Norwegian Sky was scheduled to depart at 5 p.m. on Monday, but due to the oncoming storm, Norwegian Cruise Line was forced to change the ship's departure time to 3 p.m. The line posted notices of the revised embarkation times on its Web site as early as Sunday and called all of the passengers on its manifest (and reached many of them, including some of the passengers who still arrived too late to embark), according to a spokeswoman for the line. She further says she does not know why the 12 people missed the boat, as it were, but that all of them had arranged their own travel.
NCL offered the stranded passengers full refunds of their cruise fares, and paid for their cab rides from the port to wherever they wanted to go (airport, hotel, etc.). The line arranged for a reduced rate for the travelers at a Miami hotel and gave them the number of NCL's Total Travel department, which could help arrange last-minute air travel back home. Passengers were also given the option of meeting up with the ship in a subsequent port (most likely Nassau on Wednesday), but no one took this option. Cruise Critic members have offered a variety of responses to this situation. Titissa writes, "NCL should pick up the tab for those who were stranded because of their decision to depart early. A room for $100 dollars (or whatever) would mean nothing to NCL and it would be good Public Relations. Really, what is NCL thinking? Just put these people up somewhere and send them back home."
However, swscruiser takes the opposite view: "Every news and weather station has been talking about Fay for at least the last 5 days. Just another of the 'it's never my fault mentality.' NCL should not have to pay for someone else's problem. The cost of the rooms to house these people overnight would not be a major cost to NCL. However, it would set a precedent for future cruises, where let's say 1,000 missed the ship because of a hurricane, then they would have to pay for hotels for all these people also."
This situation serves as a reminder that throughout hurricane season -- and beyond -- cruise itineraries are subject to change for reasons beyond human control. Also, though the lines aren't obligated to do much of anything when a force majeure such as a hurricane is to blame for a canceled or altered cruise, most do pony up some compensation for their travelers' troubles.
How do you think NCL (and other cruise lines) should notify passengers of last-minute itinerary changes? Share your opinions in our poll.
--by Erica Silverstein, Associate Editor