Eight passengers are stranded on an African island after a Norwegian cruise ship left without them

A dream cruise vacation turned into a nightmare for eight passengers who were stranded on the African island of Sao Tome and Principe after their ship left without them due to them being late returning from a private tour.

The tourists – six from the United States and two from Australia – were on board the Norwegian Dawn, a Norwegian cruise ship, which left Cape Town, South Africa, on March 20, on a 21-day voyage up the coast of Africa scheduled to reach the African coast. It ends in Barcelona, ​​Spain, on April 10.

But on March 27, the group of eight tourists was late returning to the ship at 3 p.m. from a private excursion, not organized by the cruise line, on the island.

Jay and Jill Campbell from South Carolina were part of the group left behind.

They said their tour organizer informed the cruise captain that they would be late joining the ship and the local coast guard tried to transfer them to the ship, but they were not allowed to board.

As a result, the couple and the rest of the group are stranded for several days on the island off the coast of Nigeria, grappling with language, currency issues and complicated travel to catch the ship.

“The people of Sao Tome were very nice and very hospitable. They reached out to us as much as they could to help us find hotels,” Jay Campbell said on NBC's “TODAY” show Tuesday morning.

“We were able to reach out to a tour agency there to arrange flights to the next port of call… a very difficult process – you're dealing with multiple languages, language barriers, you're dealing with different currencies… finding someone who even has dollars… We try to get an agent to understand where we need to go.

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“It's one of those words that says: 'You can't get there from here,'” he added.

A Norwegian spokesman described the incident as a “very unfortunate situation” and said that “guests are responsible for ensuring they return to the ship at the published time.”

After guests failed to return, their passports were handed over to local port agents, according to protocol, the cruise line said. The company said it was Work with local authorities to understand “the requirements and visas guests need to re-board the ship at the next available port of call.”

On Monday, guests made arrangements to join the ship in Banjul, Gambia, but the ship was unable to dock safely there due to “adverse weather conditions” and “tidal restrictions,” the Norwegian said. Guests were then contacted and provided with information to join the ship in Dakar, Senegal, on Tuesday.

Jill Campbell said they traveled through seven countries in 48 hours to reach Senegal on Monday evening.

But now they are reconsidering whether they want to return to cruising.

“We are considering whether to board the ship or not. It is docked here in Senegal,” she said. “We believe there is a basic duty of care that they have forgotten, so it concerns us.”

“After what we witnessed, we really believe that even though there was a set of rules or policies that the ship may have followed, they followed those rules very strictly. I think they really forgot that they were people who worked in the hospitality industry and that they really cared about the safety and well-being of customers,” Jill Campbell added. It should be their first priority.

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Norwegian noted that passengers were responsible for making their own travel arrangements to join the ship.

“Despite a series of unfortunate events beyond our control, we will reimburse these eight guests for their travel costs from Bangor, Gambia to Dakar, Senegal,” a cruise line spokesperson said. “We are in contact with guests and will provide additional information as it becomes available.”

The silver lining of the disaster was that the Campbells were able to connect with another Norwegian Dawn passenger – 80-year-old Julia Lenkov – who had also been left on the island, but for a medical reason.

Lenkov was on tour for a different day on March 27.

The Norwegian said she was “medically removed” from the cruise to receive local treatment that day.

Norwegian said its care team tried to contact Lenkov several times and was unable to reach her, and the cruise line worked with the port agent in Sao Tome and Principe to get updates on her health.

The Campbell family met with Lenkov and were able to put her in touch with her family in California, who brought her home — a move that Lenkov's daughter said “saved her life.”

“She's a world traveler. She travels all the time. So this will be one of her favorite trips because she's been to 120 countries so far and she wanted to get to 130,” said her daughter, Lana Lenkov Jess. The interview aired Tuesday on “Today.”

Norwegian said Lenkov was taken on a flight to Lisbon, Portugal, and then placed under the care of airport staff to continue her journey to the United States, where she returned safely.

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