Passengers of 'hell' cruise marred by construction offered free trip

Norwegian Cruise Line has backed down in the face of an international outcry after major construction disrupted a Panama Canal voyage on the ship Norwegian Sun.

The cruise line is offering passengers a 100 per cent fare credit for a cruise within five years, instead of 25 per cent for a trip within one year.

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But passengers, including Parksville’s Mae-Claire Locke, point out the offer does not cover the full cost of a cruise. Some people spent thousands of dollars beyond the basic cruise fare on flights and other fees such as port costs and mandatory gratuities.

Norwegian Sun arrived in Victoria this week and is now at Victoria Shipyards undergoing at refit.

“I am elated that we have made progress,” Locke said Thursday, adding she is holding off on a further reaction.

“I think it is important that we listen to everybody that is involved in this.”

Locke is one of the leaders of a group that launched a Facebook page for passengers. That page has about 700 followers.

Unhappy passengers are posting comments, photos and videos showing construction work, blocked off areas on the ship, and containers construction materials.

The contents of those containers is a source of worry for passengers, concerned about exposure to chemicals.

They were alarmed when construction crews began refinishing decks after the Norwegian Sun pulled out of Miami, Florida, on March 16 on its way to Los Angeles.

Loud sounds of construction carried on until late at night. Fumes wafted into cabins, construction particles and dust clouds filled the air of outside areas, they said.

Passengers complaints included respiratory problems, sore and swollen eyes, headaches, and nausea. “Ultimately, they put our health and safety at risk,” Locke said.

Locke’s son woke up one morning with his eyes “glued” shut, she said.

Her two children will be going to a doctor to be checked over.

After passengers flocked to social media and attracted international news coverage about the trip, the cruise line initially offered a credit of 25 per cent of the fare toward another trip, redeemable until the end of March next year.

It updated its offer on Thursday, giving passengers five years to redeem a 100 per cent credit on a cruise.

Locke said that Norwegian Cruise Line made the offer “because we kicked up our heels.”

The line could have done far more — starting with when the ship was at sea — to mitigate the situation, she said.

Cecelia Jenkins of Victoria is concerned about the health impacts to passengers and crew from the construction. Jenkins’ overriding concern is that the construction happened in the first place.

She wants to know what chemicals she was exposed to. She also questions if proper environmental procedures were followed.

Construction would have barred family’s ability to reach the designated evacuation station if an emergency had occurred, Jenkins said.

As for the fare credit offer, “I would prefer to have that money in my own pocket versus turning around and putting myself in the same situation as before.”

The total fare cost for her, husband Wayne, and two children came to about $6,000. Fees for port taxes, mandatory gratuities, and airfare are not covered by the cruise line’s offer and added thousands more to the trip cost, she said.

One passenger wrote on Facebook: “Every single expense should be reimbursed. No one should be out of pocket a shiny penny for a do-over.”

The cruise line apologized as it presented its offer to passengers. “We realize that this gesture cannot replace their recent experience but do hope to have the opportunity to welcome them on board again soon.”

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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