Cruise disaster- a trip to be forgotten
Back in October, Bayport resident Sal Makely planned one of her family’s first vacations in a while, a cruise to the Bahamas with six of her seven children and one friend of her only daughter.
As a single mother, she was very excited to take her kids and a friend on a trip to celebrate the New Year, but, unbeknownst to her, the trip ended up being their worst nightmare. “I have never been put in a position of such fear and uncertainty,” she said.
The Makely family, along with 4,000 or so other passengers, left New York on the Norwegian Breakaway Cruise Line on Friday, Dec. 29, and headed for Florida, where they were met with nice weather.
The ship set sail smoothly at first, the food was great and the show was entertaining, she explained. Saturday was also nice and by Sunday they arrived at Port Canaveral, Fla. On Monday they visited the Bahamas, but were soon disappointed by being told to return to the ship by 4 p.m., after only docking at 1:40 p.m., where they met more scheduling disappointment. But by Tuesday, when they arrived at the private island of Great Stirrup Cay, they were sent back due to high winds.
“We had to leave the area,” she said. “That night was extremely windy and we were told not to go on the outside decks, that all balconies and doors must stay closed. We were never told we were heading into the biggest storm of the East Coast.”
Then, for whatever reason, the captain decided to sail through what was called a “bomb cyclone,” or winter storm Grayson, despite the National Weather Service’s issued warnings as of Dec. 31.
The Makely family braved the storm in their three cabins among the seven children, Owen, Nolan, Okiah, Kyan, Keyan, Gaborik and their friend Charlotte Falkman, ranging in age from 7 to 20.
That night, Makely said, it was extremely difficult to sleep and they were all left in fear. Her older sons, she said, walked around not being able to sleep and were horrified to find water rushing down stairways and pouring from ceilings.
Makely detailed the trip with photos of the flooding carpets, fallen items and videos of the rough seas. “It was very wavy and really scary,” said 9-year-old Keyan.
Towels were everywhere and were even blocking the bottom of doorways, she added. Things were falling and tables and chairs near the café blew over and were scattered. Some elevators didn’t work; people were sleeping in the atrium on chairs, crying, throwing up and, she said, she even saw a crewmember’s hands being zip-tied together and being taken away.
Water soon made its way up their shower and onto the floor of the bathroom. She said the most damaging part of the whole trip was the fear and not being informed as to what was happening or the severity of the storm.
“There was no internet or any outside access,” Makely continued. “All I kept thinking was that I was responsible for these children. I honestly didn’t know if we would make it.”
The following day was even worse, with wind blowing and rocking the boat. Most of the passengers, she said, were sick, including some of her children.
The only announcement during the storm was: “We are optimizing our speed.”
After returning home on Jan. 5, the NCL website was down for two days but released a statement claiming that the cruise encountered stronger-than-forecasted weather conditions during the trip’s return to New York from the Bahamas, but that all guests and crew were safe. They then apologized for the discomfort that may have been experienced. The storm also delayed cruises that set sail the day after the storm and NCL told those guests they would be refunded a day of cruise fare in the form of onboard credit.
“I get it, accidents and weather happen, but we are upset with their choice to sail into the storm,” Makely said. “It is irresponsible of the cruise line and the captain to put everyone’s life in danger. We were in the storm and should’ve stayed south.”
Now, the over-4,000 that boarded the ship and fared the rough seas are seeking some sort of financial compensation for the unpleasant and dangerous ride, but have yet to receive anything except for a detail-less email claiming all patrons will receive 25 percent off any future booked cruises to be used within the next 12 months.
But after over $8,000 spent on the trip turned into disaster, Makely still hopes to see full or partial compensation. “It is not only unacceptable but also rude to think that those who suffered the trip would want to support the business by spending more money on another trip,” she said. She hopes the company will decide to do the right thing before passengers are forced to seek some sort of legal action.
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