Norwegian Offering Further Assistance to Stranded Guests in Africa

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Difficulties have continued for eight guests who missed the all-aboard time for Norwegian Dawn while visiting São Tomé and Príncipe on March 27, but Norwegian Cruise Line is helping with expenses as the travelers work to rejoin the ship as soon as possible.

Due to weather conditions, the impacted guests were unable to rejoin the ship in Gambia as expected on Monday, April 1, and instead had to travel to Senegal to meet the ship on Tuesday, April 2.

Guests Unable to Rejoin Ship at First Port

When cruise passengers miss returning to their ship before the vessel departs a port of call, it is common policy that they are then responsible for travel arrangements and expenses either to return home or to meet the ship at the next available port of call on the itinerary.

Eight guests who were late returning to Norwegian Dawn from a privately arranged tour while the ship was visiting São Tomé and Príncipe, an island nation 175 miles (282 kilometers) off the coast of Gabon in western Africa, found themselves in that exact situation on Wednesday, March 27.

“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 print communication and posted just before exiting the vessel,” a statement from Norwegian Cruise Line read.

“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.”

The passengers – which include travelers with a variety of challenging health conditions – struggled to make their own arrangements to the ship’s next scheduled port of call, which was to have been Banjul, Gambia on Monday, April 1.

Norwegian Dawn Cruise Ship
Photo Credit: Darryl Brooks / Shutterstock

However, the ship was unable to visit that port as planned, which meant the guests were unable to rejoin the ship at that time.

“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,” Norwegian Cruise Line confirmed. “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.”

Where to Next?

This has meant the guests needed further travel to reach the next port of call on Tuesday, April 2 – Dakar, Senegal – which is a nearly six-hour drive from Banjul. The drive requires crossing the River Gambie and moving into a new country, with all the immigration and paperwork considerations of yet another international border crossing for the already stressed travelers.

Norwegian Cruise Line is being very generous, however. Even though the protocol is for guests to be responsible for all expenses to rejoin the ship, the cruise line is planning reimbursement for what will hopefully be the last segment of travel for the passengers to reboard the 92,250-gross-ton Norwegian Dawn.

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

Satellite tracking data confirms that Norwegian Dawn has been able to successfully visit Dakar, but there is no update as to whether or not the eight travelers have been able to reboard the ship. The cruise line has authorized them to do so, but not all guests are convinced they want to continue their cruise.

“After what we witnessed, we truly believe that although there’s a set of rules or policies that the ship may have followed, they followed those rules too rigidly,” said Jill Campbell, one of the American guests involved in the ordeal.

UPDATE: Norwegian Cruise Line has confirmed that all eight passengers were able to successfully rejoin Norwegian Dawn in Dakar, Senegal.

Jill and Jay Campbell
Jill and Jay Campbell

“I believe that they really forgot that they are people working in the hospitality industry and that really the safety and the well-being of the customers should be their first priority, and that should be placed first,” she said. “We believe there was a basic duty of care that they’ve forgotten about so it does concern us.”

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

This presents a slippery slope, however, if cruise lines were to be anything but “rigid” with their policies. For example, how long should a ship wait for late guests to return in a port of call? What about travelers who may miss that later deadline by just a few more minutes?

Furthermore, the “safety and the well-being” of guests is always top priority, but cruise lines do need to consider the hundreds or thousands of guests already onboard a vessel ready to depart when compared to a few who were unable to abide by the all aboard time. A departure delay might create greater navigational difficulties with tides, currents, and weather that could impact the entire ship.

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