No – NCL Did Not “Strand” Passengers on a Tiny African Island Sailing on The Dawn!

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a cruise ship docked at a dock

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Believe it or not my very first cruise I ever took in my life was on the NCL Dawn. I was hooked and now am a Frequent Floater with well over 350 nights credit on NCL alone. I have sailed on most of the ships in NCL’s fleet with a few more on my bucket list.

Last week ThatGuy, who works onboard a major cruise line, had a great post about his thoughts on why you should be very careful about booking any excursion not sponsored by the cruise line you are on. Why? Because things can go wrong and then you are in a bit of a world of hurt. Let me explain why.

a cruise ship with a pool in the ocean

Lots of news outlets have pounced on a sad situation where a number of passengers did not make it back to the Norwegian Dawn on time and the ship left without them onboard. The news headlines have been sensational like:

South Carolina couple stranded in Africa, cruise ship left without them” – WRAL.com

And

Garden City couple claims cruise line abandoned them on African island” – Live5News.com

So just what happened and why is none of this NCL’s fault and why they did not “strand” them on the island of São Tomé. Let’s break this down.

  • The cruisers are Frequent Floaters since they tell us they have already sailed, this year alone, a number of times with NCL.
  • The cruisers booked an excursion on their own thus accepting the risk that if they did not get the last tender of the day at 3 PM they were on their own.
  • The NCL Dawn was not at fault and they will do what they can to help them get back on.

For those of us who cruise a lot we know (or should know) what steps to take when we get off the ship at any port. We first and foremost make sure we know the time we must be back onboard and make sure we get back with time to spare. We also take more than one credit card so if we have an issue with one we have a fall back (in our case my wife takes from one bank and me from another). We also take an ID and at least one phone and make sure we have local signal as well as some cash. It seems this group of 8 only had one credit card between them? Not smart.

a road going through a dry landscape

The next issue was the excursion on this tiny island. They had not booked with NCL so they were on their own if things went sideways. The knew this and they accepted the risk. This is why, and especially so if in a remote location, I only book shoreside adventures sponsored by the cruise line. Sure there are exceptions but not in places I do not know much about or have never been (or a place that would be hard to fly out of to catch the ship at another port).

a boat on the water

 

The account in most of the news stories say that the cruisers were not a little bit late but over an hour past the 3 PM last tender time. By the time they made it to the dock all the tenders (life boats from the ship in this case and not uncommon) were loaded back aboard the ship. The cruisers attempted to use local boats to get back to the ship but boarding a cruise ship this way can be very dangerous and they were refused by the captain.

In a statement NCL said in part:

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. Our team has been working closely with the local authorities to understand the requirements and necessary visas needed if the guests were to rejoin the ship at the next available port of call. We are in communication with the guests and providing additional information as it becomes available.” – Norwegian Cruise Line

This is one of the reasons I hold a yearly travel policy that will offset my travel costs should I be delayed and have to fly myself to another port. NCL delayed departure enough to get the guests passports ashore so they have the chance to fly to where the ship is going and rejoin the ship.

a body of water with land and buildings in the background

While I feel for the guests this is simply all on them. They knew the risks and for whatever reason, either for cost or for the tour options, chose to book outside the ship and they took their chances. For the news media to blast NCL is simply wrong and not OK! – René

 

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4 COMMENTS

    • @Greg – LOL yes! I saw an interview of the couple on TV this AM and they made it to the port city where the ship is but now they are saying they may not board because they feel uncomfortable the way the NCL has handled things. [mega eye roll]

  1. Last cruise were went on we were sitting on the deck talking with friends when there was an announcement by the Captain listing names of passengers as they were not back on the ship and it was leaving earlier because of weather…..Not sure they ever made it as no one was dropped off to the boat (we watched from above) before we left!!!

    • If a ship leaves earlier than the published and expected departure time, it is the responsibility of the cruise line to ensure that anyone not on board but still within the original departure time, is taken care of and recompensed for any out of pocket expenses to rejoin the ship. Being late passed the ship’s scheduled departure time is just tough cookies for the late comers.

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