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.
Get your own Lido Deck subscription.