Eight passengers of a Norwegian Cruise Line sailing through Africa were left behind after their external tour failed to arrive back at the port before final boarding time.

The travellers were enjoying the cruise of a lifetime on board Norwegian Dawn and had arranged an external day tour of São Tomé and Príncipe, a small island that has a population of about 227,000m off the coast of Gabon.

The nine travellers, two of whom are Australian, included a pregnant woman, a person suffering from a heart condition and a paraplegic.

After being assured by tour guides that they would be back before the ship’s time of restraint, the group then attempted to reach the captain of the cruise which was still anchored offshore, though they were not allowed to board.

“The harbour master tried to call the ship, the captain refused the call,” passenger Jay 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.’”

A spokesperson for Norwegian Cruise Line said, “On the afternoon of March 27, 2024, while the ship was in São Tomé and Príncipe, an African island nation, eight guests who were on the island on a private tour not organized through us missed the last tender back to the vessel, therefore not meeting the all aboard time of 3 p.m. local time.”

“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.  

“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. Our team has been working closely with the local authorities to understand the requirements and necessary visas needed for the guests to rejoin the ship at the next available port of call. 

“Given that these guests were on a private tour and did not return to the ship at the communicated all aboard time, they are responsible for any necessary travel arrangements to rejoin the ship at the next available port of call, per our protocol. 

“While the eight guests made arrangements to rejoin the ship in Banjul, Gambia on April 1, 2024, 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.

“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. We contacted these eight guests regarding this itinerary adjustment and provided them with authorization to rejoin the ship at Dakar, Senegal on April 2, 2024. 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.

“We remain in communication with the guests and are providing additional information as it becomes available.” 

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