updated 12/10/2010 12:51:05 PM ET 2010-12-10T17:51:05

A damaged cruise ship reached Argentina's southernmost port early Friday with its 88 American passengers and 77 crew members safe after a large wave broke its bridge window and cut off its communications and radar.

The Clelia II was to stay four days in Antarctica but had to sail back to its scheduled port of Ushuaia after only two days because of the incident on Tuesday, according to passengers.

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It was a very slow trip in heavy weather, said passenger Denis Smyth, a 68-year-old U.S. Navy veteran from Rockville, N.Y.

"I am an ex-Navy person, so I was used to it, but it was very rough. There were a lot of days when people were too sick to eat," he told the Associated Press by telephone from Ushuaia.

Smyth said a large wave broke a railing near the window of the bridge and water came in, short-circuiting the communications and radar.

"About six or several people fell and several had black eyes and bruises," Smyth said. "When the ship lurched, several people went flying across the lounge."

The Clelia II declared an emergency on Tuesday when it was northeast of the South Shetland Islands and about 500 miles from Ushuaia, the Argentine Navy said in a statement.

The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators said in a statement that there were "no injuries to passengers, although one member of the crew sustained minor injuries."

Smyth said "the only concern I had was when we lost all communications and radar. We were basically blind out there."

"But I don't think were totally in fear of our lives," he added.

Another ship, the National Geographic Explorer, accompanied the Clelia II most of the time day and then sailed alongside it in support.

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Smyth said the passengers, between the ages of 50 and 85, paid $9,000 a person.

Of the 77 crew members, 44 were from the Philippines and the rest from Greece, Bulgaria, Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Chile, Croatia, France, Denmark, Hungary, Indonesia, Ukraine, Romania, Britain and the United States.

The ship had set out from Ushuaia on Nov. 30. It is operated by Travel Dynamics International of New York and owned by Helios Shipping of Piraeus, Greece.

In spite of the accident and having had to cut his Antarctic tour short, Smyth said he was satisfied because he saw see lions, penguins and lots of birds.

"I am very satisfied. I saw what I came down to see," he said.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Massive waves rock Antarctica cruise ship

  1. Closed captioning of: Massive waves rock Antarctica cruise ship

    >>> a tourist polar cruise ship in the antarctic with another 100 passengers on board is now heading back to argentina after getting slammed by massive waves that shattered windows and crushed it's communication systems . another ship found the disabled vessel when the crew sent out a distress signal. none of the people on board was harmed. back to matt, meredith and al. i would not do well on that.

    >> not a fun ship.

    >> it's a hard picture to look at. really difficult.

    >> that would be hard. that would be, yeah. mr. roker

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