Royal Caribbean is changing the way it monitors storms in the wake of the Anthem of the Seas fiasco, in which a packed cruise ship set sail into hurricane-force winds last Sunday.
Barring further weather issues, the Anthem will embark on its next sailing on Saturday. But when it does, Royal Caribbean will have in place a new shoreside team, made up of captains and nautical experts, who will monitor weather conditions and communicate whether or not it is safe to sail.
“It is another double-check process,” said Vicki Freed, senior vice president of sales, in an exclusive interview with TMR, acknowledging that “it may have been beneficial to have another team of people to have another conversation” last week. “Now, if there’s a problem, they’ll have to check with them.”
Royal already has a team charged with monitoring hurricanes and major storms, but the addition of this new shoreside team—something that was discussed pretty much round-the-clock on Monday and Tuesday as the Anthem limped homeward to Bayonne—will provide another set of experts to guide decisions about whether or not to sail.
“We had not thought about doing something like this…this is going to be something that shows we have made the decision that the safety of our guests and crew is critical,” Freed said. “It’s who we are.”
The new team will operate shoreside 24/7, in clear skies and storms, along with new storm-tracking technology. “It’s not as though we’re lacking technology,” Freed said, “but sometimes the decision needs another point of view.”
So will the new team guarantee that nothing like this will ever take place again? Freed was emphatic: “We know it will.”
Captain Andersen: Heartbroken
On a personal level, meanwhile, Anthem's Captain Claus Andre Andersen is “heartbroken” about how the sailing played out, Freed said. Nothing like this has ever happened in his 18-year career with the line.
“He has many, many years of experience and he’s heartbroken over what happened,” Freed said, though he deserves a lot of credit for having kept most of the guests and crew safe despite the conditions. There were only four minor injuries among the 6,000 people onboard.
All guests and nonessential crew were assigned to their rooms, fresh food was delivered to everyone, and each was given complimentary in-room movies and minibar access. Royal Caribbean never lost signal with its television satellite—all guests were still able to watch Sunday’s Superbowl—and VOOM, Royal’s Wifi, never lost its signal.
The Anthem only suffered only minor damage and will sail its scheduled itinerary out of Cape Liberty this Saturday.
“Everything is operational; everything is good,” Freed said. “A lot of our dishes broke and we have truckloads of supplies being sent up to the Bayonne area. All the broken glass has been taken away and the ship is fully operational.”
The FlowRider on top of the Anthem was slightly damaged, but it will be repaired in time for Saturday’s sailing.
In the end, Freed said, Royal Caribbean has learned from an experience that, bad as it was, could have been even worse.
“We made a mistake,” she acknowledged. “We didn’t deliver the vacation experience to our guests that we aim to deliver, and we feel very bad about that. And we are happy that people were not injured.”