WATCH: Cruise passengers stage 'mutiny' as extreme weather sees extended days at sea, missing all the highlight ports

2019-10-17 11:45 - Selene Brophy
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Cruising has its pros and cons, but there's not much you can do when bad weather hits.

What was meant to be a two-week luxury escape, turned into a debacle for passengers - who were unhappy from the get go. 

The Norwegian Cruise Line's Spirit cruise ship set sail on September 27th out of Southampton but ran into problems almost immediately, with a change to its first port of call from Amsterdam to Le Havre - adding to the unforeseen was unpredictable weather, reports Cruise Radio.  

A video shared by the Washington Post shows how passengers began demanding a refund, this  after the ship had diverted to several alternative ports during the first week and then announced more unscheduled time at sea.  With capacity for some 2 018 passengers on board the situation swiftly saw their cabin fever escalate, especially since they were missing out on the core destination - Iceland. 

NCL released a statement saying the ship’s itinerary was disrupted due to “severe weather conditions” allowing it to call on only eight ports rather than the scheduled nine - however the number of substitutions were not confirmed by NCL, according to the Washington Post.  

With passengers unhappy with the way the cruise changes were handled, as well as ensuing "sewage issues"- many of them wanted a full refund and not just a form of compensation, which as per industry practice would be a discount on their next cruise.

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But what are passengers rights exactly in situations like this?

According to Jane Davidson, Director at Development Promotions which represents different international cruising brands in South Africa, it is always about safety. She suggests the best thing passengers can do is go through the terms and conditions of their trip beforehand - as well as ensure that they have comprehensive travel insurance.

"Unfortunately have to change ports from time to time, due to various factors which they are not in control of, one being inclement weather. When this happens, the cruise lines always try to compensate the passengers for the change, either through a future discount or sometimes even a free amenity on board if that’s possible," says Davidson. 

"There is not much that passengers can do in these cases as they are made aware of the full terms and conditions when they book a cruise. The key for the cruise line and crew is to always be open and honest with their passengers as well.

Davidson says there are other instances, besides bad weather that could possibly impact your experience. 

"Another case was when cruise lines had to change itineraries due to sanctions by the US government on Cuba. Passengers were given an option to book another cruise or then get a refund as at that time the cruises were still some time away," she says. 

But Davidson maintains, "My advice to any cruising passenger or even any traveller for that matter is to always go through their terms and conditions, so that they’re fully aware of what their rights are should anything happen, and of course to take out travel insurance in order to cover you where possible."

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Unforeseen circumstances

Davidson says that before you book your cruise, ask for and carefully consider your chosen cruise lines’ cancellation protection plans.

For example, Holland America offers protection for your holiday against unexpected illness, family matters, and even unforeseen work events, allowing you to cancel your plans if need be and receive a partial refund.

We recommend taking out cancellation and curtailment insurance from a reputable travel insurance company so that you’re covered in the unexpected event that you have to cancel or cut short your cruise.  

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If you are a first time cruiser, here are some things to note:

Match your voyage to your interests

When selecting a cruise, the first departure point is normally the destinations you wish to see. A cruise holiday allows you to visit multiple destinations on one trip without having to unpack more than once.

"In addition to your selected destinations, think about your specific interests and your preferred style of holiday. Travelling with a family or going on honeymoon? The two are not mutually inclusive so the cruising experience will be different,” says Davidson.

Do you prefer action-packed holidays or would you simply like to chill?

Asking these questions will help inform what cruise line you select and which itinerary. With the myriad of choices available, it’s much easier speaking to a travel agent or cruising company so that they can match your specific requirements with a suitable cruising experience.

Of course, it’s easier when you have a very specific interest, for example, seeing the Northern Lights. Then you know your best bet is Hurtigruten which offers expedition cruises to the Arctic and better still, a Northern Lights Promise, which means that if you are unlucky enough not to see the Aurora Borealis during your voyage, you’ll receive another five-night cruise for free.

Check what is included and what’s not

"There’s a lot that is included on a cruise, but the biggest misconception is that absolutely everything is included," advises Davidson.

You need to check the inclusions before you book and pay specific attention to the “extras” like drinks, speciality dinners, on-shore excursions and even WiFi.

Again, a travel agent or cruise specialist can help you to discern which add-on packages to buy when you book.  Quite often, although it seems expensive booking these aspects upfront, it works out cheaper in the long run.  

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Think about who you’ll be cruising with 

Contemporary cruising brands like Costa Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean offer great facilities for kids, from youth programmes, special entertainment and even meals. This is why they are a popular choice among families.

Holland America and Celebrity Cruises offer a sophisticated cruising experience with upscale dining, impressive entertainment and art collections.

Ponant focuses on luxury yacht style cruising and to destinations that larger ships may not necessarily be able to cruise to, while Le Boat on the opposite scale offers a budget self-boating experience that allows travellers to navigate Europe’s canals at their own pace.

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