Not so smooth sailing

Cruise to Bahamas for Stratford couple halted after ship sails through storm

Rick Marcone and Jancee Pust-Marcone had their eyes and minds set on a relaxing and fun-filled cruise to the Bahamas.

The couple expected their journey aboard Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas, which started on Feb. 6, to be a delightful adventure, a far cry from the deep chill and snow gripping Stratford in recent weeks.

Little did the Marcones know that the vacation would instead turn into a rollicking time at sea, complete with high waves, heavy winds and frought nerves.

The Marcones were among 4,600 passengers and 1,600 crew members aboard the Royal Caribbean ship that left Port Liberty, N.J., almost two weeks ago.

The couple, married for 27 years, had planned to take the trip months ago. They and other Stratford residents had planned to join the Bunnell High School marching band on the trip south. The BHS band’s trip was canceled by Stratford Schools Superintendent Janet Robinson after the terrorist attacks on Paris on Nov. 13. The Marcones decided to take the trip by themselves.

“We decided to go ahead and go on the trip since our friends were already booked,” Jancee said. “We’ve been looking forward to the trip. Obviously, it’s away from the snow, especially since we got snow on the Friday before we were leaving.”

Although Jancee Pust-Marcone had been on cruises before this voyage, the couple were excited about the trip aboard the big ship, the second largest boat in Royal Caribbean’s fleet.

Damage to the top of the Anthem of the Seas the morning after the ship went through a heavy storm. — Jancee Pust-Marcone photo

Damage to the top of the Anthem of the Seas the morning after the ship went through a heavy storm. — Jancee Pust-Marcone photo

Before the trip began, Rick Marcone said, the ship’s captain told the passengers that the ship might encounter some rough water as they headed south.

“The rest of Saturday was fine. When we woke up on Sunday morning, the water was getting choppy [and] the wind was picking up,” he said.

The Marcones enjoyed themselves for most of Sunday, Feb. 7, but heard from the ship’s captain that the weather was going to be harsher than previously anticipated. Passengers were advised at about 2:30 p.m. Sunday to head back to their cabins. Jancee told Rick that the warning wasn’t normal.

The Marcones went back to their cabin, with the water becoming rougher. The crew had originally planned to air the Super Bowl on a 20-foot screen, but those plans were scrapped as the sea became more challenging off the coast of Cape Hatteras, N.C.

While Rick had thought people would be allowed to leave their rooms in a couple of hours, those plans changed.

“It was quite evident that the storm was increasing, the waves were getting bigger, the winds were getting extremely strong,” Rick said.

Jancee said the captain told the passengers during the rough travel that he had to steer the ship so that the ship’s nose would be going into the wind instead of having the wind hit the side.

Interior damage to the Anthem of the Seas after the cruise liner went through a storm off the coast of North Carolina. — Jancee Pust-Marcone photo

Interior damage to the Anthem of the Seas after the cruise liner went through a storm off the coast of North Carolina. — Jancee Pust-Marcone photo

“They were altering course continually to keep the bow of the ship in the wind. We could watch it move and every time he would have to steer the ship, we would get a lot of movement,” she said.

The worst of it was overnight Sunday night after the Super Bowl was over going into Monday morning. Rick Marcone said all he could see was water when he pulled back the curtain to look out the window in their room on the ship’s 12th deck.

“You couldn’t see out, you could just see water,” Rick said. “It was a huge swell.”

After midnight, Rick said, the movement of the ship caused him to have to hold against the cabin wall to keep from falling out of bed. Jancee said she had to walk at an angle just to avoid falling.

“It was like walking up a hill,” she said.

They eventually got to sleep out of sheer exhaustion.

Throughout the night, the Marcones could hear things being tossed about the deck.

While it was tough and some people were frightened and suffered motion sickness, the Marcones ended up just fine. Come Monday morning, they and other passengers saw damage, including the ripped-off cover of a radar device and panes of wind-blocking glass that were broken or ended up in a pool.

The ship continued south for a while, but the Anthem of the Seas would eventually head back north because the cruise was behind schedule and the captain was hesitant to go through another storm off the Florida coast even though the ship was still seaworthy.

“He wasn’t comfortable putting us through another storm,” Jancee said. Although the Marcones and other passengers were disappointed to have the cruise end, she said, it was the right call, given that many people’s nerves may have been frayed by the storm. The Marcones and all the other cruisers were also given full refunds, allowing them to take a Royal Caribbean cruise at a later date.

Deck chairs were tossed around during the Anthem of the Seas venture through a major storm. — Jancee Pust-Marcone photo

Deck chairs were tossed around during the Anthem of the Seas venture through a major storm. — Jancee Pust-Marcone photo

On the way home, the Marcones kept friends in Stratford in touch, letting townspeople know they were all right.

The ship docked on the evening of Wednesday,Feb. 10, but the Marcones stayed on board until Thursday.

“I have nothing but praise for the crew of the Anthem,” Rick said. “I thought they did a terrific job.”

While the experience was a bit harrowing, Rick and Jancee said they are anxious to do it again and complete their cruise to the Bahamas. Rick would have every reason to be doubtful, but other than the very turbulent waters on a rough Sunday, he said there’s still plenty to enjoy.

“If you take away the storm, it looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun,” he said.

About author
Editor for the Stratford Star. Former reporter for the Darien Times.

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