Why Those Angry Norwegian Spirit Passengers Probably Won't Get a Refund
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.
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.\
More rioting on Monday October 7th as passengers are told they cannot leave ship for third day at sea. pic.twitter.com/jkoCj07aV8— NCLHELL (@NCLHELL1) October 8, 2019
There are passengers from all over the world on this ship. Set to dock in SouthHampton Friday the 11th. Media should interview trapped passengers as they escape this nightmare. pic.twitter.com/v651i6MUPM— NCLHELL (@NCLHELL1) October 9, 2019
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).
After three days floating around the Atlantic the bathrooms are backing up, not flushing, and out of order today on Norwegian Spirit. pic.twitter.com/CFBANWycWX— NCLHELL (@NCLHELL1) October 8, 2019
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.
For every day the ship was stuck at sea NCL made more money. They were charging $80 for for tours of the laundry room daily. pic.twitter.com/owhU53rkS3— NCLHELL (@NCLHELL1) October 9, 2019
Some passengers have indicated they intend to sue Norwegian Cruise Line over the experience.
Why They Probably Won't Get a Refund
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?