PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. – Sen. Bill Nelson today called on the National Transportation Safety Board to investigate the circumstances surrounding a Royal Caribbean cruise ship’s decision to sail right into the heart of a hurricane-force storm this weekend.
Nelson, the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee which oversees the NTSB, made the call in a speech on the Senate floor Monday afternoon.
“Why in the world is a ship going anywhere close to where the hurricane could be?” Nelson said. “I want the National Transportation Safety Board to come up with a quick report.”
Nelson went on to cite the similarities between this latest incident and an incident last year involving the cargo ship El Faro which sank after it sailed into the path of a hurricane while traveling from Jacksonville to Puerto Rico.
Nelson wants the NTSB to investigate this new incident as part of their ongoing investigation into the sinking of the El Faro.
“I want the National [Transportation] Safety Board to come up with answers very quickly and make an admonition to mariners: when the storm is brewing, you don't go out of port,” Nelson said.
The Royal Caribbean cruise ship that suffered damage as it sailed through a storm, sending passengers to their cabins overnight, has turned around to head back to to its home port of Cape Liberty, New Jersey, instead of continuing on its way to Port Canaveral.
Royal Caribbean announced the news Monday on its corporate Twitter account.
Passengers said the storm started midafternoon Sunday, and the captain of the ship Anthem of the Seas ordered them to their staterooms for their safety.
The ship was sailing down the U.S. East Coast when it encountered the storm. Winds gusted over 100 mph at the height of the bad weather.
Four passengers suffered minor injuries, officials said.
The cruise line said in its tweets that the decision to turn back was made for guests' comfort because of weather forecasts that would have affected the ship's itinerary.
The tweets said guests will receive full refunds and certificates toward a future cruise.
"We appreciate our guests' patience and cooperation. We know it was tough day on Sunday," the cruise line also tweeted.
Passengers posted pictures on social media of tossed furniture and broken vases.
Royal Caribbean released a statement Monday morning about the incident.
"On Sunday, February 7, while sailing to Port Canaveral, Florida, Anthem of the Seas experienced extreme wind and sea conditions, with wind speeds higher than what was forecasted. In an abundance of caution, the captain asked all guests to stay in their stateroom until the weather improved. At this time, there have not been any serious injuries reported. 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 statement said.
Anthem of the Seas is one of Royal Caribbean's newest ships, and it's among the largest cruise ships in the world. The vessel can hold nearly 5,000 passengers.
Stay with News 6 and ClickOrlando.com for updates on this developing story.