'Almost catastrophic' cruise doesn't dampen Goshenites' vacation

The Spindler family's cruise ship was hit by fierce winds that sent it tipping alarmingly, causing injury and damage

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  • Steven Spindler at his popular deli (Photo by Geri Corey)

“We were in our cabin when I felt something hit."
Steven Spindler

By Geri Corey

— It was a cruise to Nassau, Bahamas, that Goshenites Steven Spindler and his wife, Debbie, were happily anticipatin. They hadn’t been on a vacation in four years, and were never on a cruise.

Steve was looking forward to a short break from running his popular eatery, Steve’s Deli, located on Main Street in the Village of Goshen.

Sailing on the beautiful ocean, enjoying good food that someone else prepared, lying on the warm sand, under the full sun — what could be better in March? After all, he's a “beach man,” he said.

The departure of the Norwegian cruise ship Escape on Saturday, March 3, from New York Harbor, with 4,000 passengers and a crew of 1,700 aboard, was uneventful.

However, said Spindler, “The weather wasn’t great, and on the sea, it was cold."

As it turned out, the cold weather probably was a lifesaver for many, considering what was to come.

At 11:40 on Sunday night, a sudden gust of wind — at an incredible 115 miles per hour — unexpectedly slammed broadside into the ship, causing it to list to one side. Because it was nighttime and bitterly cold, most of the passengers were inside rather than on deck.

“We were in our cabin when I felt something hit, and I thought it was wind," Spindler said. "The ship tilted to a 45-degree angle. It stopped, then it tipped some more. That second tilting concerned me. But then it righted itself. The experience was sustained for three to four minutes.”

The wind, breaking free from the deadly tornados that had hit Alabama, came up the east coast and went out to sea, slamming into the Escape, he said.

Hearing the crashing of bottles, glasses, and plates, and seeing tables and chairs fly across the floor, Spindler knew the damage was significant. The ship had 12 bars; many of their high-end liquor bottles smashed across the floor.

Smooth sailingThe incident was “almost catastrophic,” Spindler said. But the damage was well cleaned up, he said, and, for the most part, everything was back to normal by morning. In the aftermath, the crew was reluctant to talk about what had happened.

The Spindlers' cabin was on the twelfth floor. They were fortunate to be high up and on the side, raised above the water. The ship’s tilt was so severe, lifeboats on the fifth floor skimmed the water.

About eight people were hurt, including a woman injured by a slot machine that fell on her. Another woman was cut up when she went though a shower door while showering. Several ambulances were waiting at Port Canaveral, Florida, to transport injured passengers to the hospital.

The rest was smooth sailing, though. The liner eventually docked in Nassau in the Bahamas.

“The weather wasn’t great for the whole trip, but at 82 degrees, Wednesday was a beach day, a very, very nice day,” said Spindler.

March weather is unpredictable, even in paradise, he said.

“It’s winter and spring fighting,” he said.

Steve, Debbie, and their daughter, Shannon, enjoyed a delightful day on Cabbage Beach. As it turned out, everything was going well on this long-awaited vacation. They all returned to New York Harbor on March 10.

When asked if he’d go on another cruise, Spindler replied without hesitation.

“Absolutely," he said. "I didn’t get that scared. And the crew was so accommodating that we actually had a great vacation.”

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