A great deal of attention has been paid to eight cruise passengers from Norwegian Dawn who did not return to the ship on time and were therefore left in port in São Tomé and Príncipe and the challenges they have endured to try to rejoin the ship.

Another guest, however, also left the ship at the same port visit and did not return, but has been given much different assistance and has already successfully and safely returned to the United States. Why are these situations so different?

On the same day that eight guests on a private tour were unable to return to the ship on time, another passenger aboard Norwegian Dawn had a medical issue that ultimately resulted in her disembarkation from the vessel.

“On March 27, 2024 an 80-year-old woman was medically disembarked after being evaluated by our onboard medical team, who thought it best that she receive further assessment and treatment as needed from a local hospital,” a statement from Norwegian Cruise Line read.

There was some confusion in initial news reports that nine guests from Norwegian Dawn were left “stranded” in São Tomé and Príncipe, but this is not accurate.

“Following her disembarkation from the ship, our Care Team was immediately activated to provide support to the guest. We attempted to call the guest several times, and as we were unable to reach her, we worked directly with our port agent in São Tomé and Príncipe, an African island nation, to receive updates about the guest,” the cruise line clarified.

The eight guests from the late-returning tour were also helpful for the medically evacuated guest, identified by family members as Julia Lenkoff, and assisted her with contacting her family in California. The lack of direct communication from Norwegian Cruise Line was initially disconcerting, but is proper procedure in this type of situation.

Photo Credit: Vytautas Kielaitis / Shutterstock

“In instances such as these, as the guest was released from the hospital and in a coherent state, our protocol is to contact the guest directly, as we would not have the authority to share any medical details with anyone else without their expressed consent,” the cruise line explained.

It is not known who Lenkoff had listed as her emergency contact with the cruise line, or whether or not they received any communication about her condition and debarkation.

Lenkoff has now arrived back in the US after first connecting through Lisbon on her flights home.

“The guest has since been escorted on a flight to Lisbon, Portugal, and then put in the care of airport staff to continue her journey to the United States, where she has now made a safe return,” Norwegian Cruise Line confirmed.

In accordance with the guest’s privacy, her destination in the US has not been released, but local news reports from KTVU Fox 2 have noted that Lenkoff is from Eugene, Oregon. At the moment, she is continuing to receive hospital treatment in California (near family members) following a stroke during a Norwegian Cruise Line shore excursion in São Tomé.

Confusing reports have some readers questioning why Lenkoff received assistance with airfare and travel arrangements back to the US, while the eight passengers from the private tour were “abandoned” at the cruise port in São Tomé and Príncipe.

It should be noted that guests on private tours are always responsible for their own safe return to the cruise ship in accordance with the published all-aboard time, which is noted over the ship’s intercom, in daily print newsletters, and on signage at the ship’s gangway.

Norwegian Dawn

The eight travelers on the private tour did not return by that published time, and in failing to do so, were responsible for their own arrangements. This is outlined in the Norwegian Cruise Line Guest Ticket Contract, section 5(b), which states that:

“Any Guest who fails to arrive at the designated … point at the time set forth in their cruise documents is at risk of being left at the port of embarkation or port of call. In such event, Carrier shall have the right without notice to depart without the Guest and Guest shall be fully responsible to pay for … all expenses incurred to rejoin the vessel at the next port.”

Norwegian Cruise Line has been in touch with all impacted guests as much as reasonably possible, and is in fact going above and beyond to reimburse the travelers for expenses between Banjul, Gambia and Dakar, Senegal, since the ship was unable to dock in Banjul as originally scheduled.

The 92,250-gross-ton Norwegian Dawn has now departed Dakar, Senegal to continue her 21-night, one-way trip from South Africa to Spain, hopefully with all expected guess accounted for. The ship will arrive in Barcelona on Wednesday, April 10.

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