When Stephen and Judith Medcalf joined the Viking Sky to see the Northern Lights in Norway, they were looking for some rest and relaxation after a close relative’s death.
Instead, they had one of the scariest experiences of their lives, winched from the heaving decks of the ship after she lost power in a storm off Norway.
“When they put a sling under the arms and winched Judith and me up to the helicopter, the few minutes when we were daggling and swaying under the helicopter were unbelievably frightening,” Mr Medcalf, a Sunshine Coast retired microbiologist, told Cruise Passenger.
It was their first helicopter ride and not an experience they want repeated.
But despite the ordeal, the couple is full of praise for Viking’s crew, the ship’s Captain and the way Viking handled the catastrophe.
And despite talking to the US law firm which recently started a US$10m lawsuit on behalf of American passengers, the Medcalfs believe the line has been “extremely generous” and won’t be joining the action.
They have received all their money back for the cruise, flights and a hotel stay, a free second cruise and an invitation from the company chairman to a third on board the line’s next newbuild launch.
“We were overwhelmed,” said Mr Medcalf.
“Full marks to all the Viking crew and staff who handled the whole incident on board the ship tremendously well. They were exceptionally helpful and calm.
“Given the difficult circumstances, Viking crew and staff did a fantastic job.”
When they arrived home in Australia, they received a beautiful arrangement of flowers with a letter from Viking’s chairman and founder Torstein Hagen.
Viking has already reimbursed the Medcalfs with an $11,500 cruise voucher each, refunded the return economy airfare of $1500 each and all unused excursions fees. Viking also picked up the tab for all incidentals including hotel stays.
After they were evacuated from the ship, Viking put up the passengers in a hotel in the town of Kristiansund and gave each passenger about $300 to buy clothes and toiletries.
“The shops in the town are usually shut on Sundays but on this occasion the local people opened a shop in a shopping centre especially for the passengers so that we could buy some clothes. When we arrived back at the hotel, Viking’s chairman visited us.”
Mr Hagen apologised for the incident and invited the Medcalfs and all other passengers to accompany him on the maiden voyage of the line’s new ship, Viking Venus in 2021.
“We are philosophical about it. We had a great holiday and a fantastic time on the cruise, despite the hiccup. This was our first cruise and it was spectacular, the food was excellent and the crew magnificent. We picked Viking because there were no children or casinos on board.
“We are back home safe and sound and have booked to go on a Viking river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest in October.”
Regarding a class action by a group of US passengers launched by US attorney Michael Winkleman, the Medcalfs have decided to move on and will not pursue it.
“We have not been put off by our experience. We will definitely be cruising more,” he said.