Four people have been injured and the ship was damaged
Passengers on board a cruise ship that ventured into a storm off North Carolina have told of the "terrifying" moment the vessel was battered by 30ft waves and winds in excess of 100mph.
The Royal Caribbean ship Anthem of the Seas, the third largest cruise ship ever built, is making its way back to New Jersey after the storm shattered glass and toppled furniture, injuring four people.
Robert Huschka, executive editor of the Detroit Free Press who was a passenger on the vessel, recounted seeing pictures of the damage tweeted by fellow passengers.
"The storm system was far worse than had been anticipated and the crew were struggling to turn the Anthem into the path of the storm," he wrote.
"I'm not going to lie: I was terrified, although I did my best to hide it from my wife. The ship rocked side-to-side, sometimes hanging at an incline longer than seemed safe".
"Large noises came from within the ship. We heard crew members run through the hallway".
"One mistake I made was looking on Twitter. There were pictures of flooded hallways and damaged ceilings. Several panicked passengers had tweeted rumours that the ship was sinking".
"I didn't really believe that. But it certainly added to my anxiety".
US senator Bill Nelson has called for a federal investigation into the event, saying the crew should have known not to sail the ship into the "heart of a hurricane-force storm".
"I want the National (Transportation) Safety Board to come up with answers very quickly and make an admonition to mariners: when the storm is brewing you don't go out of port".
There are about 4,500 guests and 1,600 crew on board for what was supposed to be a seven-night cruise that departed on Saturday, a Royal Caribbean spokeswoman said.
The company said in a statement that the ship's operation was not affected, but concerns about further rough weather prompted the decision to return to Cape Liberty, New Jersey, rather than continue on to Port Canaveral, Florida.
"We are also sensitive to the fact that our guests have already been through an uncomfortable ride," a spokesperson said.
Passenger Jacob Ibrag described what happened.
He also shared footage of what he claims was the calm before the storm: