Stranded Australians Violetta and Doug Sanders have travelled through seven countries in 48 hours to be reunited with Norwegian Dawn in Senegal.

Their dream cruise turned into a nightmare after they became struck with six US citizens on the island of São Tomé and Príncipe, off the coast of Nigeria. The ship left without them because they were late to return from a private shore excursion on the island.

Norwegian Dawn had departed Cape Town, South Africa, on March 20 for a 21-day voyage up the coast of Africa. It ends in Barcelona, Spain, on April 10.

Returned to the ship an hour late

The eight passengers were over an hour late in returning to their ship which had an all-aboard time of 3pm. 

The group, including four elderly passengers and one quadriplegic, attempted to board with the help of the local coast guard. But they wee denied re-entry and Norwegian Star raised anchors off port and departed without them. Their story made headlines around the world.

“Guests are responsible for ensuring they return to the ship at the published time,” the line said.

Subsequently, their passports were delivered to local port agents after they failed to return in time, Norwegian said. The line said it was working with authorities to understand “the requirements and visas needed for the guests to reboard the ship at the next available port of call”.

“It’s been the worst experience of our lives to be abandoned like that in a strange country, can’t speak the language,” Doug Sanders told Sunrise on Channel 7.

“It’s Portuguese and African. We have no money, our credit cards aren’t accepted.”

American passenger Jay Campbell said on NBC’s TODAY show:  “The lovely people of São Tomé were very gracious, very hospitable. They had reached out as much as they could to help us find hotels.

“We were able to get to a tour agency there to arrange flights to the next port of call. 

“Very difficult process – you’re dealing with multiple languages, language barriers, you’re dealing with different currencies … finding someone that even has dollars … trying to get an agent to understand where we need to get to.

“It’s one of those ‘You can’t get there from here,’” Jay Campbell added.

Very unfortunate situation, says Norwegian

A Norwegian spokesperson said the incident was a “very unfortunate situation”.

Subsequently, on Monday, all eight passengers had made arrangements to rejoin the ship in Banjul, Gambia. But the ship was unable to safely dock because of “adverse weather conditions” and “tidal restrictions,” Norwegian said. 

The guests were provided with further information and they were able to rejoin the ship at Dakar, Senegal, on Tuesday. 

In addition, they were also reimbursed for flights, accommodation and travel costs in their bid to be reunited with Norwegian Dawn.

“Despite the series of unfortunate events outside of our control, we will be reimbursing these eight guests for their travel costs from Banjur, Gambia to Daka, Senegal,” Norwegian said in a statement.

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