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Stranded cruise passengers in Spain race to catch up with their ship

By Maureen O’Hare, CNN

(CNN) — A month after eight Norwegian Cruise Line passengers were stranded in Africa when their ship left without them because they were late getting back, a US couple – ages 84 and 81 – were also left behind by the cruise line in Spain.

Richard and Claudene Gordon of Salt Lake City, Utah, were on a Mediterranean cruise aboard Norwegian Viva with family and friends and looking forward to celebrating Richard’s 85th birthday later this week.

While the ship was docked in Motril, Spain, on Monday, the pair took an independent excursion by themselves to the historic city of Granada, not organized by the cruise line. On their return, their bus was delayed for an hour by a rain storm, Richard Gordon told CNN by phone.

“I am a very experienced traveler and have probably been on as many as 30 cruises during my lifetime,” Gordon said. “Never before have we ever missed catching a ship on time at a port. So we are not someone who abuses the system.”

The pair missed the ship’s all-aboard time of 5.30 p.m. local time, for a sail away at approximately 6 p.m. Gordon said that at around 5.45 p.m. he spoke to a relative on board who raised the alarm that they were nearby and running late, but the relative was told by Norwegian Cruise Line staff that as the ship needed to sail on time, nothing could be done.

According to the Gordons, they arrived at the dock by taxi at 6.10 p.m., while the ship sailed away with Claudene’s medication, Richard’s eyeglasses and both their spare hearing aid batteries and phone chargers on board.

“Our cruise began in Lisbon and we departed from Lisbon about one and a half hours after the scheduled departure at 4:00 p.m.,” Gordon told CNN. “Then the next night or two, at least a half-hour late from the dock, so it is clear that they do not always leave on the exact moment scheduled.”

“They looked around and they looked around and no one was there,” Marilee Barker, the couple’s Utah-based daughter, told CNN by phone. They got a taxi to the police station where “the policeman helped them call back to the dock. And they said, ‘there’s nothing we can do.’ ”

The couple says they received no further assistance from Norwegian Cruise Line at that point, from the ship or on land.

No medication, no hearing aid batteries

“Luckily my dad has traveled, but he’s still 85,” Barker said. As the Norwegian Viva wouldn’t be docking again until Tuesday on the island of Ibiza, “they took a bus up to Granada and found a cute, cheap little B&B.”

Meanwhile, Barker says she and her husband were up to 3 a.m. finding flights and a hotel, eventually getting them on a plane to Palma de Mallorca, where their ship would be docking at 8 a.m. local time on Wednesday May 1.

Claudene Gordon texted her daughter late Tuesday afternoon Spanish time to say that Norwegian Cruise Line had made contact with them for the first time since the incident and had offered them a taxi from their Palma hotel in the morning to reunite them with their boat.

“We really received the royal treatment today,” Gordon told CNN after being reunited with the ship on Wednesday morning, two days they disembarked at Montril.

“They picked us up at the hotel in a beautiful black BMW limousine to take us to the ship. There we were met by the head of ship services who escorted us inside the ship to meet the general manager of the ship, then they escorted us to breakfast, then they escorted us to our cabin.

“We simply told them that we were abandoned at the dock with no one to meet us or tell us where to go, and they said they have already complained about the harbor master who was supposed to take care of things for them. But of course the ship had not contacted us directly for two days so that doesn’t speak so well for them.”

Norwegian Cruise Line said it disputed the time of the couple’s arrival at the pier. “The two guests who went ashore independently arrived at the pier approximately an hour late and missed the all-aboard time of 5:30 p.m. local time, for a sail away at approximately 6:00 p.m.,” a spokesperson said via email.

“A cruise ship follows a set itinerary with designated arrival and departure times. Itineraries are carefully coordinated and planned out well in advance of each voyage to ensure that all of our guests have the experience they are expecting,” they said. While there is a small window of time where late guests can be accommodated, they added, the Gordons arrived outside of this.

“After several attempts to contact these guests with the phone numbers provided, as well as trying to phone their emergency contact, we were unable to speak to them directly. However, we worked closely with the local port agents to make arrangements for the guests to rejoin the vessel.”

The spokesperson said that, prior to the hotel pickup on Wednesday morning, the cruise line had coordinated an airport pick-up for the Gordons at Palma de Mallorca the evening before but were still unable to contact the couple by phone.

In the similar incident last month, eight passengers were late getting back to their Norwegian Cruise Line ship on the African island nation of São Tomé on March 27. They then struggled for days to catch up with their ship as it made its way up the western coast of Africa.

In that case, Norwegian emphasized that the delayed guests were on a private tour that was not organized by the cruise line.

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