In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Kevin Sheehan, CEO, Norwegian Cruise Line (www.ncl.com) issued the following statement late Thursday.
In addition, for the latest on Norwegian Gem's arrival in New York on Friday, Nov. 2, and the departure of its subsequent cruise, a shortened voyage to Bermuda, scroll down.
Kevin Sheehan's Statement
"On behalf of Norwegian Cruise Line and all of our officers, crew and corporate team members, we are deeply saddened by the catastrophic impact of Hurricane Sandy. Our sincere thoughts are with everyone who has been affected by the storm.
"As you may know, New York is my home town. I was born and raised in New York and I consider myself a New Yorker through and through. I can tell you that I truly feel your pain and frustration and sympathize with everyone who is living with the realities of the storm’s devastation. My family and I have been affected as well, as my house in New York is flooded and we are still trying to process it all.
"The situation that has unfolded in the wake of this natural disaster has been unprecedented and extremely unpredictable. I would like to extend my personal apology to all of our guests who have been patiently waiting for the latest news and information from us regarding the status of their cruise on Norwegian Gem. Like you, we have been disappointed and frustrated with the uncertainty regarding the re-opening of the Port [of New York].
"For those guests who were originally scheduled to set sail on October 29, I hope that you decide to take a much needed vacation and join us tomorrow on the five-day Bermuda cruise. While I know this is not ideal and is not the vacation you had planned, I am confident that you will find this opportunity to get away on a cruise an escape from the stress caused by the storm. The officers and crew of Norwegian Gem look forward to welcoming you aboard and offering you all of the wonderful amenities, services, dining and comfortable accommodations that you would expect.
"Rest assured that you will be fully credited for the four cruise days missed. In addition, if you chose to sail with us tomorrow, I would also like to extend a 25% future cruise credit (based on cruise fare paid, valid for one year) as a thank you for your patience and understanding.
"I also recognize that many of you who have been impacted by the hurricane may prefer to forgo the five-day cruise and sail on a future date. Therefore, I would like to extend to you the option to cancel and provide you with a future cruise credit for the remaining five days, so that you can re-book with us on another date. This would be in addition to the pro-rated refund for the four missed cruise days. If you would like to take this option, please call our reservations team at 800-327-7030.
"On behalf of all our New York area guests who have been impacted, we will make a donation to the American Red Cross to aid in the relief efforts. New York is the most resilient city in the world and I know that the city will come back stronger than ever."
Regards, Kevin M. Sheehan
One Consumer's Experience
The frustration Sheehan talked about in his message was evident in the comments of one booked Norwegian customer who contacted Travel Agent on Wednesday seeking help in finding out what was happening with her Norwegian Gem cruise. While typically we do not get involved in consumer disputes, this was a special needs request.
First, we strongly recommended this customer contact her travel agent if she booked through an agent for help in talking with the supplier. And we stressed that Norwegian could assist with flights if she had booked the air through the line. However, without those circumstances appearing to be in place, we asked the public relations department to have a Customer Care representative handling special needs contact her the same day.
"Three of us were scheduled to leave from New York on the Norwegian Gem on Oct. 29th.," the consumer explained via e-mail. "Two of us are handicapped. We are receiving updates but very few and delayed. Norwegian will not cancel the cruise or give us our money back."
Showing the issues both the customer and the cruise line face in such circumstances, "we are in New Hampshire and cannot get to New York quickly due to our handicaps and plane cancellations and delays," she noted, frustrated that the line kept telling people that the port will hopefully soon be open and hopefully you can get there the next morning.
"How can that happen?," she asked, noting the difficulty of even getting an air flight reservation and guarantee there wouldn't be a delay? The New York airports, for example, were closed during the first few days of the weather emergesncy.
This consumer had a husband with secondary progressive Multiple Sclerosis and his wife said that due to four days of constant stress of not knowing whether the cruise would sail, when it would sail, or how the couple would get to New York, she had to drive him to his doctor during the hurricane. "He is quite affected by this situation [the stress]," she said.
After our request to Norwegian, an executive from Norwegian did contact the customer as requested on the same day. The line was responsive in discussing the situation with her.
On Thursday, the customer wrote back to say that a replacement cruise was offered, but she chose not to accept the offer. She opted to cancel the cruise and is hoping to get her claim paid through insurance. Unfortunately, her cousin, who was accompanying her on the Oct. 29 scheduled departure, has to return to Africa. "We're making the best of it and appreciate your support," the customer said.
The reality is that while the customer was not satisfied, Norwegian's offer appeared a fair one, particularly as the issues were caused by weather. But the reality is that weather delays and uncertainties, as Sheehan noted, are really a challenge for both customers and the cruise line alike.
Updated Norwegian Gem Schedule
At 4 p.m. Thursday, Norwegian issued this update about the schedule for Norwegian Gem, which has been sailing in the Atlantic for several days longer than anticipated; the ship actually called at Boston to take on supplies and provisions mid-week. Some passengers did disembark there, but others have remained onboard as the ship is sailing back to New York.
Norwegian said officials in New York have indicated that the Port of New York will re-open on Friday, Nov. 2. Norwegian Gem is scheduled to arrive at Pier 88 at the Manhattan Cruise Terminal at 7 a.m. today.
Embarkation for guests booked on Norwegian Gem’s next cruise, originally slated to sail on Oct. 29, is expected to begin at noon. The ship is expected to depart New York at approximately 4 p.m. and will sail a five-day cruise to Bermuda, returning on Wednesday, Nov. 7.