Month: March 2016

What Atlantic City has in store for summer

Written for MyCentralJersey.com and DailyRecord.com

For the beach rats and travel junkies of New Jersey, the premature warm weather last month served as a pleasant reminder of what’s to come — long summer days hanging on the Jersey Shore.

Atlantic City, which has sought to expand its reputation as a gambling destination into one that has much more to offer than slot machines, is also revving up for the busy season with renovations and new development that are slotted to be ready by summer.

“Atlantic City is the only city in the Northeast that offers all of the seashore amenities as well as gambling,” said Elaine Shapiro Zamansky, manager of media relations for the Atlantic City Tourism District.

This year, the city anticipates about 25 million visitors, which is on par with recent visitor numbers throughout the last few years.

This year, the city anticipates about 25 million visitors, which is on par with recent visitor numbers throughout the last few years. (Photo: Jenna Intersimone/Staff Photo)

This year, the city anticipates about 25 million visitors, which is on par with recent visitor numbers throughout the last few years.
(Photo: Jenna Intersimone/Staff Photo)

Tropicana Casino and Resort will be bringing in a new nightlife venue, Kiss Kiss a Go Go, in which Ivan Kane will take patrons on a trip down the rabbit hole to the neon-fueled nights of Bangkok, to Atlantic City.

The Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa will also be adding a new nightclub, Premiere Nightclub, which will be an 18,000-square-foot venue designed by Josh Held, one of the top club designers in the United States who also stands behind Marquee NYC, TAO Las Vegas and Voyeur Los Angeles.

The modern yet elaborate nightclub will feature tiered booths, two 35-foot-long bars, a mezzanine area and a 25-foot-diameter chandelier with a programmable light inside the $14 million addition.

Plus, the WAV nightclub is coming to the Playground, which will be a 20,000-square-foot space that includes a main stage, mezzanine level, outdoor terrace, four bars, 8,000 square feet of LED screens and a 200,000-watt sound system. It will be the only nightclub in the United States that sits directly over the Atlantic Ocean.

Tropicana Casino and Resort will be bringing in a new nightlife venue, Kiss Kiss a Go Go, which will take Ivan Kane’s burlesque style, accompanied by sequined dancers, to Atlantic City. (Photo: ~File photo)

Tropicana Casino and Resort will be bringing in a new nightlife venue, Kiss Kiss a Go Go, which will take Ivan Kane’s burlesque style, accompanied by sequined dancers, to Atlantic City. (Photo: ~File photo)

If visitors are looking for a more laid-back bar atmosphere, they will be able to head to Bally’s Boardwalk Saloon, an indoor and outdoor bar that will anchor the north end of the boardwalk entrance of the Wild Wild West casino that will also house Guy Fieri’s BBQ Joint and the AC Snack Shack.

When it comes to dining, Dock’s Oyster House, one of the city’s oldest businesses that dates to 1897, will double its original capacity with two additional dining areas on the second floor as well as a new kitchen.

“While the casino market has contracted, the attractions, nightlife and entertainment options have expanded, offering more for families and all ages,” said Zamansky.

Monika Bartnik, a Sayreville native, visits Atlantic City about three times a year because she enjoys the convenience of not having to wait outside in the cold for entertainment during the winter, as well as club hours that venture after 2 a.m. and the fact that it is one of the few destinations in New Jersey that allows her to have a fun, affordable night without having to leave her hotel.

“Atlantic City is a great party destination for when I choose to go with a large, diverse group of people,” she said. “There’s something for the gamblers of my group, the ones who like to go to the bars and those that like to dance the night away.”

Dock’s Oyster House, one of the city’s oldest businesses which dates back to 1897, will double its original capacity with two additional dining areas on the second floor as well as a new kitchen. (Photo: ~File photo)

Dock’s Oyster House, one of the city’s oldest businesses which dates back to 1897, will double its original capacity with two additional dining areas on the second floor as well as a new kitchen. (Photo: ~File photo)

What does the Erin Andrews case mean for hotel guests?

Written for MyCentralJersey.com and DailyRecord.com

When Erin Andrews, host of “Dancing With the Stars” and “Fox College Football,” was awarded $55 million in her lawsuit against the owner of the Nashville, Tennessee, Marriott and Michael David Barrett, who filmed her naked in her hotel room in 2008, some people were shocked at the amount awarded, yet others were glad to see justice served.

However, those in the hospitality industry had much more to discuss than Andrews’ court victory.

“I’ve been working in the hospitality industry since the mid-70s and I’ve seen people unruly, drunk or get in fights,” said Mark Giangiulio, chairman of the board of the New Jersey Hotel and Lodging Association and general manager of the Grand Summit Hotel. “But I’ve never seen something like this where one had such a passion for another that they went out of their way to get a hold of them.”

Barrett went to the hotel restaurant and used a house phone to ask to be connected to Andrews’ room. When the hotel connected him, he was able to see her room number displayed on the phone, and after discovering that there was an empty room next to hers, he went to the front desk and was able to book it. He then tampered with her hotel room’s peephole to record a video of her changing.

Sportscaster and television host Erin Andrews testifies in Nashville, Tennessee. Speaking in court, she recalled the day seven years ago when she first heard from a friend that she'd secretly been filmed naked and that the video made it on the Internet. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Mark Humphrey, AP

Sportscaster and television host Erin Andrews testifies in Nashville, Tennessee. Speaking in court, she recalled the day seven years ago when she first heard from a friend that she’d secretly been filmed naked and that the video made it on the Internet.
(Photo: ~Courtesy of Mark Humphrey, AP

Giangiulio isn’t the only one who hasn’t seen a case like this before, where one’s privacy was compromised and they were videotaped in a hotel setting, then it was discovered because of technology. Ronald Goldfarb, law professor at Middlesex County College, couldn’t find any cases in the court system, either.

Goldfarb said that if a case isn’t appealed, it’s nearly impossible to find their records, so similar cases could exist, although it’s unlikely, and if there are any, there aren’t many.

“Due to the uniqueness of this case, the ruling has established a precedent that has determined that hotels have an obligation to protect their guests in privacy from electronic displays,” he said.

However, even though this new precedent involving technology will exist in the courtroom going further, hotels across the nation have always had the obligation to provide an expectation of privacy for their guests.

Sportscaster and television host Erin Andrews, right, stands with attorney Scott Carr as the jury enters the room during her civil trial Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016, in Nashville, Tennessee. Andrews filed and won a $75 million lawsuit against the franchise owner and manager of a luxury hotel and a man who admitted to making secret nude recordings of her in 2008. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Alan Poizner, Alan Poizner, AP)

Sportscaster and television host Erin Andrews, right, stands with attorney Scott Carr as the jury enters the room during her civil trial Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016, in Nashville, Tennessee. Andrews filed and won a $75 million lawsuit against the franchise owner and manager of a luxury hotel and a man who admitted to making secret nude recordings of her in 2008. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Alan Poizner, Alan Poizner, AP)

Giangiulio said that the Grand Summit Hotel, similar to all other hotels that follow basic rules and regulations, do not give out guest room numbers, and if a guest comes to the front desk and asks for a key, they must provide identification. Also, only internal departments’ phones display room numbers. For example, maids’ service phones will display a room number, but a guest’s phone will not.

“We’re not a military base, we are hospitality, but our aim is to provide a safe and secure venue and we follow the rules,” said Giangiulio.

Giangiulio said with his limited understanding of the case, he feels that the hotel mostly followed standard procedure — Barrett simply went out of his way to get to Andrews. However, he said that, in his opinion, hotel staff should have been more wary of him when he requested a room next to Andrews’.

In Giangiulio’s experience, instances in which one is searching for another come up when a disgruntled spouse checks into the hotel and another comes looking for them. However, the Grand Summit Hotel never provides a room number or phone number to the searching spouse, although they cannot stop them from lingering in the restaurant or lobby. They will also connect them to the rooms, but the phones do not display a room number.

Defense attorney Marc Dedman speaks to the jury during his opening statements in the Erin Andrews-Marriott hotels trial before Judge Hamilton Gayden in the Historic Courthouse Feb. 23, in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Samuel M. Simpkins/The Tennessean)

Defense attorney Marc Dedman speaks to the jury during his opening statements in the Erin Andrews-Marriott hotels trial before Judge Hamilton Gayden in the Historic Courthouse Feb. 23, in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Samuel M. Simpkins/The Tennessean)

Fiona Andrews of Montclair, a 25-year-old frequent traveler who stays in hotel rooms 20 to 50 days in a year, said that booking a hotel room is the least stressful part of her various journeys, yet she tends to “err on the side of paranoia.”

To protect herself, she looks up reviews of the hotel ahead of time, blocks the peephole, posts the ‘do not disturb’ sign, avoids the elevator, keeps the windows shut and curtains drawn, and sometimes manually jams the door shut with a towel or a noisy object so she will hear if it is opened, if she feels a room isn’t secure enough.

“I have definitely stayed in dangerous areas, but usually if I go to a bad area, it’s cheap enough that I can stay at a reasonably clean and safe hotel,” said Fiona Andrews. “But in terms of privacy, I don’t particularly care if people see me as long as they don’t actually try to physically harm me. As a woman traveling alone, I have no expectation of privacy.”

Giangiulio said that he recommends that all guests deadbolt their doors, be aware of their surroundings, and if they see something, they should say something. Plus, he stresses that people be aware of what they post on social media.

Sportscaster and television host Erin Andrews on Monday, March 7, 2016, in Nashville, Tennessee. A jury awarded Andrews $55 million in her lawsuit against a stalker who bought a hotel room next to her and secretly recorded a nude video, finding that the hotel companies and the stalker shared in the blame. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Mark Humphrey, AP)

Sportscaster and television host Erin Andrews on Monday, March 7, 2016, in Nashville, Tennessee. A jury awarded Andrews $55 million in her lawsuit against a stalker who bought a hotel room next to her and secretly recorded a nude video, finding that the hotel companies and the stalker shared in the blame. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Mark Humphrey, AP)

“People take pictures of themselves in the hotel, of what they’re doing and where they’re eating, and if you’re a disgruntled spouse or someone looking for a target, this can make you easy prey,” he said.

So what standard will hotels be held to when it comes to expectation of privacy in the future, especially with new advents in technology?

Goldfarb said that case decisions such as these will continue to change and chip away at court precedents involving the expectation of privacy, much more frequently and incrementally than a new statute would.

“The expectation of privacy has been around for a very long time,” said Goldfarb. “However, very often, the law doesn’t keep up with technology.”

How the Irish in N.J. celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

On St. Patrick’s Day and on various days prior, I will do my duty and cheer alongside parade routes, head to local Irish pubs, drink green beers and paint shamrocks on my face.

However, I do not have one hint of Irish in me.

Obviously, I’m not the only one, per the popular adage, ‘everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.’  But have you ever wondered how the real Irish celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

“St. Patrick’s Day is kind of an American happening,” said Chris Flynn, owner of Hailey’s Harp and Pub, a Metuchen Irish pub that will receive around 1,000 visitors on the holiday, a huge upswing from their 200-person onslaught on a normal Saturday night. “However, the day is still about having ‘craic,’ or a good time, no matter where you are on St. Patrick’s Day.”

Ken Gardner, president of American Irish Association of Woodbridge who is mostly Irish, said that he believes that St. Patrick’s Day is “somewhat different” in Ireland, but in his position, he has had the opportunity to meet the Ireland’s ambassador to the United States and the counsel general and they have expressed their appreciation for the Americans’ keeping the St. Patrick’s Day traditions alive.

A celebration at Hailey's Harp and Pub. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Heather Lee Photography)

A celebration at Hailey’s Harp and Pub.
(Photo: ~Courtesy of Heather Lee Photography)

At home in New Jersey, Joan McNichol, president of the American-Irish Association of Central Jersey who is mostly Irish, celebrates St. Patrick’s Day for the entire season.

Wearing green on the day of my interview with her on March 10, McNichol said that she has been listening to Irish music to get into the spirit. On the holiday itself, she will bring in Irish soda bread to her workplace and listen to the Willie Lynch Band play later in the evening, a local Irish band, as well as eat corned beef and do traditional Irish dances such as Stack of Barley.

“This all just amounts to a typical Irish celebration,” she said.

The American Irish Association of Woodbridge, which was founded in 1966 and has over 400 members, held their two-mile parade Sunday, which they worked to organize for the entire year prior. It was made up of 10 bagpipe bands, area high school bands, fire departments, VFWs, sports leagues and other community organizations.

For this reason, St. Patrick’s Day is the association’s chance to have a day of relaxation and a good time to celebrate another parade – this year being their forty-third.

A celebration at Hailey's Harp and Pub. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Heather Lee Photography)

A celebration at Hailey’s Harp and Pub. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Heather Lee Photography)

“On St. Patrick’s Day, we meet up at a local establishment that supports the parade each year,” said Gardner. “Since we work so hard before the parade, we’re a little tired by the time we get there, but we’re still up for a good time.”

The American-Irish Association of Central Jersey, which is three years old and has about 20 families in its membership, marched in its third parade on Sunday in Somerville.

Flynn celebrates the holiday by taking his family and management team out to New York City to visit Irish pubs, listen to live Irish music and enjoy some authentic fare, one week after St. Patrick’s Day.

“On the holiday itself, I still find it fun to be out celebrating with people,” said Flynn. “How great is it to go to a parade, watch the pipe bands march, see the Irish girls dance and see people with shamrocks on their faces?”

In order to spread out the holiday cheer, Hailey’s Harp and Pub has been hosting Irish events since Saturday night and will continue to do so each night until Friday.

“Come the other five nights because then you’ll experience more of the Irish,” said Flynn. “Plus, we’re also an Irish pub the other 364 days of the year.”

The American-Irish Association of Central Jersey in the Somerville St. Patrick's Day parade. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Joan McNichol)

The American-Irish Association of Central Jersey in the Somerville St. Patrick’s Day parade. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Joan McNichol)

On St. Patrick’s Day, Flynn describes the pub as a “large house party” with people cocktailing and having a great time.

So what do these Irish-Americans think of those who are not Irish celebrating the iconic holiday?

“From our organization and personally, we work hard on the parade for our entire community – we know that not everyone is Irish,” said Gardner. “We all have a great day together and support the culture and homeland.”

Flynn said that just as he celebrates Cinco de Mayo when he is “110 percent Irish,” he appreciates that everyone can celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. However, he also encourages people to visit local Irish establishments throughout the year when they’re doing other events as well, rather than solely on St. Patrick’s Day.

First Woodbridge Parade Chairman Justin McCarthy, who later became an announcer and director, and Ken Gardner, president of American Irish Association of Woodbridge. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Ken Gardner)

First Woodbridge Parade Chairman Justin McCarthy, who later became an announcer and director, and Ken Gardner, president of American Irish Association of Woodbridge. (Photo: ~Courtesy of Ken Gardner)

McNichol said that she “loves it” when she sees non-Irish celebrating St. Patrick’s Day.

“Our motto is that we are open to the Irish and everyone who loves the Irish, which should be everyone,” she said. “Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.”

She said that there was never a St. Patrick’s Day growing up where she wasn’t surrounded by culture, food and parties. As a child, her family would pile in the car and head to Newark, which held one of the only parades at the time.

“There was a certain feeling in the air that I knew that this was my culture,” she said. “You stand a little taller when you hear the pipe bands play when you’re Irish.”

What New Jerseyans need to know about Zika

Written for MyCentralJersey.com and DailyRecord.com 

When the World Health Organization declared the Zika virus, a disease spread to people through the bite of an infected Aedes-specie mosquito, a public health emergency on Feb. 1, we in the blithering cold of New Jersey knew we were mostly safe at home.

Unfortunately for me, I was gearing up for my trip to Mexico on Feb. 20 as well as my trip to Puerto Rico on March 24; both countries have about 120 reported cases of Zika to date.

As I simultaneously packed my luggage and learned everything I could about Zika, I found that the virus itself isn’t very harmful. Only about one in five people who contract Zika actually become ill and experience fever, rash, joint pain, headache and muscle pain for about a week. Most don’t get sick enough to visit a hospital or even realize that they’re infected.

However, the real risk with Zika is the threat it presents to a fetus when a mother is infected, as there have been seemingly correlated cases between the virus and microcephaly, a serious birth defect in the brain which causes a baby’s head to be much smaller than normal.

Studies performed in Brazil strongly support the link between the Zika virus and microcephaly but don’t yet prove it. (Photo: ~File photo)

Studies performed in Brazil strongly support the link between the Zika virus and microcephaly but don’t yet prove it.
(Photo: ~File photo)

I’m not pregnant, and if I was, I probably would have canceled my trip to Mexico and would be doing the same for Puerto Rico. But some of the news reports I muddled through really scared me. If I did contract Zika, how long would it stay in my blood for? Could it cause a birth defect in a child I have five years down the line? Or was Zika really only a threat to men, since the virus exists in semen for much longer than it does in blood?

I couldn’t seem to find any clear answers. And it turns out, this is because they don’t exist yet.

“We still don’t understand the correlation between the Zika virus and microcephaly,” said Tadhgh Rainey, Hunterdon County Mosquito and Vector Control director. “This is currently being actively investigated. You hear a lot about how Zika causes this-and-that, but just because things are highly correlated, that doesn’t mean there is a cause and effect.”

Much of the current information available on Zika and microcephaly is anecdotal and more research is still needed.

There have been seemingly correlated cases between the virus and microcephaly, a serious birth defect in the brain which causes a baby’s head to be much smaller than normal. (Photo: File photo)

There have been seemingly correlated cases between the virus and microcephaly, a serious birth defect in the brain which causes a baby’s head to be much smaller than normal. (Photo: File photo)

“These assumptions may turn out to be true, but I don’t think that people should get overly excited, although they should take precautions,” Rainey said.

Health authorities in Brazil, which has been experiencing a significant outbreak of Zika since May 2015, have been investigating the association with assistance from the Pan American Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other agencies.

Microcephaly can also occur due to genetics, maternal infections and toxins encountered during pregnancy. Studies performed in Brazil strongly support the link between the Zika virus and microcephaly but don’t yet prove it.

The CDC recommends that pregnant women in any trimester should consider postponing travel to any area where Zika is spreading – which currently includes 36 countries, mostly throughout the Americas. To see the complete list of infected countries, visit cdc.gov/zika/geo/active-countries.html.

Renata Cristina da Costa, left, spreads repellent on her daughter Tamires da Costa, 16, who's four months pregnant, at their home in the Parque Sao Bento a shantytown of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Jan. 29. (Photo: ~File photo)

Renata Cristina da Costa, left, spreads repellent on her daughter Tamires da Costa, 16, who’s four months pregnant, at their home in the Parque Sao Bento a shantytown of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Jan. 29. (Photo: ~File photo)

If you have to travel, the CDC recommends that you take precautions to prevent contracting Zika such as:

  • Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants
  • Staying in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside
  • Sleeping under a mosquito bed net if you are overseas or outside and are not able to protect yourself from mosquito bites
  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents
  • Reapply insect repellent as directed, or at least every two hours since sweat will burn it off
  • Using condoms or don’t have sex to prevent sexual transmission of Zika

Rainey recommends that travelers choose a DEET-based repellant, which are extremely effective because once a body part is sprayed, a mosquito can’t land there. A similar natural option would be a repellant that uses eucalyptus.

The yellow fever mosquito, also known as Aedes aegypti, the prime transmitter, can only survive in areas where it’s very warm. (Photo: ~File photo)

The yellow fever mosquito, also known as Aedes aegypti, the prime transmitter, can only survive in areas where it’s very warm. (Photo: ~File photo)

“We always underestimate the ability of repellants to work,” Rainey said. “However, we must be very mindful of mosquito bites. In Central and South America, this is the real deal.”

Zika virus can be transmitted during the first week of infection from an infected person to another through mosquito bites or spread by a man to his sex partners. The virus does remain in semen longer than it does in blood, but researchers have yet to determine for how long.

Another unknown is if Zika could affect us at home in New Jersey or in other parts of the United States.

The yellow fever mosquito, also known as Aedes agypti, the prime transmitter, can only survive in areas where it’s very warm. However, researchers aren’t sure yet if the virus can also be carried by Aedes albopictus, also known as the Asian tiger mosquito, which is very common in New Jersey.

Rainey said that if the Asian tiger mosquito turns out to be a decent transmitter of Zika, then local cases in New Jersey could occur, however, we won’t see the outbreak that Central and South America are seeing since the Aedes agypti mosquito is a much better transmitter, since it takes a bit of blood from a host and then moves quickly to another.

“Zika is a little bit more compatible with the Asian tiger mosquito than chikungunya is, so the potential for cases is more, but I’m not overly concerned,” said Rainey. “So does that mean 10 more cases or 100? It’s the million-dollar question.”

Anthem of the Seas nightmare – a rare occurrence or worry come to fruition?

Passengers on the Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas, which set sail on Feb. 6 and headed home to Bayonne’s Cape Liberty four days early after being battered by a major storm in the Atlantic Ocean, are probably not running to their travel agent to book their next cruise right now.

But does that mean that you should be turned off by a cruise vacation? How likely is it for a ship to be rocked by 30-foot waves and winds up to 120 miles per hour? Do captains normally have to order passengers to their cabins for 12 hours?

According to local travel agents, not so much.

The third-largest ship in the world, which was carrying more than 4,500 passengers and 1,600 crew members, had planned on a seven-day cruise to the Bahamas. However, a major winter storm had other ideas.

Weary travelers aboard the Anthem of the Seas Royal Caribbean ship that was bound for Florida and the Bahamas and had to return home early after a powerful storm battered their liner with towering waves and high winds depart the ship at the Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, New Jersey on Wednesday February 10, 2016. (Photo: MARK R. SULLIVAN)

Weary travelers aboard the Anthem of the Seas Royal Caribbean ship that was bound for Florida and the Bahamas and had to return home early after a powerful storm battered their liner with towering waves and high winds depart the ship at the Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, New Jersey on Wednesday February 10, 2016.
(Photo: MARK R. SULLIVAN)

Four passengers reported minor injuries and the ship suffered some damage to its public areas and staterooms as the ship was tossed about, which Royal Caribbean categorized as “superficial” damage. Passengers will get a full refund and a certificate toward 50 percent off a future cruise.

“This isn’t a common occurrence on cruises because these companies are very equipped with modern equipment,” said Chandrakant Panchal, 11-year travel consultant with Ports & Voyages in the Parlin section of Sayreville, who books about 250 cruises a year, about 25 percent of them with Royal Caribbean. “This was just a fluke accident that hit the ship very hard and unexpectedly.”

Panchal pointed out that weather patterns are ever-changing, and in his experience, cruise lines tend to make the right decision on whether or not to sail. Right before superstorm Sandy, he had a group of 26 clients going out on a Norwegian of the Seas cruise, departing at 4 p.m. when the port was scheduled to close at 6 p.m. because of poor weather conditions.

“My clients were incredibly nervous, but they decided to go on the cruise because they wouldn’t get reimbursed unless the cruise line canceled,” said Panchal. “And you know what? Nothing happened. The weather was fantastic and they had a great time.”

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Lisa Lee, 18-year travel consultant with Avenue Travel Group, American Express in Bedminster, said that in her experience, what happened with the Anthem of the Seas is extremely rare, but the Atlantic Ocean can be very unpredictable — in both the summertime during hurricane season and the wintertime during the winter storm season.

“I believe that this was an isolated incident,” said Lee, who books about 200 cruises a year for her clients, with about 45 percent of them traveling on Royal Caribbean. “Royal Caribbean set sail based on what they thought would occur. These situations can happen, but I wouldn’t deter my clients from going on a cruise in the future.”

However, some meteorologists aren’t exactly in agreement.

The 168,666-ton vessel should not have sailed southward into the path of the growing weather system, WeatherBell meteorologist Ryan Maue told USA TODAY.

Weary travelers aboard the Anthem of the Seas Royal Caribbean ship that was bound for Florida and the Bahamas and had to return home early after a powerful storm battered their liner with towering waves and high winds depart the ship at the Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, New Jersey on Wednesday February 10, 2016. Here Michelle Verona from Hazlet, New Jersey shows off the tee shirts she had made for her son Anthony Watterson and daughter Mia Watterson that were on the ship.  (Photo: MARK R. SULLIVAN)

Weary travelers aboard the Anthem of the Seas Royal Caribbean ship that was bound for Florida and the Bahamas and had to return home early after a powerful storm battered their liner with towering waves and high winds depart the ship at the Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, New Jersey on Wednesday February 10, 2016. Here Michelle Verona from Hazlet, New Jersey shows off the tee shirts she had made for her son Anthony Watterson and daughter Mia Watterson that were on the ship. (Photo: MARK R. SULLIVAN)

The possibility of a large storm in the Atlantic was noted by government weather watchers on Friday. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Ocean Prediction Center issued its first alert at 1 p.m. Friday for hurricane-force winds Sunday in the Atlantic, according to NOAA spokeswoman Susan Buchanan.

“Even so, it is our responsibility to eliminate every surprise we possibly can,” the cruise line’s statement said. In a press release, Royal Caribbean said the storm “far exceeded forecasts,” turning a manageable storm into a dangerous one. Another warning came from the Ocean Prediction Center in the offshore waters forecast at 3:34 p.m. Saturday, Buchanan said. The warning predicted hurricane-force winds increasing to 63 to 75 mph, in effect through Sunday night.

The cruise line is strengthening its storm-avoidance policy in the aftermath of the storm, according to the statement.