The Royal Gazette photo via AP, Akil Simmons
In this photo provided by the Royal Gazette, the Norwegian cruise ship Norwegian Dawn, lies aground near Bermuda's North Channel Tuesday, May 19, 2015. Thousands of passengers bound for Boston will spend Tuesday night stuck aboard a Norwegian cruise ship after it ran aground as it tried to depart Bermuda, officials and passengers said.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Nearly 3,500 passengers and crew were allowed to disembark Wednesday in Bermuda after their cruise ship became grounded on a reef close to the British island as it tried to depart for Boston.

Norwegian Cruise Line said a team of experts was inspecting the ship that was stuck for nearly 6½ hours late Tuesday before a rising tide helped push it into deeper water.

"The ship is fully operational and guests are enjoying all onboard amenities and services," a company statement said.

The ship ran aground as it departed Bermuda after a temporary malfunction in the steering system forced it slightly off course, the company said. The ship has 2,443 passengers and 1,059 crew members.

Passenger Mitchell Walker, 33 of New York state, said officials told them to stay close to the ship.

"It's been a bit inconvenient, but not the worst thing that could have happened," he said. "There are worse places you could be shipwrecked."

Bermuda's government said in a statement that experts were completing underwater surveys and examining what caused the ship to lose steerage. Officials said they expected the ship to depart Wednesday afternoon.

Passenger Rachel Hansen, from Londonderry, New Hampshire, said the ship was about three miles from Bermuda when it ran aground.

"We definitely felt it," she told The Associated Press by telephone. "We were in the middle of eating dinner ... There was a shudder for maybe 30 seconds to a minute and then there was a sudden stop."

Another cruise ship, the Norwegian Breakaway, arrived in Bermuda Wednesday and was forced to drop anchor nearby. Passengers are being brought ashore via ferries, the government said.

The Norwegian Dawn was on a seven-day, round-trip cruise to Bermuda, where it spent three days in port.

The situation raised concern among those scheduled to travel from Boston to Bermuda aboard the Norwegian Dawn on Friday, including Nicole Boucher of Uxbridge, Massachusetts.

She said she had plans to travel with her mother and young daughter to celebrate their birthdays, but Norwegian cruise officials told her they didn't know yet if the ship will available.

"It was a girls' trip," she said. "My mom actually let me know through Facebook and said, 'Oh, this is our luck.'"

Danica Coto on Twitter: www.twitter.com/danicacoto