A veteran cruising couple with a long history of cruising – they have sailed more than 30 times – were left behind at a Spanish port.

The vessel, Norwegian Viva, sailed on the dot of 6pm without Richard and Claudene Gordon, who had gone on a private shore excursion. They arrived at the port at 6.10 – 40 minutes after last boarding time.

Norwegian Cruises was criticised a month ago after eight passengers were stranded in Africa.

Doug and Violetta Sanders pictured on Sunrise.
Doug and Violetta Sanders, the couple left stranded in Africa

The Gordons say they were left behind with no medicines and other personal items. They complained the ship should have waited for them, as they called ahead to say they were almost at the port side.

They also maintained the ship was often late leaving port.

“I am a very experienced traveller and have probably been on as many as 30 cruises during my lifetime,” Salt Lake City resident Richard Gordon, who was celebrating his 85th birthday, told CNN.

“Never before have we ever missed catching a ship on time at a port. So we are not someone who abuses the system.”

The couple, aged in their eighties and from Salt Lake City in the US, went on an independently booked excursion to view the city of Grenada.

A maintained a rain storm made them late for the 5.30pm “all aboard” at the port of Motril.

As they raced for the port, they called a relative on board who alerted the ship’s officers that the couple were nearby. But by the time they arrived at 6.10pm the ship had sailed.

Lisbon overtourism
Port of Lisbon

Gordon claimed: “Our cruise began in Lisbon and we departed from Lisbon about one and a half hours after the scheduled departure at 4pm. Then the next night or two, at least a half-hour late from the dock, so it is clear that they do not always leave on the exact moment scheduled.”

The Gordon’s were rescued by their daughter in Salt Lake City who arranged a flight to Palma de Mallorca, the Viva’s next stop.

But the Gordons did praise Norwegian for meeting them with a luxury taxi service to take them to the ship.

“They picked us up at the hotel in a beautiful black BMW limousine to take us to the ship. There we were met by the head of ship services who escorted us inside the ship to meet the general manager of the ship, then they escorted us to breakfast, then they escorted us to our cabin,” Gordon told CNN.

What Norwegian Cruise Line says

Norwegian Cruise Line disputed the couple’s account of what happened, telling The New York Post they were a full hour behind the 5:30pm all-aboard time, and that it tried numerous times without success to contact the couple after they were left behind.

“After several attempts to contact these guests with the phone numbers provided, as well as trying to phone their emergency contact, we were unable to speak to them directly. However, we worked closely with the local port agents to make arrangements for the guests to rejoin the vessel.

“It is important to note that a delayed departure has the potential to impact the ship’s ability to deliver its planned itinerary and thus influence the experience for all guests on-board. While this was a very unfortunate situation, guests are responsible for ensuring they return to the ship at the published time.”

What you should do about missing a ship

Missing your cruise ship at a port of call can be stressful, but with quick action, you might still salvage some of your vacation. Here’s what to do:

  1. Stay Calm and Locate Help: Head straight to the cruise terminal and find the port agents. They represent the cruise line on land and can advise you on catching up with the ship.
  2. Contact the Cruise Line: While the port agents help locally, call the cruise line’s customer service department. Explain the situation and see if catching the ship at its next stop is feasible.
  3. Consider Your Options: Catching up at a later port might involve flights, potentially at your own expense. Weigh the cost and hassle against returning home early.
  4. Travel Insurance is Your Friend: If you have travel insurance with trip interruption coverage (excluding situations like oversleeping!), contact them immediately. They can assist with rebooking flights and offer financial reimbursement.
  5. Gather Information: The port agents can inform the ship about your intentions and inquire about your luggage. You might need essentials until you rejoin (or return home).
  6. Keep Records: Document everything – phone calls, receipts, emails – to support any insurance claims or communication with the cruise line.

Additional Tips

  • Before disembarking, check the “all aboard” time for returning to the ship. Factor in potential delays like traffic or long shore excursions.
  • Always carry a photocopy of your passport and credit card information in case the originals are onboard.
  • Consider downloading the cruise line’s app for real-time updates and communication options.

Remember, missing the ship isn’t the end of the world. By staying calm, taking charge, and utilizing available resources, you can minimize the disruption and salvage your cruise experience.