Cruise passengers freed from ship that ran aground: ‘It’s a scary madhouse’

On Thursday evening, they got confirmation that everyone still on the 1,069-foot-long ship would disembark the next day, starting at 4:30 a.m. Long queues for coronavirus tests followed. As of Friday morning, social networks posts showed hundreds of people queuing at Puerto Plata airport after being transferred from the ship awaiting charter flights throughout the day. Another passenger posted a video from the port and said she was waiting there before her flight.

“They literally dumped us from the ship with no further assistance afterwards,” one woman said. wrote on Twitter. “It’s a scary madhouse at the airport.”

The ship departed Port Canaveral, east of Orlando, on March 12 with scheduled stops in Puerto Plata, St. Thomas, Tortola and the Bahamas. He was due to return to Florida on Saturday. Instead, Norwegian canceled the rest of the trip and chartered flights to take people to Orlando; the first left on Wednesday, the others on Thursday and Friday.

In emails and on social media, passengers said there was no cruise line representative at the airport to assist travelers heading to Orlando.

Late Friday, the situation worsened for some passengers who remained in the Dominican Republic, according to social networks posts and messages to the Washington Post.

Toni Huffman, 37, of St. Augustine, Fla., said in a post that she was supposed to fly out at 8 p.m. Friday. But after waiting in line for two hours, she learned there was a problem and she would be catching a flight on Saturday morning. At around 8:30 p.m., she said she had just arrived at a hotel and hoped to find some food as her party’s last meal was breakfast on the boat. She estimated that several hundred people were in a similar situation.

Some who had already arrived in Florida said they were paying for hotel stays out of pocket until their previously scheduled return trips, with no news from Norwegian about the refund.

“No NCL rep in Orlando and no assistance,” passenger Ben Wills wrote in a message to The Washington Post just after midnight Thursday. He said no one was working at the American Airlines counter in Orlando, the wait time to book a flight to Reagan National Airport over the phone was two hours, and the cost would have been over $1,700.

“We’ll get a hotel room, at our expense,” said Wills, a public relations strategist from Washington, DC, who has a flight home scheduled for Saturday. He said neither his insurer nor a cruise line representative reached by phone had answers; he was expecting a callback from a manager on Friday afternoon.

The cruise line did not respond to questions from The Washington Post about the reported confusion at the Puerto Plata airport or arrangements for passengers – especially if they had not booked flights through Norwegian – once again. return to Orlando.

Jason VanDyke, 38, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, said in an email that he would be renting a car and had booked a hotel room for Friday and Saturday night before his flight home Sunday. He said he would call the cruise line within a week to request a refund.

VanDyke tweeted about the grounding and its aftermath throughout the week, congratulating the crew and remaining generally optimistic. He rented a surf and turf dinner Thursday night, her 10th wedding anniversary. But in the end, he was less enthusiastic.

“As far as this week has gone, I’m quite upset with how today has gone,” he said in an email Friday morning.

A letter from the captain job Tweeted Tuesday by VanDyke, passengers would get a full refund as well as a credit for a future cruise. The letter told customers who had booked their own flights to work with airlines to make updates from Orlando, and asked them to contact travel insurance for reimbursement. He said passengers would disembark between Wednesday and Friday.

The ship finally left Puerto Plata on Friday afternoon after the passengers disembarked. Norwegian said in a statement that the next voyage, which was due to depart on Saturday, has been canceled “so that necessary repairs can be made”.

Norwegian did not respond to questions about the causes of the ship’s grounding.

The incident brought to mind the cruising woes – fires, bad weather, overboard cases and norovirus outbreaks – that dominated headlines before the pandemic docked the global fleet in March 2020. Cruise lines are heading back from the United States since last summer with the coronavirus precautions in place.

According to a report by consultancy GP Wild for the Cruise Lines International Association, there were 13 minor incidents involving grounding or grounding between 2009 and 2019.

The same period saw 27 “significant operational incidents” involving the stranding or grounding of vessels. In most cases, the incidents were considered significant because they caused a delay of more than 24 hours. The most publicized, the grounding and capsizing of the Costa Concordia in Italy 10 years ago, killed 32 people on board.

Information was still scarce on the causes of the grounding of the Norwegian Escape. But marine experts interviewed by The Post gave some insight into the factors that are often at play and what investigators will consider.

Paul Foran, marine consultant and former captain and instructor, said investigators would look at the ship’s draft – the distance from the waterline to the bottom of the hull – compared with the depth of the water in the channel. Investigators would likely review the logs and interview everyone involved to see what they were doing at the time and verify that the information was correctly entered into an electronic card display system.

“There’s an awful lot of information that needs to be conveyed,” he said.

Foran said a captain and his navigation team should weigh factors such as weather conditions that could affect water depth, the moon cycle and current flow when developing their plan. departure.

Often a local harbor pilot with experience in a particular port will guide a ship as it enters or leaves a port; it was unclear if one was aboard the Escape when it hit bottom.

Joseph Farrell III, director of business development for Fort Lauderdale-based Resolve Marine, said the cruise ships are designed to be “some of the most maneuverable ships in the world.” But – also due to their design, with several bridges rising above the water – they can be affected by the wind.

“Despite their great maneuverability, they are more susceptible to wind damage than any other vessel,” he said.

While it’s not uncommon for freighters to “hit something,” these incidents often don’t garner widespread attention, Farrell said (that is, unless they get stuck). But on a cruise ship with thousands of passengers, “guarantee someone is going to post something.”

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