Stranded Norwegian Cruise Line passengers make crucial decision

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The passengers left behind by a cruise ship on an African island, who then spent seven days trying to catch the vessel up, have made a crucial decision about their onward journey.

The eight abandoned tourists, which included Australians Doug and Violeta Sanders, had expressed some doubts as to whether they now wanted to return to the Norwegian Dawnafter their epic African ordeal.

“We are considering whether or not we are going to board the ship,” US passenger Jill Campbell told NBC’s the Today Show on Tuesday.

“(NCL) really forgot that they are people working in the hospitality industry and that the safety is and the wellbeing of their customers should be the first priority.

“It was a basic duty of care that they have forgotten about … It does concern us,” she said.

Norwegian Cruise passengers stranded after missing departure off African coast

Re-boarded – but still frustrated

But it’s emerged the group did indeed re-join the Norwegian Cruise Lines ship in Dakar, Senegal, some 3100km from where the liner refused to wait for them after they returned late from a private tour.

“The eight guests have now rejoined Norwegian Dawn in Dakar, Senegal,” a spokesman for the cruise line told news.com.au on Wednesday.

A relative of a women who also left the ship, but for a separate medical issue, said Ms Campbell had texted him to say they were now back on the boat.

But it’s been reported Ms Campbell was frustrated at senior staff because they had not acknowledged them.

“The only thing we have received so far is a small note from the food and beverage director with six little treats left in our state room,” Kurt Gies said Ms Campbell had messaged him saying, reported the New York Post.

The group were left in São Tomé and Príncipe, an African island nation, on March 27.

NCL said they were significantly late for the 3pm boarding time due to the eight passengers going on a private tour unconnected to the ship.

The group, including the Campbell family who have fronted much of the media, have accepted they were late but have stressed they pushed the tour guides to get them back by 3pm.

While NCL delivered the passengers’ passports to the dock, the group claimed that all their other personal belongings, including many bank cards and medication, were kept on the ship.

They then spent seven days travelling through seven countries to reach the Norwegian Dawn.

They made it to the small nation of The Gambia, in west Africa, where the ship was due to dock. But the ship couldn’t reach port and set sail for Senegal instead.

The diversion added another day to the abandoned passengers’ journey through the continent.

‘Worst experience of our lives’

The two Australians said being left behind was traumatic.

“It’s been the worst experience of our lives to be abandoned like that in a strange country,” Ms Sanders told Channel 7’s Sunrise.

“Can’t speak the language — it’s Portuguese and African; we have no money, our credit cards aren’t accepted,” she added.

Norwegian blames passengers

NCL has pointed the finger at its errant passengers, however, saying it was their responsibility to be back on time.

In a statement to news.com.au, NCL said the group were not just a little late – but over an hour behind schedule.

“Guests are responsible for ensuring they return to the ship at the published time,” a spokesman said, adding the timeslot is “communicated broadly over the ship’s intercom, in the daily print communication and posted just before exiting the vessel”.

“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, as per the regular protocol.

As the guests had booked a private tour rather than going through Norwegian Cruise Line’s organised activities they would now be “responsible” for the cost of their travel to the next available port.

“While the eight guests made arrangements to re-join the ship in Banjul, Gambia, on April 1, 2024, unfortunately the ship was unable to safely dock in the destination due to adverse weather conditions, as well as tidal restrictions that require specific timing for safe passage,” the spokesman said.

“While we share in our guests’ disappointment, this modification was made with great consideration for their safety and that of our crew, which is our top priority.

“We contacted these eight guests regarding this itinerary adjustment and provided them with authorisation to re-join the ship at Dakar, Senegal on April 2, 2024.

“Despite the series of unfortunate events outside of our control, we will be reimbursing these eight guests for their travel costs from Banjul, Gambia, to Dakar, Senegal.”