told USA Today at the time that even the captain had been shaken by the trip: “The captain told everyone this morning that the day was among his most challenging — if not his most challenging — at sea.”

“I’m not going to lie,” Huschka added. “It was truly terrifying.”

 

 

Royal Caribbean says planning “gaps” allowed ship to sail into storm

Royal Caribbean apologized today for sailing into a massive storm on Sunday, saying it had “identified gaps” in its planning system.

The 1,100-foot Anthem of the Seas was rocked by the low pressure system off coast of the Carolinas, one that the company called unexpected but that meteorologists said had been well forecast.

wv-animated
The storm that rocked Anthem of the Seas on Sunday

“What happened this week showed that we need to do better,” a statement from the company said. “We apologize for exposing our guests and crew to the weather they faced, and for what they went through.”

The company says its luxury liner experienced 120 mph winds during the storm that left passengers confined to rooms and triggered a request for an investigation by a leading Florida lawmaker.

It is adding resources at its Miami headquarters to provide additional guidance to captains.

Still, it says the severity of the storm far exceeded forecasts.

Meteorologists called the company out for claiming the storm wasn’t predicted.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., requested that the NTSB review the incident as part of its investigation into the circumstances of the cargo ship El Faro, which sank in October after sailing into the path of Hurricane Joaquin. All 33 crew members aboard the ship were killed.

Today, the NTSB said the cargo ship investigation includes a weather group that is reviewing the decision process by the ship’s owner, TOTE Maritime, in operating ships in hurricanes.

“The Anthem of the Seas incident may provide us an additional opportunity to learn best practices that cruise line operators employ for operating in heavy weather,” the NTSB said in a statement.

Much of the superficial damage to Anthem of the Seas has been repaired and the company expects Anthem of the Seas to resume her planned itinerary for next week’s cruise.

Of more than 6,000 people on board the 18-deck ship, four reported minor injuries.

Anthem of the Seas
Anthem of the Seas