Why Those Angry Norwegian Spirit Passengers Probably Won't Get a Refund

Norwegian Spirit Passengers Protest in the Atrium October 7, 2019
Norwegian Spirit Passengers demand a refund after multiple port changes on their Mystical Fjords cruise. - Photo by NCLHELL1 on Twitter

What happened?

On September 27, 2019, Norwegian Spirit departed from Southampton on a 14-night "Mystical Fjords" cruise, with scheduled calls to Amsterdam, Norway, Iceland, Northern Ireland and Ireland.

As passengers boarded the ship, they were advised that the first port on the itinerary, Amsterdam, was being replaced with Le Havre, France. Due to weather conditions, the ship was unable to dock in Le Havre and sailed for Norway, where scheduled port calls were made in Bergen and Flam. At that point, the captain decided to cancel the ship's calls to Akureyri and Reykjavik, Iceland, over concerns that the ship may not be able to avoid Hurricane Lorenzo, which was forecasted to be in the area between Ireland and Iceland during the time Norwegian Spirit would need to transit the region.


Norwegian Spirit Map

Originally scheduled itinerary for Norwegian Spirit's September 27, 2019 cruise - Map by Norwegian Cruise LIne

Instead of Iceland, the ship added two additional stops in Norway, as well as a call to Greenock, Scotland (a port near Glasgow). On Thursday morning, October 7, as the ship approached Greenock for the scheduled 8 am arrival, passengers gathered in the ship's atrium, preparing to disembark the ship. According to Cruise Radio, at 8:15 am, an announcement said that due to a ship being repaired at the dock, Norwegian Spirit's arrival would be delayed one hour. At 9:40 am, it was announced that the ship would not be able to dock due to high winds. “I wish I took pictures of the pilot boat leaving. It was bouncing all over," a passenger told Cruise Radio.

The ship returned to Southampton as scheduled on October 11. "While nine ports of call were originally planned for the voyage, the revised itinerary allowed the ship to call on eight ports... We always do our best to provide our guests with a truly enjoyable and memorable vacation, but our very first priority is to ensure their safety and the safety of our crew," a Norwegian spokesperson said In a statement to ABC News.

"We understand that it is disheartening when we are unable to call on ports that our guests have been looking forward to visiting. However, we do ask for our guests' patience, cooperation, and understanding that severe weather conditions are an act of God and cannot be controlled, influenced or remediated by the cruise line," the statement continued.

How Did the Passengers React

On October 7, when it was announced the call to Greenock was cancelled, “All hell broke loose in the atrium,” a passenger told Cruise Radio. Guests gathered in the atrium and protested for hours (up to 12 hours, according to some reports). Mob mentality took over as angry passengers held up signs reading "Shame on you" and "We want refund" as they chanted "We want refund!" "London! Take us back!" and "We want off this ship!" Some passengers personally berated the ships' officers, demanding to speak to the captain, saying "We need someone who can do something."

Passengers complained that the itinerary changes made it a "bait and switch" cruise and that Norwegian was lying about weather being the reason for the itinerary changes.\

Passengers also complained about out of order toilets, seemingly linking the problem with the commodes to the missed port calls (it wasn't related), and noted "wilted" food on the buffets, again, seemingly implying it was due to the skipped port call (again, it's not related - cruise ships sail from their embarkation port with more than a full cruise worth of food and supplies, and rarely pick up provisions in route).

Passengers even complained that the ship was offering "tours of the laundry room" for $79 to profit off of the port changes. The behind the scenes tour, which includes the laundry room, bridge, and other areas normally off-limits to passengers is actually a popular option held regularly on sea days on all Norwegian ships.

Some passengers have indicated they intend to sue Norwegian Cruise Line over the experience.

Why They Probably Won't Get a Refund

Letter to Norwegian Spirit Passengers - Photo by NCLHELL1 on Twitter

Cruisers in the Caribbean are regularly impacted by itinerary changes due to hurricanes and other weather events, and hurricanes can and do happen in the North Atlantic. Cruise lines and cruise ship captains will not knowingly sail a ship into a hurricane or other dangerous conditions. And even when the weather appears fine to passengers, wind and sea conditions can impact a cruise ship's ability to safely navigate to or dock at a port of call. Itinerary deviations occur to keep passengers and ships safe, not as "bait and switch" marketing tactics, to sell more behind the scenes ship tours, or to purposely inconvenience passengers. 


Norwegian's Passenger Ticket Contract clearly spells out that the line has the authority to change any itinerary for any reason:

6. Vessel and Voyage:
(c) Itinerary Deviation: The Guest agrees that the Carrier has the sole discretion and liberty to direct the movements of the vessel, including the rights to: proceed without pilots and tow, and assist other vessels in all situations; deviate from the purchased voyage or the normal course for any purpose, including, without limitation, in the interest of Guests or of the vessel, or to save life or property; put in at any unscheduled or unadvertised port; cancel any scheduled call at any port for any reason and at any time before, during or after sailing of the vessel; omit, advance or delay landing at any scheduled or advertised port; return to port of embarkation or to any port previously visited if the Carrier deems it prudent to do so; substitute another vessel or port(s) of call without prior notice and without incurring any liability to the Guest on account thereof for any loss, damage or delay whatsoever, whether consequential or otherwise. 

Norwegian Cruise Line offered the passengers a 25% discount on a future cruise. Compensation, other than refunding port charges and cancelled shore excursions for missed ports, is rarely offered for itinerary changes, so a 25% credit for a future cruise is a reasonable goodwill gesture to make up for the poor experience on this cruise.

Requests for refunds will fall on deaf ears at Norwegian, and passengers would be wise to take the discount and enjoy another - hopefully trouble free - Norwegian cruise.

Join the discussion

Do you think the Norwegian Spirit passengers deserve a full refund?


Posted by Bingocruiser

Safety should always be the 1st priority. Those people are being ridiculous. They actually had ports that they did stop too.

Posted by KatePeters

i would rather be on a ship that is safe than one in a hurricane! We had an experience on the Angelina Lauro years ago where a Russian submarine slid under the ship and knocked into the rudder forcing the ship into dry dock in Naples. We had to get onto another ship and cruise round for a fortnight while the Angelina was repaired. The NCL ship in this case did the right thing by the passengers - they need to realise you can't control the weather.

Posted by leew3rd

I sympathize with the passengers missing ports of call that they looked forward to visiting but, I totally agree with Norwegian Cruise Lines and the Captain's decision. It is always safety first. I've missed ports of call because of weather and a medical emergency. Yes, I was disappointed but I didn't let it ruin my wonderful experience aboard ship. Instead of acting like two-year old toddlers with a tantrum, the passengers should be grateful that they were not put in peril because of the Captain's decisions.

Posted by KgngFromTheCLE

Read your cruise contract: ports and itineraries never guaranteed. Length of cruise is at the sole discretion of the cruise line. Disagreement to the terms of the cruise contract subject to binding arbitration. Can attempt to sue in court, but no court could legally hear the case. Too bad.

Posted by LuckyLindyF

I don't feel they deserve a full refund but they should get something back. Every port that the ship doesn't have to dock at saves on port charges which, at the minimum, should be reimbursed. I have been on numerous cruises that have missed a port or changed itinerary. Remarkably, they have mostly been on NCL. That's why I don't sail with NCL any longer. Too many problems. That's why their fares are lower. They are losing customers. One cruise I was supposed to go to Cozumel, Cancun and Belize. We went to Cancun and then to Progresso Mexico. Whee!!! There was a hurricane which is understandable but the reason we couldn't stay ahead of the hurricane was because they had a faulty engine. Their fault entirely. We got nothing back except a 10% discount on another cruise with NCL. NO THANK YOU. I'll stick to other cruise lines.

Posted by stageman

Totally agree with Norwegian, safety comes first and a 25% future cruise discount seems more than fair especially that their cruises are far more expensive than rccl these days. I wouldn't hesitate to cruise with them again over others, excellent cruise line.

Posted by boat3r

HEY CRUISE PASSENGERS Have you looked at the videos of ships going through hurricane waters? Id rather stop at unscheduled ports than go through that crap. Either way the cruise ship company would be listening to your whining wouldn't they.

Posted by NJCrewzer

Have had port changes on half the cruises we have taken the past 5 years. It is a floating hotel and subject to damage from inanimate objects like docks and piers.

Posted by travelinsammy

we were on the star afew years back from hongkong to singapore (14) days. Before boarding theship we were advised that there were some mechanical problems, and we couldnt land in someports (Taipei, Hanoi, Cambodia) We were offered either a full refund (since we live in los angeles and were already in hong kong, this didnt seem like a good option, a 50% refund on this cruise and an additional 50% equal to the amount of this cruise on a future cruise. Taking this was a no brainer. While we were dis appointed (I especially wanted to see Hanoi (as a Vietnam veteran) we had a suite with a butler, and it was still rather enjoyable.WhileI understand the frustration of these cruisers, any line can't beheld responsible for weather conditions. That being said, i believe NCL should sweeten the pot, offer more than 25% refund and a bigger discount on a future cruise. Positive public relations, happy customers are always better than themoney NCL is saving. Incidentally, we are platinum plus latitude members and have taken over 18 cruises with Norwegian.

Posted by Wendy24

It is not possible to make a general statement as to whether or not guests are eligible for a refund. Because it also depends in which country the guests have booked. The European travel law is completely different from the American law. And it doesn't matter whether the shipping company writes something in its terms and conditions - if this contradicts the law, the clause is invalid. There has been a court decision (about a Greenland cruise) that has granted reimbursement to guests - even if bad weather was the cause of the route change. The Frankfurt Regional Court considered a price reduction to be justified because in the negotiated case, during an Arctic cruise around Greenland, the planned route advertised in the catalogue was changed due to bad weather (file number 2-24 0 30/15). The court ruled that the traveller may subsequently reduce the price if several promised ports are not served on a cruise. This applies even if the ship had to change the route due to bad weather. The present case involved a 19-day voyage from Hamburg to the Arctic worth 15,284 euros. On four days the ship could not call at several ports in Greenland, which were among the highlights of the cruise, because of high waves. The plaintiff therefore demanded a refund. The Regional Court ruled in his favour on the grounds that the claim was independent of fault: Although the captain had no choice but to abandon the planned ports and take a different route, the passenger was entitled to a price reduction for the corresponding four days. In this case, one third of the daily price of 804 euros each, i.e. a total of 1073 euros. It is important to understand, however, that the refund only applies to the days concerned!

Posted by draconis13

A refund is not going to happen. You hear about itinerary changes many times a year caused by weather,mechanical or some other factor and most cruise lines refund excursions that are missed. I think 25% off the next cruise offered by this cruise line quite frankly is a little cheap. In the past I've seen other cruise lines offer $50 to $100 OBC and 50% of next cruise. Also if a cruise ship misses the return date the cruise line offers help to the passengers to get them home. I think NCL could have done more. IMO.

Posted by drbrownie

It is the world we live in that everyone wants their money back and keep the product/service. 25% seems reasonable to me based on that I see and read. BUT when you are on the ship when something goes wrong, it gets crazy and you see the worst in people come out. I was on the NCL Epic in February 2019 that ended up the Epic Fail! We broke down at sea, missed ALL our ports, made an unscheduled stop in Puerto Rico for engine repairs where the ship hit the dock and took out two mooring piers. (google that one). We limped back home only to be 8 hours late and many on board missed flights. Good news (not) was, they would give you up to $300 to re-book your flight (not enough in most cases),and 4200 people on board could use the 2 phones by customer service (free) to re-book. That was an awful scene. In the end we did get a 100% credit toward a future cruise. The red tape to file for everything else was unbelievable. All of our previous cruises were seamless. These ships are always on the water so the issues and breakdowns are bound to happen. Nothing works perfectly all the time.

Posted by YOHANAN

We want to know the truth, please clearly explain it to us in simple English as if we have a mind of a 5 year old. Why can’t these passengers get their 25% off the current disaster cruise? It is thoughtless and inconsiderate to think everyone can afford to go on the next cruise; therefore not all can benefit from NCL not so great solution. People will act in a peculiar way when they feel their time and hard earn money was wasted. I say, if you have their best interest in mind then give them their 25% now not later.

Posted by NeverneverNcL

I was bitten by a bug during the night, had an almost fatal reaction, i What is tag taken off The boat in Kona spent the entire day in the hospital, was charged 375 by NCL Upon return on the last tender back to the boat, I insist that our cabin be fumigated . My hospital bill the ambulance bill were both paid by Medicare, however Medicare could not reimburse me for the ships doctor. Medicare actually called me and told me that the doctor on the NCL ship was not licensed to Hawaii . They also told me that the same situation had occurred with over 150 other NCL passengers. Needless to say all of my efforts to contact NCL over their charges was for naught. I was with a group of 32 friends and everyone of them experienced some form of filth in their cabinets. We have cruised on 15 cruises with many different cruise lines I will never never recommend NCL,In fact when speaking to others who are considering a cruise I tell them that’s the worst line don’t ever book your cruise with NCL. Once they get your money they could care about your well-being.

Posted by Gymyc

People today are just crazy. This is a great example. Going on NCL in December and can't wait. Read reviews about cruises and you will see people on the same cruise that berate it and others give it 5 stars. Same cruise. We cruise a lot and some have been better than others, as expected. However, they are all a great getaway and can be what you make of them.

Posted by Chippewa74

We were just on a cruise on the Crown Princess. We had to miss two ports: Portland, England (high winds made it unsafe) and the Azores (we could have gotten in and had a nice day but that would have put us right in the teeth of Hurricane Lorenzo). Missed stops happen all the time. Had they tried to get in somewhere and people were injured the line would be facing lawsuits from the very same people who are currently griping about missed ports.

Posted by NCLisBAD

It was the Norwegian Breakaway that plowed through the hurricane just last year and left passengers vomiting for days. Norwegian puts their schedule ahead of passenger safety. I can understand not stopping in ports due to weather, and is something you just have to deal with. I can't understand the awful conditions on board, the refusal by NCL to address the health concerns related to that, and only offering compensation by a small discount on a future cruise. Customer service has never been NCL's strong suit.

Posted by CruiseCommie

On Celebrity/RCL cruises, sometimes one of the outboard electrical motors (run by the Big Diesel in the hold) shorts out, and they head back to the first port (and-you don't get to any Other ports.) Norwegian should at LEAST offer a full refund, Plus a 25% discount on future cruises. That is just Good Business. Those passengers were TOO Polite! They should have burned the drapes in the auditorium. NO Justice-NO Peace!!

Posted by ISpeakTruthOnly

I will skip the merits of this dispute between NCL and these UK passengers. Suffice to say that NCL Spirit, though older, is one of my favorite cruise ships not only in the NCL fleet but of all other cruise lines I have cruised with.

Posted by Riri75

it says it in writing when you book your cruise, that if needed because of weather or other unfortunate reasons,the ship will reroute

Posted by ddale44

Norwegian Cruise Line NO THANK YOU!!!!!!!! Good luck in getting a refund. Spent 9 of 11 day cruise itching because of being bitten by bed bugs. My wife and myself rubbed against posts,door openings,and itched the whole time away. They shrunk over 200.00 in clothing spent thousands on the trip they only offered a ship credit of 200.00 each for future sailings. They just seem to not care about customer service. Yet once they have your money it’s a too bad so sad attitude. They continue to send us emails saying what a valuable customer we are to them GO FIGURE!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by Richardmervyn

Had the same problem on the Explorer of the Seas. Instead of doing a med cruise we missed 2 stops and spent 2 days at Le Harve northern France. This was all to do with Lorenzo. Most passengers we spoke to thought it was an over reaction as the storm was actually tracking north. As previous commenters said the cruise line were selling tours of the ship for 100 dollars what a rip off and what disrespect by Royal Caribbean to its customer.

Posted by captanang

How about the dude in the video. We need the captain, we need somebody who can do something. WTF This guy looks like he is going to cry. People book during storm season to save money then cry when...… there is a storm.

Posted by LALucia7777

The weather is responsible for many changes of ports. In San Pedro port in Los Angeles county, California, we are having strong winds that can stop the cruise ships from entering our ports. Oct. 18, 2019. I would enjoy being stuck on a cruise ship for several more days.

Posted by NeverNCL

We cruise about once a year with a mix of Princes and Royal Caribbean. The worst Cruise we ever had was on Norwegian. Delayed boarding, Lost Luggage, toilet in our cabin did not work, lost Dinner reservations.. We complained and were offered 200 off our next cruise with them, we have not been back!

Posted by kel400

its easy to judge and speculate when you aren't on the ship. i see both sides. if a port i really wanted to visit was getting canceled i would certainly be bummed but i would have to think they weren't canceling it for some worthless reason. that being said, after seeing this footage i am glad i was not on this cruise. i think a discount would have been nice for the cruise they were on. yes its nice to offer a discount for a future cruise but maybe make it expire in 5 years, not 2.

Posted by Tulip2

NCL should have immediately refunded the 25%. When you book a cruise you don't have the option of paying 75% with the promise to pay 125% on your next cruise. When you buy any product you expect to receive the whole thing, a reasonable substitution; or a refund if you don't get what you paid for. NCL would LOVE to have the passengers again to try and squeeze every cent out of them possible with shore excursions, onboard merchandise, specialty meal fees, etc etc. But I expect very few will take them up on the "generous offer", I know I certainly would not

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