Eight tourists left stranded on African island after cruise ship departs without them

2 April 2024, 12:56 | Updated: 2 April 2024, 20:01

Eight passengers on a luxury cruise holiday were left stranded on the African island of Sao Tome and Principe after their ship departed without them. 

The tourists - six from the US and two from Australia - were forced to make their own way through several countries as they tried to catch up with the vessel.

The group were aboard the Norwegian Dawn, a Norwegian Cruise Line ship, which departed from Cape Town, South Africa, on 20 March for a 21-day trip up the coast of Africa.

The cruise was set to end in Barcelona, Spain, on 10 April.

But they were late to return to the ship on 27 March after going on a private tour that day.

They said their tour's operator notified the cruise captain that they were going to be late to rejoin the ship, and the local coastguard tried to get them on the vessel, but they weren't allowed to board.

As a result, the eight passengers were left stranded for days on the island, 190 miles off the coast of Nigeria - grappling with language barriers, currency issues, and complicated travel to rejoin the ship.

Jill and Jay Campbell, from South Carolina, told Sky's US partner network NBC News about the "very difficult process".

"We were able to get to a tour agency there to arrange flights to the next port of call," Mr Campbell said.

"[But it is a] very difficult process - you're dealing with multiple languages, language barriers, you're dealing with different currencies… finding someone that even has dollars… trying to get an agent to understand where we need to get to.

"It's one of those, 'You can't get there from here."

"The lovely people of Sao Tome were very gracious, very hospitable. They had reached out as much as they could to help us find hotels," he added.

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The group had arranged to rejoin the cruise in Gambia but the ship was unable to safely dock there due to bad weather conditions.

Ms Campbell said they travelled through seven countries in 48 hours to be able to meet the ship in Senegal.

But they said they are now considering whether they even want to return to the cruise.

She added: "We are considering whether or not we are going to board the ship. It is in dock here in Senegal. We believe there was a basic duty of care that they had forgotten about, so it does concern us."

A pregnant woman and her husband were also part of the stranded group.

Separately, an 80-year-old woman who was "medically disembarked" from the ship to receive treatment on the island was also left there, the group alleged.

Norwegian Cruise Line told NBC News they were unable to contact Julia Lenkoff, who flew home to California after the group of eight stranded tourists made contact with her family.

Norwegian Cruise Line did not respond immediately to Sky News's request for comment.