Detours with locals.
Travel tips you can trust.

Thousands of vacations canceled after mechanical failure on Norwegian Cruise Line ship

The takeaway? Get travel insurance.


People look on the cruise ship Norwegian Pearl stranded in Barcelona on July 5. (Quique Garcis/EPA-EFE)

More than 2,000 cruise passengers were stuck in Barcelona this week and thousands more vacations were canceled because of technical problems on a Norwegian Cruise Line ship.

Angry vacationers on the Norwegian Pearl ship took to social media when they learned they’d be skipping ports on their 13-night cruise that began in Amsterdam and intended to end in Rome but terminated in Barcelona.

“My jokes must have broken my cruise ship? My dream vacation seems to have sleep apnea? The Norwegian Pearl is having engine problems,” Scott Blugrind wrote in an Instagram post.

The Norwegian Pearl missed stops in Palma, Mallorca and Monte Carlo because of a technical issue, according to a statement from NCL. “Due to the need to make necessary repairs, we will be ending the current sailing in Barcelona as well as cancelling Norwegian Pearl’s July 5, 2019 voyage,” the statement read.

Those scheduled to embark on Norwegian Pearl’s July 5 voyage to the Greek Isles and Italy were given three days’ notice that their sailing had been canceled.

Norwegian Pearl customers expecting to go on the July 5 sailing were given a 100 percent refund and a 100 percent future cruise credit, as well as $300 in flight change fees. That $300 might not be enough to cover the losses for some customers, according to their tweets.

“#norwegianpearl @CruiseNorwegian refused to pay for my airfare after they cancelled my cruise! I’m out $5200 in airfare because of their actions, plus another $900 in worthless travel insurance. Anyone talking about a class action?” Steven Judd tweeted.

While NCL provided guests stuck in Barcelona with a 50 percent refund, a 50 percent future cruise credit and up to $300 in flight change fees, customers ran into problems when it came time to book new flights home. Some lamented the cost of their lost airfare, and the fact that NCL would not provide layover hotel coverage.

Travelers affected by both sailings vented about the various problems associated with the technical failure on social media and online cruising forums such as CruiseCritic.com.

“We are already here in Europe and have non-refundable days on Amalfi Coast after the cruise. We are stuck and I need to figure out a plan for 2-weeks last minute. All of that planning for nothing — we are devastated and don’t know what to do!” wrote user mickeyfanz, who was traveling with a group of nine people for a birthday celebration.

In the age of social media, cruise ship catastrophes seem to go viral fairly often. Last March, the world watched as more than 1,300 Viking Sky passengers braved 26-foot waves off the west coast of Norway while the ship experienced engine failure. There’s a Wikipedia page dedicated to the “Costa Concordia disaster” that documents the capsizing of Carnival’s Costa Concordia, resulting in the death of at least 25 people.

But according to cruise expert Stewart Chiron of the Cruise Guy, who’s taken more than 270 cruises, cruise news gets blown out of proportion.

“We notice [problems] more because there are more ships, there’s more sailing,” Chiron said. “In 2019, just over 30 million people are expected to go on a cruise. It’s a significant number worldwide.”

Chiron argued that cruising is the safest form of travel, and that cruise ship problems get sensationalized. Disasters like Costa Concordia are not the norm. “The numbers of those situations you can count on one hand. It’s so incredibly rare,” he said.

Mechanical problems, on the other hand, are more common. Cruise ships are “like airplanes, they’re like cars. So sometimes there’s an issue — they break down,” Chiron said. “It’s not the first ship that’s had to cancel sailings. It’s not the first, and it’s not the last.”

While Chiron said news covering cruise problems tends to be hyperbolic, it does shed light on a different important consideration for cruise-goers.

“It does highlight the need of travel insurance,” Chiron said. “I’m not trying to over dramatize it, but there are so many moving parts. The insurance is so important that your property, your health and your trip is protected."

Read more:

Read the fine print before you travel

We’re in the age of the overtourist. You can avoid being one of them.

Where travel from the U.S. to Cuba stands

We noticed you’re blocking ads!

Keep supporting great journalism by turning off your ad blocker. Or purchase a subscription for unlimited access to real news you can count on.
Unblock ads
Questions about why you are seeing this? Contact us