An Australian on board a 14-day cruise is furious at a "secretive" change to the itinerary which caught hundreds of passengers off guard. She says the travellers have been "scammed" by the cruise line and denied the opportunity to visit their dream destination.
Melbourne woman Helen Midler was thrilled to finally embark on a "trip of a lifetime" to Antarctica and around South America on board the Norwegian Star cruise ship — which departed from Buenos Aires, Argentina on February 4. But at the last minute, Antarctica was seemingly scrapped from the itinerary with passengers learning days after boarding they'd be doing a "South America round trip" instead.
Midler took her frustrations to social media this week and explained that she only found out about the change after checking the app a few days in and noticed the name of the cruise had been changed. Passengers were later told it was for "operational reasons" after raising their concerns, however, no further explanation was given, the irate passenger claims.
Those on-board were allegedly told the decision was made by the head office in the US to not visit Paradise Bay, on mainland Antarctica, before departure on January 31, and that all passengers were notified by email, and again at check-in. However, Midler claims this was not the case.
"I can assure you that we never got any email and many of our friends here on board, and I'm talking hundreds of people we know, did not receive any email either," she said in a video posted online. "Until the cruise had commenced, most people on this ship were not aware of the change in the itinerary."
Passengers treated with 'absolute disdain and disrespect'
Midler said "everyone was angry", with hundreds of passengers meeting at 9.30am in the ship's foyer one morning to demand further answers.
"Customer service are refusing to acknowledge us, they sent a security officer out to calm us down," she said while standing in the noisy crowd. "We feel we're being cheated, being scammed".
Midler said frustrated travellers — some of whom "spent their live savings" on the cruise — just "want answers, transparency and clarity" but claims they're being treated with "absolute disdain and disrespect" with little explanation given.
"Everyone on this ship has paid a lot of money to cruise to Antarctica, not to do a round trip of South America at sea," she fumed. "We are being dismissed, ignored, refused answers. They're telling us we just have to accept it.
We've paid too much money. We're too smart, and we're too angry to just order another cocktail and sit down and accept the fact that our money has vanished into Norwegian Cruise Lines pockets.Helen Midler
"They think we're idiots. We're not idiots and we're not prepared to just accept this sitting down," she continued. "We may not get to Antarctica. The chances of this cruise now going to Antarctica are minimal. But we want answers."
Customers 'feeling disappointed' after sudden change
Another passenger also expressed his frustrations online admitting, "it is so sad, especially as it is so expensive". "If they had warned us before we set off we could have cancelled," he said.
Prices for the cruise ship appear to range from roughly $4,204 per person up to $13,500 for a suite. The passenger, believed to be from the UK, also claimed "no explanation was given", adding so far there have been "no offers of compensation".
In a follow-up clip posted on Saturday — six days into the cruise — Midler said that while she's having great time, passengers are "still left in the dark". That's despite two crew members "speaking to us at length" about the sudden change.
Norwegian Star under a 'go-slow order'
It's since been confirmed that the cruise ship has a "go slow" order meaning it can not travel beyond 19 knots, however, again, the reason why remains unclear. Midler said weather conditions have been ruled out.
"We saved and we booked this two years ago for the trip of a lifetime," she said. "We're feeling very disappointed and dejected about the outcomes here.
"We'll never be able to afford to do this again. And we've lost that trip to the Antarctica mainland that we had all been hoping and waiting for, and that we'd paid for. But we're going to try and do our best to enjoy it."
Yahoo News Australia has contacted Norwegian Cruise Line to seek an explanation.
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