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Battered cruise ship returns to port

Passengers recount freak-wave ordeal

NEW YORK -- Passengers disembarking yesterday from a cruise ship that was struck by a freak seven-story-high wave said the stormy weather that smashed windows and sent furniture flying made them think of the Titanic.

The Norwegian Dawn arrived with more than 2,000 passengers on board after some 300 others decided to leave the ship early in Charleston, S.C., and fly or drive home. It docked on Manhattan's West Side.

The 965-foot white ocean liner was sailing back to New York from the Bahamas on Saturday when a storm pounded the vessel with heavy seas. A rogue 70-foot wave sent furniture sailing through the air and knocked hot tubs overboard. Some passengers slept in hallways in life jackets.

Passenger Robert Clark said he was trying not to be angry about the cruise but had one question: ''Why would you go through a storm?"

Clark, a New Yorker who disembarked with his wife, Estelita Villafane, and their 7-year-old daughter, Myah, said the storm ''woke me up. . . . We were going back and forth, up and down. And then `boom!' "

He said he ran into the corridor and saw passengers from flooded cabins wearing life preservers.

''It looked like the Titanic," Clark said. ''That was what was going through my head."

Norwegian Cruise Line said the freak wave broke windows in two cabins. It said 62 cabins were flooded and four passengers had cuts and bruises. The wave reached as high as Deck 10 out of 14, company spokeswoman Susan Robison said Sunday.

The Norwegian Dawn docked at Charleston for repairs and a Coast Guard inspection before continuing its voyage to New York early Sunday.

Bill and Ellen Tesauro of Wayne, N.J., said they went to the ship's casino when the storm started slamming the vessel.

''We figured it would take our minds off this, [and] that's when the captain announced that drinks are free all night," Bill Tesauro told the Daily News of New York. ''But then there was another horrendous slap."

The panicked couple returned to their suite.

''A desk went flying across the room," Ellen Tesauro said. ''And a glass table toppled down, with glasses and food on it."

Stacy Maryland of Hamilton, N.J., woke up and found shoes and magazines floating in a foot of water. ''I thought I heard water sloshing around, and then I woke up and saw it, and it was surreal," she told the newspaper.

The cruise line said that passengers whose cabins were flooded were flown home from Charleston and that the safety of the ship ''was in no way compromised by this incident."

Each passenger got a refund of half the trip's cost and a voucher for half the price of a future cruise, Robison said.

The ship left New York on April 10 with 2,500 passengers aboard. Robison said about 300 passengers decided not to return by ship from Charleston. About 100 were flown back to New York, and the rest made their own arrangements, Robison said.

''I rented a car and drove nine hours," said James Fraley of Keansburg, N.J., who was taking a honeymoon cruise. ''No more time on the Titanic for me."

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