Stranded Tourists Launch Cross-Africa Rush to Reach Cruise Ship

They were left stranded with no credit cards, medications, or other essentials.

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Eight unlucky tourists were forced to add some unexpected stops to their vacation when a Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) ship marooned them off the west coast of Africa, turning their dream getaway into a travel nightmare.

The group—which included a pregnant woman, four elderly people, and one person with a heart condition—was stranded on São Tomé and Príncipe without any credit cards or medication. They had failed to make it back to the Norwegian Dawn by its 3 p.m. departure time on Wednesday, and said the cruise ship refused to answer their calls for help as they crossed international borders and tried to catch up with it.

“We’ve never had anything like this happen before,” Jill Campbell, one of the passengers, told WRAL.

The Dawn was still docked when the passengers arrived after the cutoff time, Campbell and her husband, Jay, told U.S. media outlets. But to their dismay, cruise personnel refused to let the group aboard and ignored their calls.

“The harbor master tried to call the ship, the captain refused the call,” Jay Campbell told ABC 4 News. He described a frustrating conversation with NCL’s customer service that sent him in circles trying to get in touch with someone.

“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,'” Campbell said.

They were transported to the cruise ship by speedboat, an endeavor facilitated by the island’s coast guard. Despite that, they were once again denied entry, according to Campbell. The cruise staff returned their passports to the dock, but retained all credit cards, medications, and other essentials left on the ship.

Upon returning to the island, the party bumped into another stranded cruise passenger – an 80-year-old lady who had been left with nothing after getting hospitalised and then being left behind by the ship. Thankfully, the group arranged for the elderly female a trip back to the U.S. Meanwhile, the rest of the group tried to figure out a way to reconnect with the ship by reaching out to the U.S. embassy in neighboring Angola.

On Sunday, the travellers head to The Gambia with a plan to intercept the Norwegian Dawn at the port. However, their plan fell through as the ship did not dock at The Gambia due to low tide. Consequently, the ship travelled to the nearby Senegal, providing the passengers with another opportunity to catch it.

Norwegian Cruise Line evaluated this situation as “regrettable,” but placed the responsibility on the passengers for failing to meet the departure time.

“Guests are responsible for ensuring they return to the ship at the published time,” they said in a statement, adding that the departure time was “communicated broadly” all over the vessel. “Guests are responsible for any necessary travel costs to rejoin the ship at the next available port of call.”

The cruise line also said it had been coordinating with “local authorities” to understand what the guests would need if they were to rejoin the ship, and that it was “in communication with the guests.”

That statement is at odds with what the Campbells told American media. As of Sunday, they said they had not heard back from the cruise line.

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