LI Family Recalls 'Scariest Moment' Of Their Lives In Exclusive CBS2 Interview

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Thursday’s winter storm was tough to take around the Tri-State Area, but imagine being in the thick of it on a cruise ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

For 21 members of the Ross family, of Stony Brook, it was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime – cruising to the Bahamas for their patriarch’s 80th birthday. Instead, they returned Friday after what they called a nightmare onboard the Norwegian Breakaway.

“I thought I’d never be in a situation where I would say that’s the scariest moment of my life. This was the worst moment of my life,” said Karoline Ross, speaking exclusively with CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff. 

She and Del Ross spoke with CBS2 while they were en route to New York, after they said their 4,000 passenger cruise ship sailed right into the storm Tuesday night for two harrowing days in ocean swells up to 30 feet. The seasoned boaters called it traumatic.

“When you’re on a boat in the middle of the ocean and water is pouring down the stairs, you’re thinking ‘this is not going to end well,” Karoline said.

“Our room was full on two inches of water. The elevator shafts were dripping water everywhere,” Del said. 

Water poured from the ceiling, as the ship began leaking. Passengers described panic and seasickness on social media. Dozens huddled in the ship’s atrium to sleep.

“There were people crying, everyone was throwing up. it was a nightmare,” said Olivia Ross. “It was so tilted I was shaking.”

The family said there was broken glass everywhere and the showers were exploding.

“I’m completely traumatized. I’ll never go on any type of boat again in my life after this,” fellow passenger Emma Franzese told CBS2’s Andrea Grymes once the ship docked.

“I was holding on for dear life. I honestly wasn’t sure we were going to make it through the night. The boat was tilted like crazy,” said passenger Conor Vogt.

“Everything fell off our shelf, glasses broke in the middle of the night. There was no announcement made,” passenger Luisa Franzese said.

CBS2 asked Norwegian Cruise Line why the decision was made to sail back to New York in the middle of what was forecast to be a monster coastal storm.

The cruise line initially released a statement, apologizing to travelers that were delayed for the company’s next embarkment, but made no mention of those who weathered the storm.

“Due to winter storm Grayson, Norwegian Breakaway will have a delayed arrival into New York today. As a result, Norwegian Breakaway’s 14 day cruise that was originally scheduled to depart on January 5, will now depart on Saturday, January 6, at 3 p.m. Due to the ship’s late arrival today, and the ongoing weather situation, embarking guests are encouraged to arrive to the pier on Saturday morning. All guests must be onboard by 1 p.m. on January 6. Guests unable to adjust their travel are welcome to board on Friday evening between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. The ship will now sail a slightly adjusted itinerary, which will be communicated to guests onboard. All guests will receive a refund of one day of their cruise fare, in the form of an onboard credit. We sincerely thank our guests for their understanding of this unexpected change due to the weather and apologize to our guests for any disruption to their schedule,” the statement said.

They later sent a second statement.

“During the early morning hours of January 4, Norwegian Breakaway encountered stronger than forecasted weather conditions due to winter storm Grayson during the trip’s return to New York from the Bahamas. All guests and crew are safe. We sincerely apologize to our guests for these stronger than expected weather conditions and any resulting discomfort they may have experienced,” it read.

“The captain should’ve told us a little more. He kept saying, ‘we’re in rough seas.’ Well no crap we’re in rough seas,” passenger Brenda Wriedt said.

Elizabeth Vogt, of the Upper East Side, praised the crew.

“Some of them were scared, but they put on a really happy face,” she said, but added the ordeal was terrifying. “I flew across the room, landed in the bathroom, and then I got up, I got into my bed and said a prayer. That’s how I felt that night.”

Back on terra firma, the Ross family said they will be asking for a refund for nine stateroom, but what they really want are answers.

“He took all our lives in his hands, and we were really in a bad spot. It was really horrible,” Karoline said.

“It’s more about revenue. It wasn’t so much about safety,” said Del. “We were dead center of the storm, and I really think it was a poor decision.”

“If they knew the storm was coming in, they should’ve already just taken us back. We’d rather get home a day early than have to go through something like this,” fellow passenger Barbara Stevenson-Felder said.

The Breakaway was supposed to embark on another cruise from the West Side on Friday, but instead will leave Saturday.

CBS2 reached out to other cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean, which said its ships were safely south of the storm when it hit.

Comments (55)
  1. JunkChuck says:

    What do we expect from people who go in for the stupid practice of naming winter storms. “Grayson” indeed. THese aren’t hurricanes. Stop going in for this cynical move to raise fears and hysteria, namng storms just to raise clicks and views for certain corporate meteorological entities.

  2. As a Norwegian, I’m annoyed by the naming of these underpowered, fragile floating hotels. Norwegian Cruise Line is NOT Norwegian and 30 ft waves shoud not really affect a proper build ship of this size. But this is a cruise barge, not a NA winter spec ship. I’ve experienced 40-50 ft North Sea waves on good ships a tiny fraction of this cruise ship’s size. Not at all comfortable, but still not scary nor leaky, even when the whole bow section took green water, with heavy spray completerly covering the the f’ward superstructure all the way up and above the bridge. The bar chairs and tables were chained down and the barkeeper went to work as normal. 😉

  3. MH Spivs says:

    The test of whether the forecast was inaccurate or not is to report what the forecast was and what the weather conditions were. Thank you, CBS.

  4. Don’t know what their complaining about… they fared better than the Titanic did !

  5. All about the money trying to keep their itinerary, but a ship that size was hardly in danger, just feels terrible

  6. Aaah, maybe not to take a winter cruise in the geographical area you selected AND to check into the macro and micro weather issues that could be encountered if your not a seasoned cruiser. These folks sound like a bunch of wossies, but their ship is not a “big weather” ship to start with, but a Caribbean “bathtub” boat made for calm cruising not shoke-and-puke, ridem-cowbody type waves and water down the gunwales kinda sailing. Load up on Dramamine if your not a sailor and hold on.

  7. Nigel Oswyn says:

    Okay, firstly they were on a cruise ship and not an ocean liner like….Queen Mary 2, which is made to handle the rough seas of the north Atlantic. Second, they were on NCL, no further explanation needed. I was on Queen Elizabeth 2 on a couple of winter crossing on the north Atlantic and yes, they are rough, but I never saw leaking or that kind of mayhem because I was on an ocean liner, not a cruise ship. Learn the difference.

  8. Mike Senko says:

    Heading out into the North Atlantic in Winter when the weather is most unpredictable and then complaining about it. Pampered Snowflakes indeed. Imagine the comments if there were no stabilizers or bulbous bow, conditions our troops faced during WWII. Maybe there is a hint of what our previous generations went through.

    1. James Morgan says:

      Newsflash: People paying for a cruise expect to be pampered.

  9. Doug Day says:

    If they can turnaround in 30 hours the “damage” was exaggerated…

  10. David Jurusz says:

    bunch of wusses. could have enjoyed the adventure of it, but nooo….

  11. Mike Markey says:

    I spent 25 years in the US Navy. Welcome to the ocean people. It’s not your bathtub and it isn’t a lake in upstate NY.

    1. I’ve ridden storms twice that violent in the North Atlantic that lasted for 3-4 days. Sure, they’re tough but the ocean isn’t a play ground and people should never consider it so.

  12. All you tough guys n these comments, seem to forget that they were paying customers, with entire families form women and children to elderly. What these passengers forget is that once these cruise lines have your money, you are effed….unless you paid extra for their cruise insurance. If you didn’t buy it, well you are sunk, to borrow a phrase….

  13. Karl Thomas says:

    Every year theirs at least a couple of cruise ship nightmare stories but they keep filling up so shut up and deal with it

  14. I would never take a voyage on a ‘cruise ship’. Those aren’t really deep draft ‘ocean liners’ like QE2 for example. The QE2 cuts through that like butter without even a shudder. Cruise boats are just that. Shallow drafts to get into tourist ports with high centers of gravity. Big ‘boats’ not ships. These are not stable and downright dangerous in rough seas. You can sail the Caribbean area fairly safely on these boats but they have no business carrying thousands of people in the open Atlantic especially this time of year. Don’t believe me, watch videos of the QE2 in an Atlantic gale much worse than this, and the coffee in a cup on a table doesn’t even have a ripple. Because it’s a SHIP, not a boat.

    1. Theresa Yon says:

      The Queen Mary 2 went through this same storm. She’s fine and many were excited because it meant she might need to use the gas turbines to make it to Southampton in time! Who sails a cruise ship in the dead of winter?!

  15. Other than the shower exploding, description is similar to a standard storm at sea. You get to add a ring to your ear, if the ship sinks.

  16. Reminds me of one time I was on a tin can destroyer in the South China Sea .. we built our own inclinometer and sat there watching to see if we passed the point at which the ship would capsize .. fun times ..

  17. Mac Bailey says:

    All about revenue. As an ex navy vet, you can avoid or minimize problems with the weather. On a voyage from Charleston to St. Johns on a DE we put in to Little Creek Virginia to ride out Diane. This was inexcusable. Pure dollar play. Question, was Norwegian the only line to have this extreme problem?

  18. You are cruising in the Atlantic Ocean in the winter…educate yourself before you go. Additionally, storms like this one are difficult to forecast because no one knows exactly what they will do in advance as they have not yet formed. This storm cranked up in a major way. I actually believe Norwegian that the storm was more intense than anticipated. Cruise lines do their best to avoid sailing into bad weather conditions…the last thing they want to do is risk lives or their vessel. For those pointing the finger at the line, go back and take a look at what they did with the Atlantic hurricanes this year and how they attempted to avoid them. Ships regularly miss ports, take alternate routes and shorten cruises to avoid weather.

  19. tony409 says:

    If we can control the climate surely we can control the weather

  20. What kind of an idiot sails out of New York in January?

  21. NCL has become overly focused on revenues vs passengers. This was clearly a decision to ty to avoid losing sailing days and passenger fees. It was not like they were leaving NY and sailing thru the storm opposite to the direction of movement- they are sailing into it and with the direction in which the storm was moving. They had ample warning and could have shortened the cruise and issued refunds.

  22. We cruised Norwegian Breakaway out of NY to Bermuda July 2015 and it was fantastic.

  23. Diane Dina says:

    Helpless Libtards with no life skills. Wait until their grid goes down.

    1. Richard Frey says:

      Last Cruise Ship I was on was a Troop Ship heading to the Far East (Korea) we experienced the Mother of all Storms while passing near Alaska. 3000 G.I.’s on Board, all sea sick except me and the Skipper, three guy’s died from Hyperthermia after passing out on the open deck. the ship had to put into Kodiak for repairs (Bent the Rudder)……when I rotated two years later, I flew home!!!!

  24. Have been sea sick Atlantic big honkin’waves.

  25. Oh, boo, hoo! Try crossing the Drake Passage some time. It would make what happened here look like a picnic.

  26. jbrickley says:

    Try being a merchant marine on a freighter or tanker in the real ocean in a real hurricane or typhoon! You have no idea what a rough ride is… What you experienced was some mild rocking, tossing, and churning. No one was in any real danger.

  27. muneshadowe says:

    I was in worse seas than that in the NAVY and they are complaining? Learn to live life people!

  28. Its a ship at sea you landlubbers! Buck Up! Imagine being on the Mayflower in this weather. No story here except that candy ass NYer’s do NOT belong on a ship.

  29. Bruce Roche says:

    Ah you know it’s getting a little rough when they wet tablecloths and use wet towels on the bar to preventative things from from sliding.

  30. Jack Foobar says:

    Do they give you a refund when they kill 5000 people?

  31. Elena George says:

    Try being on a “small boy” in the North Atlantic in winter. Seasoned US Navy Sailors don’t look forward to it, but they get the job done!

  32. Ronald Ceres says:

    This is nothing new for NCL. They have had a history of poor passenger relations going back to the 90’s.

  33. Piper Rose says:

    They could have been stuck 24 hours in a dark airplane without restrooms at JFK. Not so much fun… either way. Headline: “Passengers Stuck On Dark Planes For Nearly 24 Hours” It sure makes me think about our forefathers sailing the Atlantic on the 80–90 ft Mayflower.

  34. vusnu says:

    Who takes a cruise departing out of NY in January? Not my idea of fun.

  35. Bill Dyszel says:

    The day before the storm, NYC forecasters were still saying they weren’t certain about the track of the storm or the intensity. And the storm eventually encompassed the entire East coast from Florida to Maine, which covers the ships entire route. Cutting the trip short wouldn’t have helped, they’d still be caught in the storm.

  36. Ha ha …. apparently US landlords who do not know how to go to sea

  37. I have been cruising for many, many years and have been in storms as well. 30 foots seas, while uncomfortable, are not a danger to the seaworthiness of the ship. Once you step on board, there’s no guarantee of smooth sailing. I bet some of the people who are complaining about how the trip should have been cut short, would be complaining if the trip had, in fact, been cut short.

  38. I have cruised many times during all seasons and this is the first time that I have experienced anything like this on a cruise ship, if you were not there you can not know what we experienced. Wednesday night the ship seemed as if it had tipped and the wind and the waves were treacherous. I have never been sick on a cruise ship but I was sick all day Thursday. If there was a way for Norwegian to avoid the storm than that should have happened, We can not control the weather but we can control how we react to you. If it meant an extra day or two days on sea that would have been better than going through that storm.

  39. MiMi's Heart says:

    This is not a “man-up” situation. When you sign up for a cruise, regardless of the time of year or location, you do not sign up for a near death experience. The technology was available to allow the decision to stay in port or turn back to have been made. On a corporate level instead of passenger safety the decision to plow through was the obvious choice. Shame on Norwegian Cruise Line for choosing profit over people.

  40. Not sure all of you would be saying the same thing if you were on the ship like we were. I felt fine, but for a while there, it wasn’t looking good. Don’t bother commenting if you didn’t experience it.

  41. Oh no, heavy seas in the winter time. Don’t sail out of the northeast and expect a smooth ride.
    As for asking for a refund, good luck with that.

  42. Gustav Tuga says:

    I find a lot of passengers are surprised when a cruise ship rocks. It’s not a hotel! 20-30 foot seas are nothing for a ship that size. We have experienced them many times. It’s all in your attitude. If you think of it as an adventure you won’t have a problem.

  43. The daughter who was terrified had a smile on her face as she’s being interviewed and then daddy wants a refund for 9 cabins/21 people. I bet he wants a refund on the beverage package too.
    If you want nice weather cruise in July.

  44. Asher Duff says:

    Were they showing “Poseidon Adventure” or “Titanic” in the theater? Or perhaps memories of the Estonia sinking were floating to the forefront of their minds? On the other hand, the State of Washington ferry service stops when the waves/winds get too high. It’s the being stuck in the middle when that decision is being made that is frightening.

  45. Yup. Been there done that. It’s a part of cruising. Deal with it. Gosh. Everyone’s a child anymore in this age.

  46. Headline states: “This is not going to end well” Well it did end just fine didn’t it? People are amazing… Oh the drama…

  47. Well said Jason. For “experienced boaters” they appear to be surprisingly ignorant. I’ve sailed in worse on a 35K GT cruise ship – it happens. Despite claims to the contrary, Mother Nature is not very predictable.

  48. Jason Parisi says:

    Welcome to cruising out of NYC in the winter.

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