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8 cruise passengers left behind on African island race to catch up with ship



A group of Norwegian Cruise Line passengers left behind in the African island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe raced across seven countries over the course of 48 hours in a bid to catch up with and reboard their ship.

The tourists, two Australians and six Americans, had been traveling aboard the Norwegian Dawn, enjoying what was supposed to be a 21-day voyage up the coast of Africa set to end in Barcelona, Spain. However, their adventures took a turn on March 27, when the group failed to return to the ship for the all-aboard time of 3 p.m.

Among the tardy passengers were Jay and Jill Campbell, of South Carolina, who had previously joined three cruises with the same liner. Jill Campbell told NBC News on Tuesday that while she respects certain rules must be observed, the ship’s crew “followed those rules too rigidly” in this circumstance.

“I believe that they really forgot that they are people working in the hospitality industry and that really the safety and the well-being of the customers should be their first priority, and that should be placed first,” she said. “We believe there was a basic duty of care that they’ve forgotten about, so it does concern us.”

The couple went on to explain they were on a tour that ran long, but said the operator notified the cruise captain, explaining that some of their passengers would be late. The local Coast Guard also lent a hand, shuttling the group of tourists to their ship before it set sail that afternoon.

But they were already too late, and the boat’s captain declined to let them onboard.

“The harbor master tried to call the ship, the captain refused the call. We sent emails to NCL, the NCL customer service emergency number. They said, ‘Well, the only way for us to get in touch with the ship is to send them emails, they’re not responding to our emails,’” Jay Campbell said in a separate interview with ABC 15.

“The captain could have made an easy decision to turn one of the tender boats back, pick us up, safely load us, and then go on the way.”

As a result, the Campbells and the other six passengers left behind were stranded for days on the island. They were ultimately able to arrange flights to meet the ship on Monday in Gambia, then later in Senegal after the ship was unable to dock in Gambia due to weather conditions.

It was a process they called “very difficult.”

“You’re dealing with … language barriers, you’re dealing with different currencies … trying to get an agent to understand where we need to get to,” Jay Campbell said Tuesday morning on the “TODAY” show.

Jay and Jill Campbell

While the Campbells said they arrived in Senegal on Monday night, with enough time to reboard the ship, they weren’t sure they wanted to after what they experienced.

Norwegian in a statement to NBC emphasized all passengers are responsible for making arrangements that ensure they return to the ship on time for departure.

“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,” a cruise line spokesperson said. “We remain in communication with the guests and are providing additional information as it becomes available.”

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