‘Consequences you pay’: Why cruise didn’t wait for passengers


Eight cruise passengers, including two Australians, have allegedly been left stranded on an African island after their excursion was running late — with the ship leaving without them.

The Norwegian Dawn ship docked at São Tomé and Príncipe, an island nation of 220,000 people off the west coast of Africa in the Gulf of Guinea, last Wednesday.

Many of the passengers then disembarked for day trips including the group of eight who were on a private tour that reportedly wasn’t organised through the cruise.

Jill and Jay Campbell, a couple from South Carolina, said there was an issue on their tour and they didn’t get back to the ship in time.

The Campbells told North Carolina-based TV station WRAL the tour operator had contacted the captain to let them know eight passengers were going to be late.

When the group arrived to the port, the ship was still anchored, but the Campbells said the captain allegedly refused to let them on board.

Spencer Aonfeld, a cruise ship lawyer from Florida, said booking a private tour that’s not through the cruise is a big risk.

“Eight passengers were left behind when their cruise ship left them because they were delayed in an excursion apparently conducted without buying it directly through Norwegian,” Mr Aonfeld said in a TikTok.

“These passengers include elderly passengers, one apparently a paraplegic, one has a heart condition, they don’t have their medication, money, passports, cell phones and other things — they’re just left behind.

“That unfortunately, according to Norwegian and me is, one of the consequences you pay when you buy your excursions from someone other than the cruise line.

“Now they’re left there having to come up with the means to travel back to the next port or home and forfeit the remaining potion of their cruise. Imagine trying to do that in Africa without a passport, money or medication — we wish them the very best.”

Mr Campbell said the captain could have made an “easy decision” to turn one of the tender boats back, pick them up, safely load them and “then go on the way”.

But it didn’t turn out that way.

“They had no port to call for the next day, they were simply going to be at sea.”

The group had planned to fly to Gambia in West Africa to meet the cruise ship at the port on Sunday.

They then spent 15 hours travelling through six countries to reach the port on Easter, only to find out that the ship could not dock due to low tides, according to WPDE.

The passengers are now heading to a port in Senegal, where the cruise is set to dock on Tuesday. But it’s not going to be an easy task.

“We looked at was some type of van, the quadriplegic woman included,” Mr Campbell said.

“We have to cross the ferry to get into Senegal. We just learned the ferry hadn’t been working, but (the van driver) said ‘no problem’, if the ferry is not working we will get another little boat and then pick up a car on the other side.

“And then once we get on the other side of Senegal, it’s another four hour drive,” he said.

Norwegian Cruise Line responds

In a statement, Norwegian Cruise Lines said it was “in communication with the guests,” and was providing them with “additional information”.

The world’s thirds largest cruise company said the guests had disembarked the vessel either to sight see on their own or to go on a “private tour” on Wednesday when they “missed the last tender back to the vessel,” at 3pm.

“When the guests did not return to the vessel at the all aboard time, their passports were delivered to the local port agents to retrieve when they returned to the port.

“While this is a very unfortunate situation, guests are responsible for ensuring they return to the ship at the published time, which is communicated broadly over the ship’s intercom, in the daily communication and posted just before exiting the vessel,” NCL said in a statement.

The company said it was “working closely with the local authorities” on how the guests might re-join the ship including any visas that may be needed.

“Guests are responsible for any necessary travel costs to re-join the ship at the next available port of call.”

Others have also taken to social media to weigh in on the debacle with one cruiser saying, “anybody who cruises regularly knows they don’t wait”.

“That’s why we call the late ones pier runners. Don’t trust anybody excursion that’s not booked through the cruise line. Period,” they wrote.

Another wrote: “Have done many excursions not through the cruise line. You definitely need to know the risk. Schedule with lots of leeway.”

Meanwhile, a third person wrote she has cruised a couple of times with her elderly mother and I would never risk booking a third party excursion.

“We always book through the cruise line,” she added.

According to The Points Guy, if you do not arrive at the port before the boarding window ends, a cruise ship “will most certainly leave without you”.

“Even if you are standing at the pier, waving frantically. That’s because a cruise ship’s departure time is carefully planned and more than just your vacation is at stake.

“Just like airplanes, cruise ships are on tight schedules — much tighter than you may realise.”

Mr Campbell told ABC 4 News South Carolina, that after they arrived at the port, the harbour master tried to call the ship, but “the captain refused the call”.

“We sent emails to NCL, the NCL customer service emergency number, they said ‘Well, the only way for us to get in touch with the ship is to send them emails, they’re not responding to our emails.’”

Mr Campbell said the nation’s coastguard service then put all the passengers on a boat and sailed them out to the cruise ship, but still they were refused permission to board.

Adam Glezer from Consumer Champion told news.com.au it was “ridiculous” the passengers weren’t allowed back on.

“Each situation has to be treated on an individual basis — especially the passenger without their medication,” he said.

He said despite the rules, “you need flexibility in situations like this”.

News.com.au has contacted Norwegian Cruise Line for an update on whether the passengers, including the two Australians, have since boarded the ship.