Lengthy and Expensive Ordeal for Cruise Guests Stranded in Africa

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Eight cruise guests from Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Dawn have been left on their own in Africa after failing to return to the ship on time following a visit to Sao Tome and Principe on March 27, 2024, just a week into the 21-night cruise from Cape Town to Barcelona.

The guests have attempted to rejoin the ship but have faced numerous difficulties, including health issues, lack of payment methods for arrangements as they try to catch the ship, and lengthy travel through several countries.

Multiple Guests Stranded in Africa After Missing Ship

After enjoying a day in Sao Tome and Principe, eight guests aboard Norwegian Dawn were unable to return to the ship by the published all-aboard time of 3 p.m. and were subsequently left behind in the port while the ship sailed away.

The incident happened on Wednesday, March 27, when the ship was tendering in the small African island nation. According to the impacted guests, who have been speaking with various media outlets, they were on a private tour – one not arranged through Norwegian Cruise Line – when it became apparent they would not make it to the ship on time.

“We were like, our time is getting really short, and [the tour operator was] like, no problem, we can get you back within an hour,” one of the guests, Jay Campbell from South Carolina, said.

Campbell claims Norwegian Dawn was still in the harbor when the tour did arrive back at the dock, but that communication from the harbor master to the vessel was refused.

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

Norwegian Cruise Line has been strict about the ship’s all aboard time and how the process has been handled.

“On the afternoon of March 27, 2024, while the ship was in Sao Tome and Principe, an African island nation, eight guests who were on the island on their own or with a private tour missed the last tender back to the vessel, therefore not meeting the all aboard time of 3 p.m. local time,” a statement from the cruise line read.

“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.”

Norwegian Dawn Cruise
Norwegian Dawn Cruise (Photo Credit: Vytautas Kielaitis)

No matter what port of call such a situation may happen in, impacted guests are responsible for any costs to rejoin the ship or return home, including hotels, meals, airfare, visa fees, and other expenses, often in a foreign currency.

Campbell claims to have spent more than $5,000 on food, toiletries, hotels, and transportation in an effort to rejoin the ship thus far. Some of the passengers in the impacted group do not have their international credit cards or other methods of payment available, though the cruise line did ensure their international passports are available.

Read Also: What Happens If You Miss Your Cruise Ship?

“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,” Norwegian Cruise Line explained.

“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.”

Where Are They Now?

Unfortunately, the stranded guests’ plans have become more complicated as their time in Africa gets longer. After 15 hours of travel through six countries to reach Norwegian Dawn‘s scheduled port of call in Gambia on Sunday, March 31, they were still unable to rejoin the vessel.

Low tides forced the ship to remain at sea instead of docking, which means the travelers now need to move on to Dakar, Senegal, where the ship should be visiting on Tuesday, April 2.

Norwegian Dawn Cruise Ship
Norwegian Cruise Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Dennis MacDonald / Shutterstock)

If they are unable to reach the vessel during that visit, Norwegian Dawn will move on to the Canary Islands, arriving on Friday, April 5 at Santa Cruz de Tenerife – more than 3,200 miles (5,150 kilometers) from where the travelers were last aboard the ship.

The impacted travelers are facing a number of obstacles, including not having their money, essential medication, vaccination certificates (required by immigration authorities in several African nations en route), and other possessions available.

Several of the guests are reported to be elderly and with challenging medical conditions, including pregnancy, cardiac issues, and paralysis.

All cruise lines have similar policies when travelers do not return to the ship by the stated all-aboard time, and always recommend that guests choose shore excursions booked through the cruise line rather than make private tour arrangements.

Should a cruise line tour be late, additional help will be available for travelers and the ship may even delay its departure to ensure guests are not left behind, depending on available options in each individual port.

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