Australian couple Violetta and Doug Sanders speak out after being left behind by Norwegian Dawn cruise

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Sarah Blake
The Nightly
3 Min Read
We are hearing from the Aussie couple among a group of 8 passengers stranded in Africa this morning after a Norwegian cruise ship left them behind.

An elderly Australian couple stranded in Africa when their cruise ship left them behind said it was the “worst experience of our lives” as the Norweigan Cruise Line laid the blame on the passengers.

“It’s been the worst experience of our lives to be abandoned like that in a strange country, can’t speak the language... Portuguese or an African (language),” Violetta Sanders told Seven’s Sunrise program on Wednesday morning.

“We have no money, our credit cards aren’t accepted.”

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Violetta and her husband Doug were among eight tourists who were barred from re-boarding the Norweigan Dawn after a day trip on March 27 and have spent the past week moving through six African countries to try to rejoin their group.

American couple Jill and Jay Campbell from South Carolina had earlier slammed the cruise line and said they had spent thousands of dollars to help support the Sanders and others in the group who had left their credit cards on board the ship for the day trip.

“We believe that it was a basic duty of care that they have forgotten about,” Jill Campbell said on the US Today Show.

“Although there are a set of rules, they have followed them too rigidly.”

Jill and Jay Campbell from South Carolina.
Jill and Jay Campbell from South Carolina. Credit: supplied/supplied

Cruise line NCL said the Sanders’ and the remaining six passengers had reboarded the ship on Tuesday, local time.

In a statement, the company said the passengers were at fault for missing the deadline to get back on board the ship after they missed the last tender to their ship off the west coast African island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe.

“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,” the cruise line said.

“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.”

The passengers were refused permission to reboard Norwegian Dawn after they arrived back late from a day trip.
The passengers were refused permission to reboard Norwegian Dawn after they arrived back late from a day trip. Credit: Norwegian Cruise Lines

On Sunrise, James Diamond, from TWC Lawyers said it was unlikely any of the passengers would be eligible for compensation because the cruise lines needed to stick their schedules.

“It’s a hard and fast rule. They pay a lot of money for docking fees and renting out the space,” Mr Diamond said.

“They have times that they have to leave. Those times that they have to leave. Those times are published. Unfortunately, I know it is morally incorrect, but they do have the right to leave.

“If they do have at-fault insurance, that’s probably going to be their best safeguard for things like this happening.”

The passengers endured almost a week of chaotic travel after being stranded on Wednesday last week, racing through six nations inlcuding Gambia and Senegal before they boarded the ship in Dakar. Their cruise is scheduled to finish in Barcelona next Tuesday.

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