This Norwegian Cruise Was Canceled Mid-Sailing. That Didn

Norwegian Escape stopped sailing Tuesday – four days before its scheduled itinerary was meant to conclude – but that didn’t mean passengers got to leave the ship immediately.

Norwegian Cruise Line canceled the remainder of the Norwegian Escape sailing that was scheduled to end Saturday after the vessel collided with the channel bed in Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic on Monday.

Two days after the cancellation was announced, some passengers are still on the ship: They’re trying to navigate confusing communication on when they will start their journeys home.

The cruise line said in a statement that “while there is minor damage to the ship’s hull, all guests and crew are safe. The current cruise will be shortened, and the cruise scheduled to embark on March 19 will be canceled so that the necessary repairs can be made.” 

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Passenger Jason VanDyke took to Twitter to share an image of a letter from Norwegian Tuesday detailing the cancellation and plans for disembarkation on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and charter flights.

According to the letter, all passengers were fully refunded for their trip in the original form of payment and offered an additional 100% future cruise credit through March 25, 2023.

Ben Wills, who was on the Escape, told USA TODAY Thursday that the cruise line canceled the remainder of the trip on Tuesday evening after passengers were allowed by local authorities to get off the ship for a port call in Puerto Plata. 

Wednesday, final disembarkation began for some passengers as outlined by Norwegian.

“Repatriation flights – chartered flights – began yesterday,” Wills said from the airport in Puerto Plata. “I think maybe one or two got out. Maybe three or four got out today. We’re about to leave on a 767 with 238 seats.”

While the cancellation was announced Tuesday in a letter to passengers, Joann Lynn Oviedo was still on the ship Thursday evening.

“We are prepared to leave at a moment’s notice at this point,” Oviedo told USA TODAY and expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of clear communication. “We’ve been packed since Wednesday (morning) but only two of four in my traveling party have been given flight info. My husband is not willing to leave two behind with unknown arrangements.”

Even when they were given flight info, Oviedo said it was confusing. 

“Last night I received a flight notification at 12:30 a.m. for (one) of our rooms,” Oviedo said. “I went to the service desk to find out about the other stateroom. By the time I returned I had a new envelope with different flight info.”

VanDyke was still on board Thursday evening, too. 

“As of right now we don’t know when we are leaving,” VanDyke told USA TODAY in a statement. He is hoping he and his wife will be able to leave Friday.

Nevertheless, VanDyke said there is still much to enjoy on the ship.

“My mood is still good,” he continued. “I’m ready to leave and head back to Orlando but we just don’t know when that’ll be. I do know that not everyone is having the best time but the people that are out and about all seem to be having a great time.”

Just after 8 p.m. ET on Thursday, VanDyke and Oviedo said the remaining passengers received more information.

“We have just had a flurry of activity in the last hour,” Oviedo said. “Everyone on board must Covid test between 7:30 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. tonight. All passengers are disembarking tomorrow. There are eight or nine flights starting early a.m. to get everyone off and out of (Dominican Republic).”

VanDyke said he heard passengers would begin departing at 4:30 a.m.

Neither had received a definitive itinerary for the morning at that time.

Life onboard a canceled cruise

Most areas of the ship are still operational and open to passengers, Oviedo said. The pool, spa and bars along with onboard activities, shows and games remain ongoing though the shops and casino closed. VanDyke said some bars were closed for the first time Thursday with fewer passengers still on board.

Throughout the situation, Oviedo and VanDyke both said the crew has been great.

“Everyone is so calm and professional. I haven’t had a single bad interaction with any of them,” VanDyke said. “Even if we didn’t get a free cruise from this we would definitely sail with NCL again.” 

At the airport, Wills echoed Oviedo’s frustration with the cruise line’s efforts to communicate with passengers.

“We left for the airport almost four hours ago,” he said. “Why take us off the boat just so we can sit in an empty airport? We’re waiting here for other passengers from the ship because they realized that they had available seats on the planes.”

Wills said he’s even made an effort to contact the line directly to find out more about the next steps, rather than leaving the onus on the cruise line. But after reaching out to the cruise line directly through Twitter around 1:15 p.m Thursday, he hadn’t received a response by 7:00 p.m.

USA TODAY has reached out to Norwegian for more information.

Contributing: Dave Berman, FLORIDA TODAY

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