NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - What was supposed to be a relaxing cruise ended in near confinement behind a locked gate for Sarah Alonso and the roughly 200 other passengers awaiting a way home Tuesday (Sept. 3), after their cruise ship was forced to land in New Orleans instead of back in Florida.
“They’re keeping us in this cargo terminal and we can’t get out and no one can come in,” Alonso said.
The weary travelers were passengers on the Norwegian Breakaway cruise line until Hurricane Dorian changed the ship’s itinerary, forcing it to dock in New Orleans. Now, the problem is trying to fly back to the original port in Miami.
“Everyone’s been starving, no one knows what’s going on, basically Norwegian Breakaway just dumped us here and said ‘see you later,’” Alonso said.
Alonso traveled with her family, including her young daughter. She and other passengers described how they were held on board charter buses for hours without food or water, until they begged to get off. Staff brought in sandwiches, but passengers were told they could not leave the fenced area.
“Everyone’s losing it a little bit right now. We’ve been here for hours, it’s hot, we’ve called our families countless times with different travel arrangements, different plans,” Alonso said.
“We still have to get to Miami, we still have to drive through Dorian to get back to Orlando,” Daniel Weiss, another passenger said.
The Norwegian Breakaway cruise ship departed from Miami and was supposed to return Sunday, but Alonso and other travelers believe a series of decisions made by staff both on board and while docked left them without transportation, food, water and even medicine in some cases, and they want answers from the cruise line.
Beverley Albertie was among the stranded group of passengers, frustrated with the way Norwegian handled the issue.
“The communication was off. They made too many miscommunications,” Albertie said.
While the cruise line helped other passengers rearrange their flights or buses to get back home, Alonso said those living in the Miami area feel like they were forgotten.
“No one knows this area, no one knows how to get home, some people don’t speak English, some people thought we were here for the day to go back to Miami, the communications were extremely poor,” she said.
Another ship -- the Norweigian Sun -- was also diverted to New Orleans’ port because of Hurricane Dorian. Passengers aboard both ships said their travel plans were derailed, with some saying their vacations have now been unexpected extended by up to five days.
“Other cruise lines had cut similar itineraries short to get their passengers back home," Weiss said. “Those decisions cost everyone their time their money.”
Hours after the group was supposed to have landed in Miami, they finally boarded the charter plane and took off, making this trip maybe memorable for other reasons.
“It’s really sad after a vacation, now we have all this stress after we go back to our normal lives,” Alonso said.
The cruise line did not return FOX 8′s request for comment Tuesday, however the next day a spokesman said Norwegian followed every protocol and deny abandoning any passengers or crew.
“The Norwegian Cruise Line has done all of the right things as a brand - for their passengers and their crew. They flew approximately 7,000 passengers out of New Orleans and they always had access to food and water. Some stayed on the ship and others were put in hotels. Absolutely no one was stranded,” the spokesman said.