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Damaged By Strong Storm Off Eastern U.S., Cruise Ship Heads Back To Port

The Royal Caribbean cruise liner Anthem of the Seas, the third-largest cruise ship in the world, is seen here during its inaugural voyage last April.

At more than 1,100 feet long, it's large enough to hold more than 6,100 people — but on Sunday, a 168,000-ton Royal Caribbean cruise ship was tossed around by a winter storm that damaged the craft and left four people with minor injuries.

Photos sent by passengers aboard the Anthem of the Seas show high winds, turbulent seas and leaning decks.

The ship headed south from New Jersey en route to the Bahamas, but the storm that hit off the coast of Cape Hatteras, N.C., was so severe that passengers were ordered to stay inside their cabins. On Monday, the ship was turned around — it's now returning to its port in Bayonne, N.J.

Huge waves and extremely strong winds rocked and tilted the ship for hours, according to passengers, who sent tweets showing conditions aboard the ship, the Anthem of the Seas. Some images showed damaged roof panels and overturned furniture; others showed people leaning in order to stand up straight.

"Anthem is carrying 4,529 passengers and 1,616 crew," USA Today reports, citing a spokeswoman.

One of those passengers is Robert Huschka, executive editor of the Detroit Free Press, who tells his newspaper, "I'm not going to lie: It was truly terrifying."

From early Sunday afternoon to late into the night, the ship's passengers endured hours of unsettling conditions, the Free Press reports.

Acknowledging a "tough day" for its guests, Royal Caribbean says it will refund their ticket costs and give passengers a 50 percent discount on a future cruise.

The cruise line says public areas and cabins were damaged, but that the ship, which went into service in 2015, is still seaworthy. Along with its sister cruise ship, it's tied for third on the list of the world's largest cruise ships.

After calling the storm "unexpectedly severe" Monday morning, Royal Caribbean said it would cut a planned trip to the Bahamas short and instead dock in Port Canaveral, Fla. But it changed the plan again around midday, instead opting to bring the ship all the way back home.

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