Australian couple in Norwegian Cruise Lines nightmare trip

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Two Australians are among a group of eight people who have accused a major cruise line of abandoning them on an African island without returning their credit cards or medications.

The Norwegian Cruise Lines nautical nightmare has seen the passengers, which also include a pregnant woman, a person with a heart condition and someone who is paraplegic, scrambling thousands of kilometres across Africa to reboard the ship – so far with no success.

“We have never had an experience like this before,” said one of the stranded passengers, who added that four of the stranded group were elderly.

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

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On Wednesday of last week the passengers left the Norwegian Dawn ship 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, from the US state of South Carolina, were with the two Australians on a tour when they alerted their guides that they had to be back on the Norwegian Dawn by 3pm which was fast approaching.

“They were like: ‘No problem, we can get you back within an hour,’” said Mr Campbell, who is a schoolteacher.

The guide contacted the captain to say the group were going to be late. When they got back to port the Norwegian Dawn was still anchored. But staff would not allow the passengers to board.

“The harbour master tried to call the ship, the captain refused the call,” Mr Campbell told ABC 4 News South Carolina.

“We sent emails to NCL, the NCL customer service emergency number, they said ‘Well, the only way for us to get in touch with the ship is to send them emails, they’re not responding to our emails.’”

Mr Campbell said the São Tomé and Príncipe coastguard then put all the passengers on a boat and sailed them out to the cruise ship, but still they were refused permission to board.

Defeated, the group headed back to the island.

No bank cards or medication

There they met another cruise passenger who had been left by NCL. The 80-year-old had been briefly hospitalised after an incident on a tour. It’s been claimed Norwegian did not call her emergency contact and left her without her money or belongings.

“I truly believe sometimes we’re put in certain places for a reason and I believe we were put in this place for the 80-year-old woman that was left alone.

“God forbid what would have happened to that lady if we were not here,” Mr Campbell said.

Although the cruise line did deliver all the stranded passengers’ passports to the dock, the group said any bank cards, money, medications or personal belongings that they did not take on the tour that day were still on the vessel.

Jay and Jill Campbell were the only two to bring their cards with them and told ABC that they had spent at least $75000 on accommodation and food for the whole group.

They said a passenger without her heart medications had been ill on Sunday.

3000km ship chase across west Africa

The US Embassy in Angola, on the African mainland, have helped the passengers.

The 80-year-old flew direct to Lisbon for a connecting flight to the US, the Campbells said. They contacted her family and put an Air Tag tracking device on her so everyone could be sure where she was.

The remainder of the group have said they spent 15 hours travelling on Sunday to The Gambia, in West Africa, to meet the boat at its next port of call.

They hoped to be allowed to board if the captain agreed to their pleas.

However, disaster struck again, when a particularly low tide meant the Norwegian Dawn could not dock in Banjul, the capital of The Gambia.

Instead it remained at sea before its next scheduled stop in Senegal which borders The Gambia.

The ship is currently off the coast between The Gambia and Senegal, some 3000km from where the passengers were left on the dockside.

Chasing the cruise ship is proving to be an arduous task for the group given there are no direct roads between Banjul and Senegal.

“We looked at was some type of van, the quadriplegic woman included,” said Mr Campbell.

“We have to cross the ferry to get into Senegal. We just learned the ferry hadn’t been working, but (the van driver) said ‘no problem’, if the ferry is not working we will get another little boat and then pick up a car on the other side.

“And then once we get on the other side of Senegal, it’s another four-hour drive,” he said.

The Campbells have claimed NCL has not been in contact with them despite the drama.

Cruise line responds

In a statement, Norwegian Cruise Lines disputed this and said it was “in communication with the guests,” and was providing them with “additional information”.

The world’s thirds largest cruise company said the guests were off the vessel either on their own or on a “private tour” on Saturday when they “missed the last tender back to the vessel,” at 3pm.

“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 guest might re-join the ship including visas.

“Guests are responsible for any necessary travel costs to re-join the ship at the next available port of call.”

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