Delayed Norwegian cruise return sank my flight home

By | December 23rd, 2016

Steven and Karen Marinoff had a cruise to remember — until it was time to go home. That’s the part of their vacation they’d like to forget. Norwegian’s handling of their problem is making it impossible for them to do so.

The Marinoffs were sailing on a Baltic Sea cruise operated by Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL). All was going smoothly until the ship docked in Stockholm, where it developed engine problems that prevented it from leaving the port for eight hours. The delay resulted in the Marinoffs and other passengers not being able to get to the airport in Copenhagen, Denmark, in time to catch their return flights.

NCL offered the passengers some compensation, but the Marinoffs don’t think it’s enough. Are they entitled to anything else from NCL for their troubles? Or are the extra costs incurred by the Marinoffs to get home sunk costs?

According to the Marinoffs, when the ship’s crew announced the delay, “chaos ensued as everyone was in a panic regarding what to do”:

There was confusion and frustration on board. The ship’s staff seemed ill-equipped to handle the chaos. Communications for those trying to rebook flights was inadequate. Even the captain of the ship said his job was to run the ship, not handle situations like this.

A few computers were set up in a room, but they were slow and had poor connections. Passengers had to wait in line for hours just to use them.

Most questions couldn’t be answered by the staff, and we were told to contact customer relations in Miami about many of our issues. At the final port, we were given a letter stating we would be reimbursed $300 per person to change our tickets and $250 to pay for a hotel room if required.

But this is a far cry from what the Marinoffs actually spent. The Marinoffs incurred $4,483 in extra expenses as a result of the delay, including the cost of two new one-way air tickets on Icelandair back to Kennedy Airport in New York. (They had used Expedia to book their original flights on Icelandair, but Expedia was not able to find them another flight on Icelandair for two days.)

Related story:   Air New Zealand damaged my luggage -- then sent me the wrong size bag

Their costs also included hotel rooms for an extra evening, transportation to the Copenhagen airport, cab fare, parking, and telephone charges. Although they had travel insurance with Aon, their coverage was only $500 per person.

The Marinoffs filed a claim via certified mail with NCL’s customer service department and provided copies of their receipts, but two months went by without any response from NCL.

As the Marinoffs had used a travel agency, Pavlus Travel, to book the cruise, they asked Pavlus for assistance in recovering more compensation. After Steven Marinoff emailed various executives of NCL for assistance, NCL sent the following response to Pavlus:

Thank you for choosing the Norwegian Star for your clients’ recent vacation at sea.

As you may know, the Norwegian Star experienced a technical issue with the engine’s electronic system that has since been repaired. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience that the ship’s delayed departure from Stockholm may have caused your clients, which in turn forced us to change our arrival time into Copenhagen.

Please note that under the terms and conditions of our Contract of Passage, Norwegian Cruise Line in its sole discretion may cancel, postpone or delay any port of call without prior notification. While every effort is made to adhere to the published schedule, there are those instances that necessitate change. Please be assured that, although we reserve the right to alter the itinerary at our discretion, as stated in our Passenger Ticket Contract, any changes are carefully considered.

Upon review of their receipts for your additional expenses, we have requested a check in the amount of $850 on your behalf from our accounting department. This amount corresponds to the $300 per person maximum for airfare fees, and $250 per stateroom for hotel expenses as offered onboard. The check will be forwarded to them under separate cover to the address on file within 20 – 30 business days.

Per their reservation our records show that they purchased our travel protection with Aon, Ltd. in which you can also file a claim…

We hope that aside from this situation, your clients’ found other aspects of their cruise enjoyable and trust this will not deter them from accepting our invitation to sail again with us. It would be our pleasure to welcome them back onboard any one of our vessels soon.

Steven Marinoff then contacted our advocacy team, who advised him to post about his case in our forum. The forum advocates advised him to use our executive contacts to request additional compensation from NCL.

The Marinoffs have received the check for $850 from NCL as well as an additional $350 as a “goodwill gesture.” But they’re still out $3,000.

As Pavlus only booked their cruise, not their air or hotel expenses, it is unable to provide further assistance to the Marinoffs. We aren’t sure we can either.

NCL’s guest ticket contract holds that

Itinerary Deviation: The Guest agrees that the Carrier has the sole discretion and liberty to direct the movements of the vessel, including the rights to: proceed without pilots and tow, and assist other vessels in all situations; deviate from the purchased voyage or the normal course for any purpose, including, without limitation, in the interest of Guests or of the vessel, or to save life or property; put in at any unscheduled or unadvertised port; cancel any scheduled call at any port for any reason and at any time before, during or after sailing of the vessel; omit, advance or delay landing at any scheduled or advertised port; return to port of embarkation or to any port previously visited if the Carrier deems it prudent to do so; substitute another vessel or port(s) of call without prior notice and without incurring any liability to the Guest on account thereof for any loss, damage or delay whatsoever, whether consequential or otherwise.

This language disclaims any liability on NCL’s part for the delay in disembarkation at Stockholm and the resulting expenses to the passengers. So its refusal to provide more compensation to the Marinoffs beyond the $850 it has already offered them is consistent with this provision.

The Marinoffs are considering legal action against NCL. That may be the only way they can recover any more of their costs. Unfortunately, their case seems to be a situation in which they are left high and dry through no fault of their own.

Should Norwegian Cruise Line offer more compensation to the Marinoffs?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

  • AAGK

    The Marinoffs shouldn’t be out anything for the flights but I’m not sure whether $4K is a reasonable expenditure. They could’ve waited, though I wouldn’t have wanted to either. Their convenience may come with a cost. It doesn’t seem fair to the folks who waited the extra 2 days for a lower priced option bc they didn’t have the extra 4K or more wisely doubted they would receive that much compensation. If the only seats available were $10k F tickets, would they be entitled to those as well?

  • James

    Perhaps they should. What if they had originally booked F tickets — should they be required to fly coach for NCL’s convenience? And your argument “It doesn’t seem fair to the folks who waited the extra 2 days for a lower priced option bc they didn’t have the extra 4K or more” sees to imply that the only responsibility for the mechanical failure should be the least common denominator.

    More surprising — there is hourly fast trains service between Stockholm and Copenhagen — just over 5 hours. No one would have missed flights. Was that presented as an option?

  • Chris_In_NC

    Should NCL offer more compensation? Absolutely, that would be the nice thing to do. However, I’m going to go with the unpopular opinion here and say the Marinoffs bear some responsibility for booking their flight independently. There is a lot of missing information here. What time did the ship actually arrive at Copenhagen. What time were the Marinoff’s original flight times? When we booked a cruise in the past, our TA strongly advised us to fly into port 1-2 days before and to avoid scheduling flights out after the cruise too early. If she booked the flight independently, then neither the TA or the cruise line has control of her flights.

  • Lee

    Two things stand out to me: (1) taking a cruise and not building in at least one extra day/night (at least) before flying home after scheduled return to port is a bad idea.

    Delays can happen for all sorts of reasons. Having that extra day(s)/night(s) would have eliminated this extra cost, and (2) $500 only from the travel insurance? Always get a good policy and not a low-end, minimal coverage policy when out of pocket costs can be really high, as in this case.

    The terms and conditions are clearly spelled out; I can’t think of one attorney I know who would take on this case. Terms and conditions are vital to read as they are nearly 100% written and implemented in favor of the company’s best interests, not the customer/passenger.

    Yes, it is a shame it happened and if people taking cruises these days except a high level of service, then they are dreaming. Just read up on hiring practices of most every cruise ship companies (putting aside the very very high end ones) – There is a reason so many cruises cost very little money.

  • AJPeabody

    Booking different pieces of a trip separately from different companies can save money. Unless something happens.

  • Alan Gore

    One padding day at the end of the cruise would have avoided the need for panicked purchase of walkup fares.

  • ctporter

    Breaking it down makes it look differently to me. Checking with google flights I see a last minute one way fare for one person from KEF to JFK as $517 for a flight tomorrow (today being Friday, tomorrow being a Saturday Dec 24 – crowded holiday time though). So, was the $300 dollars spelled out for them to see before booking the cruise and air a reasonable refund? I too may have thought a $500 insurance might be enough to cover an unexpected delay but in this case it was woefully short. The stateroom cost does seem reasonable for one night for hotels and meals, since on the cruise that would include meals as well. The unknowns would be room type availability and pricing for a hotel near the airport. The only thing they would be out of pocket would be transfers from cruise to hotel and hotel to airport. Getting $350 in cash for good will due to the chaos during the delayed debarking was nicely done since it was in cash and not just a credit or voucher for a future cruise. Without more info it would be very hard to fully side with either party in this case.

  • Carrie Livingston

    From what I remember, they were not allowed to leave the cruise in Stockholm.

  • Carrie Livingston

    Most times they arrive on time but with a mechanical delay, and leaving Stockholm (not the easiest port to leave) this was just an unfortunate situation.

    I would definitely recommend arriving to your cruise port a day before. That way if there are any delays, you’ve got some breathing room.

    With respect to leaving a day after, I’ve never had a problem. With that said, coming back from FLL last weekend was a nightmare. I arrived at the airport at 11:45 and my flight was cancelled around 8pm. My sister lives in south Florida so was able to come get me for the night but hotels rooms were apparently sold out in FLL. Not sure about Miami but weather up North had caused tons of flights to be cancelled so I imagine Miami was close to the same.

  • Mel LeCompte Jr.

    Just wondering, how much more it would have cost the travelers if they purchased everything (including airfare) from Norwegian, versus going through Expedia for flights?

    I’m just wondering if the money saved by going through Expedia is worth the risk/reward.

  • Michael__K

    Most of these questions are answered in the linked forum thread. The cruise line controls their own instructions and recommendations to their own customers and they recommend for their customers to schedule flights 6 hours or more after scheduled port arrival. The customer allowed that, but the ship arrived in port 8 hours 30 minutes late.

  • AAGK

    I don’t know. I wasn’t there.
    I’m not sure I get your other point. Why would anyone with first class tickets have to fly coach? They should fly what they booked. I just wasn’t sure whether their decision to not wait 2 days was reasonable. What you are saying is unclear.

  • Rebecca

    This is exactly what I thought. Certainly they could have stayed in a hotel for 2 nights for significantly less than $4k? The cruise line offered up to $250 to pay for a night at the hotel. They offered $300 to cover the change fee. The nominal amount the OP would have spent paying a change fee and staying in a hotel for 2 nights would be less than the $500 limit on their travel insurance.

    I get the feeling the OP is someone that is unreasonable. She’s upset that the captain of the ship wasn’t helping passengers rebook their flights? It didn’t occur to her that a mechanical issue was ongoing, and no one was going anywhere that was resolved? It just stuck out at me as a very odd statement.

  • Michael__K

    Is it shocking that the last minute flights (and hotels) would have cost far more in July than in December?

  • Michael__K

    What do you expect a last minute one-way fare in July to cost per person?

    There’s no credit and there’s no change fee. They were No Shows and their original ticket was gone.

  • Michael__K

    Not everything in the terms and conditions is enforceable, and some of the terms and conditions even contradict the Cruise Industry Passenger Bill of Rights.

  • Michael__K

    Wait for what exactly? They had to buy new tickets regardless. How much less than $2k/person do you expect a new ticket in JULY with 2-days advance notice to cost?

    And how much did the cruise line save by not considering and offering other options? Like busing the passengers to Copenhagen or burning more fuel to travel to the disembarkation faster and make up for lost time? Why is it fairer if the cruise line saves money for the cruise line’s convenience without regard for the costs and inconvenience that this transfers to their customers?

  • Annie M

    The cruise lines will give you the earliest and latest times to book return flights. To say they should have stayed an extra day is ridiculous. But I also question the $4,000 for a one way fare. I don’t care if it is July, that is a ridiculous amount for a one way return. Iceland Air is one of the better priced airline too. I am not certain why they didn’t check other flight options besides Iceland Air.

    I think they re due more simply because when there are mechanical problems, the cruise line should make people whole for their flight changes if they booked their return flights according to the cruise lines rules. Just because their cruise contract says that changes can be made on behalf of the cruise line doesn’t mean that they can’t do more for a client when a mechanical problem happens.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    I’m sorry, but I think that is not reasonable. If you leave 8 hours, as the OP did, that should be enough for any normal circumstance. If the cruise line is later than that, they should bear responsibility for their delay.

  • Michael__K

    2 x ~$2,000

  • Helene Apper

    Out of curiosity, what did they think the $500 per person was going to cover? My advice to everyone would be to get full coverage insurance. Being pennywise and pound foolish is just that. That being said, NCL should have covered more. They should have had someone onboard assisting with the changing of all flights and they should have covered the change cost of a like flight. It was not the passengers’ faults that there was a mechanical error. This happens. Happened to me recently on a river cruise. No big deal. We got up a little earlier the next morning and were bused to the appropriate airport. Our flights didn’t leave until after 1:00 pm as is strongly recommended by all cruiselines. What it boils down to is that if they had full insurance coverage, there wouldn’t be an issue here. However, since they did not, what is considered an appropriate reimbursement? My gut instinct would be that NCL should have put them up overnight in a hotel and obtained a flight for them the next day. Had they contacted the airline and explained the situation, they would have gotten a change fee of approximately $200 per person and whatever the fare was for the next day flight, with a credit from their existing ticket. In today’s day and age, if the internet on the ship was no good, they could have gotten off the ship and found a wi-fi area to get their arrangements made.

  • PsyGuy

    Time to go to court. I have to say though those were expensive tickets and accommodations. I wonder if they might have used this opportunity to “treat themselves”?

  • AAGK

    Waited for the flight in 2 days with just the change fee. Maybe I misunderstood. I’m sure last minute tickets are super expensive.

  • AAGK

    I totally agree. She describes mass chaos over a few hours delay- that seems exaggerated. It’s annoying for sure, but they opted for the most expensive and convenient resolution. There’s no way every cruise passenger did that. I would be so annoyed if I sat around for 2 days to only pay the change fee and then learned others received $4k for a way better option.

  • Rebecca

    It specifically states that they booked their tickets through Expedia. There were no flights for 2 more days to their home airport. Therefore, they chose to fly immediately to another airport:

    “They had used Expedia to book their original flights on Icelandair, but Expedia was not able to find them another flight on Icelandair for two days.”

    That is how I understood it. Apparently others understood it this way as well.

    This statement by the OP really stuck out for me:

    “Even the captain of the ship said his job was to run the ship, not handle situations like this.”

    The captain was dealing with a mechanical issue, and (obviously) trying to resolve the engine trouble and coordinating what port they were in. And the OP is upset; she apparently thinks he should be helping passengers figure out their return flights? That’s a very odd thing to say, and I see it as telling. I’m sure the staff did what they could. There’s only so many computers. If they were in port, why would they not use a tablet or smartphone and/or use the telephone to call to change their flights?

    I’m not saying that the cruise line bears no responsibility. I’m saying that sometimes things like this happen. It certainly isn’t like the cruise line is setting out to screw people. They don’t want mechanical problems and they don’t want to be behind schedule either. They offered a very reasonable amount for a night’s hotel. They offered to pay the fee charged for changing an airline ticket.

    The way I read what I quoted above was that the OP could have gotten home significantly cheaper if they waited an extra day. I simply don’t think that spending over $4k to get home a little bit sooner is reasonable.

  • Bill___A

    From what I am reading, they “couldn’t” use Expedia because it would involve a two day wait. So they paid $4000 AND stayed one night in a hotel. Does this mean thousands were paid just to save one day? Not quite getting the full picture here, sorry.

  • Skeptic

    I’m an oceanographer. The only cruises I’ve ever been on involved serving 4 on, 8 off watches on research vessels in the North Atlantic. I’ve also done a fair bit of ocean cruising (sail).

    The ocean is not like land. If something goes wrong mechanically with your vessel, or if there are adverse weather conditions, it’s not like you have lots of alternatives for getting from point A to point B. Yet I keep reading stories on this site about cruises (ocean and river) where things go wrong and passengers are delayed, or even fail to leave port at all. And they seem to want to blame someone and get all their money back.

    Sorry, folks, but in the real world not all bad things are someone’s fault. If you want to experience the “romance” of going to sea (and sometimes it’s anything but romantic), you have to accept that the ocean is a force to be reckoned with. From where I sit, there seem to be a lot of people traveling for pleasure who lead lives so divorced from the natural world that they simply can’t get their heads around weather etc. Time to get out of your cities and suburbs and reconnect, folks! And I don’t mean by spending your vacation with 3000 other people waiting in line for too much food on board a huge steel boat that pretends to be a resort hotel.

  • michael anthony

    When changing air tickets, not only do you pay the change fee, but may also have to pay the difference in fare. Last minute changes can be a huge dent in the pocketbook. Consider Chicago to Minneapolis. Normal fares, around 250 to 300. Last minute, approaching 900. Believe me, I’ve had to do it on emergencies and that extra 600 is costly for 400 miles of travel. The cruise lines offer would barely cover that. The last time I did that in Europe and you’re talking 2k.

  • cscasi

    Looks like they should have upped the trip cost on their AON travel insurance policy; $500 each just didn’t cut it, did it?
    Further, when taking cruises, remember the saying; arrive a day early to make sure you are not late getting to the ship before departure time. Well, the same might just apply to adding a day on the end of the cruise, just in case something happens (like what happened here), they would not miss their booked flight and would not have suffered as much expense (although they would have had a one night hotel and meals, plus taxi fares). I know, hindsight is always 20/20. However, we have seen issues with cruises time and time again. Shops break down now and then, no matter how good the maintenance.
    Or, they could have stayed for the two days it took to get them on another flight.
    I think the cruise line did fairly well with compensation, but it can never please everyone. Again, proper trip insurance would have helped.

  • cscasi

    Perhaps so. But, this is where adequate travel insurance coverage would certainly have helped.

  • cscasi

    I guess having more than just $500 each on their travel insurance policy wold have made it a lot more palatable. Had they insured the true cost of their cruise and tickets, I believe the insurance company would have reimbursed them under travel interruption. But, I am not sure they would have reimbursed them for new one way first class tickets.

  • cscasi

    What time was their flight leaving Copenhagen? Was it at least 8 hours after the ship was supposed to arrive in port? It does not say in the article above. It just states the ship was 8 hours late in arriving in Copenhagen.

  • Michael__K

    If the cruise line’s own plan isn’t adequate, then that’s on the cruise line.

    And they could easily be out-of-pocket under any plan because even the most generous plan caps benefits at 150% of the original non-refundable trip costs.

  • Michael__K

    The article says they had to buy two new one way tickets. So they had to pay full walk-up fare, with no change fee.

  • Michael__K

    The article clearly states they had to buy two new one-way tickets (at walkup rates). If either Expedia or Icelandair was willing to let them change their original tickets with a change fee and fare difference, then why would they have bought new tickets?

    What gives you the idea that they had any freedom to leave the ship and search for internet access in port?

    And what prevented the cruise line from either offering busing to Copenhagen, or, traveling at higher speed after the repairs to make up for lost time? (As Joe points out in the forums, there should still have been more than enough time to reach Copenhagen around schedule unless either the ship’s speed was limited even after the repairs — or was limited all along — or the priority was conserving fuel).

  • joycexyz

    Whenever we book a cruise or a tour we also book the flights through the same company, even if the airline or the flights would not have been our first choice (and I’ve always found some flexibility there). It’s worth the peace of mind knowing that any glitches are that company’s responsibility.

  • joycexyz

    I’ve found that the cruise lines/tour operators get very good deals on flights. And booking everything together gives peace of mind.

  • Alan Gore

    I agree that NCL is liable under the terms of its own rules set for the passenger (allow 8 hours, cruise takes longer than that to dock). But because cruise companies are not subject to local laws, building a padding day of at least 24 hours into your schedule is a much simpler matter than fighting a legal case in whatever flyspeck country of convenience the ship is registered.

    Another consideration is that so many international flights operate on a once per day schedule. If you miss today’s flight, you have to wait 24 hours assuming there is space.

  • Annie M

    I have cruised for 23 years and never stayed an extra day at the end of a cruise. This is truly an abberation and in cases like this, the cruise line should make an exception and help the travelers despite terms and conditions.

  • DChamp56

    “Per their reservation our records show that they purchased our travel protection with Aon, Ltd. in which you can also file a claim…”
    Did they pursue the travel insurance angle?

  • Lindabator

    NO, maritime LAW refused it

  • Lindabator

    THEY booked flights OUTSIDE of the cruise line, so NOT covered by NCL – they should have had a comprehensive policy to cover the air

  • Lindabator

    The cruise line cannot just move you to another country as maritime laws cover such events – and most countries have laws against it

  • Lindabator

    because they did not want to wait for the next Icelandair flight, as stated above. So she CHOSE to buy new tickets

  • Lindabator

    generally not a problem, but I usually like a cushion day on the return for clients as well, as it is just less stressful altogether, and gives you time to relax a bit after the cruise

  • Lindabator

    They didn’t even book their flight with NCL — as far as the cruise line knows, they might not even BE flying home the same day — this is why you purchase comprehensive insurance, no just cover the cruise – usually get the hit in the airfare portion!

  • Lindabator

    so get a comprehensive insurance policy – TravelGuard would have covered this

  • Lindabator

    Maritime law does not permit a ship to disembark in another country just because (and it takes DAYS to remedy for an emergency like this, so not feasible). And it was an 8 1/2 hour delay, which is under the 12 hours

  • Lindabator

    Or, you get a comprehensive insurance policy to COVER snafus and emergencies like this

  • Lindabator

    but it does not cover items NOT booked with the cruise line – like their AIR (booked with expedia)

  • Michael__K

    So are you claiming they were No Shows or not? If you claim they were not No Shows then why weren’t they allowed to fly to a nearby airport, paying only the fare difference? If you claim they were No Shows then what would you expect them to pay for a walkup ticket in July 2 days before travel?

  • Lindabator

    NEVER said they were no shows – but when they wanted to change the ticket, the next Icelandair flight was two days later – instead of taking that option, or asking what THEY could offer, she went and bought another airlines’ ticket to save a day

  • AAGK

    Well I’m against that as I like to move freely but if NCL was obligated then I’m not sure what could be done. I don’t take cruises for this reason.

  • Michael__K

    If they were not No Shows then why would they have to buy brand new tickets? Why couldn’t they pay the fare difference + change fee?

  • Michael__K

    What truly ‘comprehensive policy to cover the air’ exists?

  • Michael__K

    Norway and Sweden are both part of the Schengen Area, so no immigration controls… And the cruise line was transporting them from one country to other regardless.

  • Michael__K

    Show us this “comprehensive” policy.

  • Michael__K

    Sweden and Norway are both part of the Schengen Area. There are no immigration controls between them.

  • Lindabator

    AGAIN – Icelandair offered seats on their next flight – 2 days later. SHE DID NOT WANT – and she probably never bother to ask if they could accommodate her on another airline – so she went off and bought her own

  • Michael__K

    How does that make any sense per Icelandair’s contract? Either their ticket was still changeable — even to another airport with a fare difference + change fee — or it was not changeable (e.g. because were considered No Shows) in which case the ticket value was already gone.

    If you read the article carefully, Icelandair offered nothing. It was Expedia which had no flights available for 2 days — and you don’t even know if the flight in 2 days was cheaper.

  • ctporter

    that DOES make a difference, and was a relevant piece of information! Context is everything

We want your feedback. Your opinion is important to us. Here's how you can share your thoughts:
  • Send us a letter to the editor. We'll publish your most thoughtful missives in our daily newsletter or in an upcoming post.
  • Leave a message on one of our social networks. We have an active Facebook page, a LinkedIn presence and a Twitter account. Every story on this site is posted on those channels. The conversation ranges from completely unmoderated (Twitter) to moderated (Facebook and LinkedIn).
  • Post a question to our help forums or ask our advocates for a hand through our assistance intake form. Please note that our help forum is not a place for debate. It's there primarily to assist readers with a consumer problem.
  • If you have a news tip or want to report an error or omission, you can email the site publisher directly. You may also contact the post's author directly. Contact information is in the author tagline.