Upset Cruise Ship Passengers Left in Colombia Speak Out

A Tampa Bay news station is reporting that a couple that purchased a “dream cruise,” to travel the Panama Canal on the Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Star are now saying they are reluctant to step foot on a cruise ship again after one of them got extremely sick with what was believed to be the norovirus and then was left in Cartagena, Colombia. The Colemans went aboard the Norwegian Star with expectations of it being a memorable cruise through the Panama Canal. However, Ronald Coleman got extremely sick during the cruise. “He was so sick, he couldn’t sit up long enough to sign his name,” reported his wife, Betty Coleman.

The couple was then dropped off in Cartagena, Colombia to receive further medical care and treatment. Although their son was listed on an emergency contact form with the cruise line as the next of kin to be called in case of an emergency, the son was not notified by the cruise line about the fact the Colemans were left in a foreign country to receive medical care and treatment. The cruise line responded by saying the couple was given a chance to call their son prior to disembarking the vessel, but chose not to do so.

Mark Coleman, the son, stated that he first heard of his father’s sickness on Friday after he received a frantic call from his mother. His mother was so frantic she was unable to state where she was. The son then called Tampa’s 10 News after NCL could not tell him of his parents’ exact location in Cartagena, Colombia. It was reported that he was told his parents were on the ship.

A State Department official was contacted who assisted in locating his parents. The Colemans have requested an apology from the cruise line, but the cruise line officials have responded by saying that the Colemans didn’t express any dissatisfaction with their care, and issued a statement, which is obviously from their Public Relations Department. I have previously handled a case against this particular cruise line where discovery revealed an extensive manual dealing with how to respond to crisis situations and adverse publicity. A cruise line is prepared for adverse publicity, and typically issues sworn statements to the public in an attempt to diffuse any adverse publicity. In one case involving the cruise line allegedly heading into the teeth of a storm despite the forecast, and allegedly endangering the lives of the passengers, the cruise line promptly got into the media outlets with a response that the cruise ship had struck what was called a “freak wave” which was unavoidable. The characterization of a “freak wave” was to portray the incident as an avoidable incident with a wave that could not have been anticipated. However, through discovery in that particular case, the captain who was operating the ship at the time denied the fact that there was a “freak wave” that struck the vessel despite the fact the cruise line had issued statements saying there was in fact a “freak wave”. This illustrates the tacts of “spinning” factsin a certain way in response to adverse publicity.

In this particular case, NCL issued the following statement in response to the ordeal suffered by the Colemans:

“On Wednesday, October 12, Mr. Coleman was medically disembarked from Norwegian Star while the ship was in Cartagena, Colombia as he needed shoreside medical attention. He was accompanied by his wife.

Prior to disembarking the vessel, the ship’s Guest Service personnel assisted Mr. and Mrs. Coleman with packing their belongings and making arrangements for their transfer to the hospital. At that time, the couple was given the option to contact their family via phone before disembarking, but chose not to. Since the guests had travel insurance, they were also provided with the relevant contact information for emergency assistance through their travel insurance company.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s port agent in Colombia assisted the guests and accompanied them to the hospital, ensuring that all necessary paperwork there was accurately completed so that Mr. Coleman could receive the care he needed.

The port agent provided his contact information to the guests and offered to assist them in purchasing toiletries and/or clothing, but the guests declined the offer. Mrs. Coleman was offered assistance with a hotel room, but she declined and chose to stay in the hospital.

On both Thursday and Friday, Norwegian’s port agent visited the couple in the hospital in the morning and the afternoon. The port agent also assisted the couple in obtaining plane tickets for their return to Tampa.

On Saturday, Norwegian’s port agent visited the couple at 2 p.m. to again tend to their needs. At no time during their stay in Colombia did the couple express any dissatisfaction with how the situation had been handled. To the contrary, the port agent advised that the couple were so appreciative of the efforts on their behalf they wanted to send an email thanking them.

On Sunday, Norwegian’s port agent assisted the couple with transportation to the airport for their flight to Tampa which arrived later that day.”

One would expect that with all of the experience the cruise ship companies have with all the different foreign ports, and with emergency situations, a cruise line company would take steps to contact the family members of an elderly couple such as the Colemans who were left in Cartagena, Colombia on their own. An apology does seem in order for the Colemans, and some acknowledgement that the manner in which the cruise line dealt with the situation could have been handled better.

Our firm continues to be safety advocates for both passengers and crewmembers harmed at sea, as well as boating safety advocates. Our firm handles all types of boating accident cases, including accidents that happen on cruise ships, yachts, and all types of pleasure watercraft.