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After spending a day exploring Havana, two vacationers saw a sight sure to make any cruise passenger shudder: Their ship sailing on without them.

Kevin Rohrer and his girlfriend were angry and scared when their Norwegian Cruise Line ship set sail early without them, stranding them in the Cuban capital city. Although the knee-jerk reaction might be to blame the cruise company, passenger advocates say the fault for missing the boat actually lies with the couple.

Rohrer knew the original itinerary of the ship, Norwegian Sky, was scheduled to sail out of Havana at 5pm. So he made sure that he and his girlfriend were back on the dock by 3:30pm. What they didn’t realize was that the ship’s crew had widely announced a change of schedule, saying Norwegian Sky would be leaving at 2pm instead.

“It was a frightening situation,” Rohrer said in his complaint to Norwegian, according to news.com.au. “We were devastated.” The American couple scrambled to make arrangements to get home.

“We exchanged money and we took a taxi to the airport,” Rohrer said. “American Airlines told us they wouldn’t take a credit card and quoted us 472 pesos ($646). We didn’t have that much money.” Eventually the two travel companions were able to book seats on the flight home, but they never got to finish out the rest of their vacation.

In the couple’s ruined voyage is an important lesson for all cruise-goers: Always double and triple check the itinerary for ports of call as they are subject to change.

As for Norwegian Sky, the crew made announcements over the loudspeakers, which Rohrer said they didn’t hear from their cabin. Ship crew members also distributed flyers with the updated itinerary and a new “all aboard” time of 1:30pm to each cabin.

Photo of the updated itinerary by Elliot Advocacy via news.com.au.
Photo of the updated itinerary by Elliott Advocacy via news.com.au.

Rohrer admitted he picked up the flyer during breakfast on their third day of the cruise. “But I didn’t get to read it at the time of discovery (we had a tight schedule with the Cuban Tour Advocacy),” Rohrer told Elliott Advocacy, which he contacted to help get compensation from Norwegian. “I had folded that flyer and put it in my pocket during our disembarkment from the ship. I read that flyer while waiting for a flight out of Cuba.”

In a statement to Elliott Advocacy, Norwegian said it had provided information of the itinerary change to passengers via e-documents more than a month before the Havana stop. “Additionally, the day before calling into Havana, the Cruise Director announced the new time repeatedly throughout the day and additional signage was placed on the gangway for all those disembarking to see,” the cruise line said, according to news.com.au.

Most cruise lines have disclaimers warning passengers to stay aware of any itinerary changes, and Norwegian is no different. According to the company’s terms and conditions: “In the event of strikes, lockouts, stoppages of labour, riots, weather conditions, mechanical difficulties or any other reason whatsoever, Norwegian Cruise Line has the right to cancel, advance, postpone or substitute any scheduled sailing or itinerary without prior notice.”

According to Elliott Advocacy, the blame in this situation indeed lies with the passengers.

“In the end, it’s the traveller’s responsibility to know when to be back on-board that ship,” a representative for the organization told news.com.au. “If you miss your cruise home, unfortunately, there’s no one to turn to for a refund or reimbursement.”

Featured image by ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images.

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