Twist in plight of stranded cruise ship passengers

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The tourists at the centre of a cruise ship nightmare when they were abandoned on an African island without their possessions have said they are “considering” not reboarding the vessel despite rushing through seven nations to reach it.

“We believe that it was a basic duty of care that they have forgotten about,” said Jill Campbell, one of eight tourists including two Australians who were stranded when their Norwegian Cruise Line sailed off without them last week after they were late back to the dock side.

“Although there are a set of rules, they have followed them too rigidly,” she told American TV on Tuesday morning (US time).

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The nautical nightmare began last Wednesday when 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.

Jill and Jay Campbell, along with the two Australians, and a further four travellers took a private tour of the island.

However, despite asking the tour guide to ensure they were back at the port by 3pm that day, when the captain had said boarding would end, the group were late.

The guides has contacted the ship to ask it to wait for the eight passengers – but to no avail.

Even though the Norwegian Dawn was still at anchor, and Sao Tome coastguard took the group on tenders to the vessel, they were still refused boarding.

The US based Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) has said it was a “very unfortunate incident” but defended its actions because the passengers were late to get back on board.

NCL’s Asia Pacific arm has not replied to news.com.au’s questions regarding the wellbeing of the Australians who were also abandoned.

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

One of the group had a heart condition and did not access to their pills, it’s been claimed.

The group, which also included a person who was paraplegic, have spent the week since trying to organise onward travel to the ship’s next ports of call to reboard the vessel.

They managed to make it to Banjul in The Gambia, in West Africa, but the ship couldn’t dock. So the passengers then had to travel on ferries and overland to neighbouring Senegal.

The Campbells, from South Carolina, were the only people to have their bank cards and more than a few dollars on them. They said they have spent $7500 on accommodation and food for their fellow castaways.

Jay Campbell told US broadcaster NBC’s the Today Show that the people of Sao Tome had been “very gracious, very hospitable,” and had steered them towards hotels and travel agents.

Nonetheless, he said, it had been a challenging experience.

“It’s a very, very difficult process. You’re dealing with multiple languages, different currencies, finding someone that will even take dollars,” said Mr Campbell.

“I think we flew through six countries just to get to The Gambia yesterday”.

The group managed to overtake the Norwegian Dawn and arrived in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, on Monday night before it arrived.

NCL has now said that it has decided to allow the passengers back on the ship.

But Ms Campbell said that even though the option was open to continue the cruise she wasn’t sure if she wanted too.

“We are considering whether or not we are going to board the ship,” she told NBC.

“We truly believe that although there’s a set of rules or policies that the ship follows, they follow those rules too rigidly.

“They 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 and that should be placed first.

“It was a basic duty of care that they have forgotten about.

“It does concern us,” said Ms Campbell.

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

“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.”