Update: More info here (caution, some of it overwrought New York Daily News stuff)
It weathered most of a wild storm that featured gale-force winds and choppy seas. But then the vessel, longer than three football fields, was suddenly smacked by the "freak wave," said Norwegian Cruise Line spokeswoman Susan Robison. It broke a pair of windows and flooded 62 cabins, she said."Ninth and 10th floors?" Is this a ship? (ships have decks or levels) or...never mind.
"The sea had actually calmed down when the wave seemed to come out of thin air at daybreak," Robison said. "Our captain, who has 20 years on the job, said he never saw anything like it."
The tidal wave wrecked windows on the ninth and 10th floors and wreaked havoc below decks, destroying furniture, the onboard theater, and a store that sold expensive gifts.
On "rogue waves". Or here or here. And here's a cool NOAA page on waves.
Update2: More on the incident and some more links to interesting rogue wave info: here and here "Ship sinking monster waves!" Woo hoo!
Mariners who survived similar encounters have had remarkable stories to tell. In February 1995 the cruiser liner Queen Elizabeth II met a 29-metre high rogue wave during a hurricane in the North Atlantic that Captain Ronald Warwick described as "a great wall of water… it looked as if we were going into the White Cliffs of Dover."
A big wave from the Bay of Biscay:
And here's some video from a ship hit by a 50 foot wave (question-Why weren't those people taking a brace position instead of being in position to slide around?).
Update3; The slightly damaged cruise ship has returned to New York. Based on my experience most of the crowd meeting it at the pier consisted of personal injury lawyers. Now let the lawsuits begin! The coverage on Fox this morning raised an issue of why the ship left port to run through the storm it hit on its way back to New York. It seems some people are arguing that the prudent thing to do was to stay in port until the storm passed. As far as I know, the cruise line does not promise only "fair weather sailing" and ships have been known to ride out storms at sea... One interviewee seen earlier in the week announced that the wave had ruined his honeymoon and he lost a "lifetime" memory. I don't think so. Methinks he'll be exaggerting about the wave for many years to come...
You want complete safety? Stay home. Of course, there is this:
Deaths and Injuries in the Home(National Safety Council)
-There were 33,300 fatalities and 8,000,000 disabling injuries in 2002. This represents 11.9 fatalities per 100,000 population.
-In the home, there is a fatal injury every 16 minutes and a disabling injury every 4 seconds.
-The four leading fatal events in the home are poisonings, falls, suffocation by ingested object, and fires, flames and smoke.
-The leading cause of death in the home, poisoning, took the lives of 12,500 people in 2002. This number includes deaths from drugs, medicines, other solid and liquid substances, and gases and vapors. The 25 to 44 age group had the highest death rate.
-Falls took the lives of 8,000 people, four out of five of them over the age of 65.
-Smoke inhalation accounts for the majority of deaths in home fires.
Maybe home is not such a good idea.
Update4: An article on the ship's "early" departure to get to NYC...
Stan Deno, director of operations for the International Council of Cruise Lines, a trade association, said that while the winds were fierce enough to make passengers uncomfortable, the situation wasn't dangerous.And that line will be in many lawsuits...
"It's not even eyebrow-raising for a ship that size," Deno said of the 965-foot vessel.
The only way the ship's captain could have avoided the bad weather was to stay moored in Miami until the storm blew over Sunday morning, said David Feit, a meteorologist for the federal Ocean Prediction Center. But the captain didn't.
"He went right into the teeth of the storm," Feit said.