The following post first appeared on Conde Nast Traveler’s The Daily Traveler blog.
Should cruise passengers be compensated when their voyage goes off-course because of a search-and-rescue mission? That’s the question we’re pondering today, in response to the dramatic rescue effort of Orion Expeditions‘ officers and crew when they went to a lot of trouble to save the life of a French sailor in distress off the coast of Tasmania.
Now, mind you, cruise ships (along with cargo carriers and military vessels, among others) have both a legal and moral obligation to respond to distress signals. These rescue efforts are astonishingly common (just last week Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Dream scooped up a pair of stranded sailors from a small boat near the Bahamas). But what’s absolutely unusual in Orion’s case is that the captain took a 687 nautical mile detour, in seven-meter swells and with 40-knot winds. Oh, and yes, the diversion took 54 hours. Alain Delord, a French yachtsman attempting a solo around-the-world voyage, spent three days on a raft before Orion came to his rescue.
Here’s the thing: While the huzzahs for the successful life-saving maneuvers of Orion’s officers are appropriately celebratory, some of the passengers aboard have been grousing because their vacation cruise was interrupted. Are they due compensation? This is a tough one; it’s a situation we haven’t encountered in the recent past. True, the 54-hour detour took the ship well off course (most rescues are reasonably nearby, but these waters aren’t exactly well-trawled by cruise lines). On the other hand, it seems churlish for passengers to complain.
Orion’s not in any mood for a long drawn-out debate and despite little precedence, the Australia-based luxury expedition line is offering compensation to passengers on the affected voyage — they’ll get either a partial refund or credit toward a future cruise. (Also worth mentioning: Since the ship returned to Hobart early, the company put together three days of touring Tasmania’s coastal areas to fill out the trip.)
Should Orion have folded? Weigh in below.
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