Norwegian Cruise Line on Sunday afternoon offered an elderly Brookline couple an apology, a full refund, and a complimentary “dream” trip to a destination of the couple’s choice as a “makeup,” hours after a column detailed how the couple had been marooned last month by the cruise line in Los Angeles.
The offer came as hundreds of readers posted stinging criticism of the cruise line in comments on the online version of the column, with some vowing never to patronize the company. Many characterized the well-established cruise line as lacking compassion and common sense.
“It is clear that in the case” of the Brookline couple “we did not deliver as we should have, and their needs were not handled appropriately,” the company said in an e-mail.
“We will be providing” the couple “with a full refund for their cruise,” Norwegian continued. “In addition, as a gesture of our sincerest apologies, we would like to invite them to experience their dream vacation with a complimentary cruise” on the sailing of their choice.
Bernie Wax, 87, and his wife, Dolly, 85, traveled to LA last month for a seven-day cruise down the Mexican coastline. It was a long-planned trip they hugely looked forward to as one last great adventure, a way to celebrate, in style, their 64 years together in the face of mounting health issues.
But when they arrived at the terminal, their luggage was quickly taken from them for transport onto the ship, while they went off to join the crowd waiting in a line to register. The trouble was that Bernie momentarily forgot their passports were in their luggage.
When they reached the desk, a cruise line representative told the Waxes to wait while someone searched for their luggage, but the ship left without the couple three hours later, apparently because the luggage — containing the passports — could not be found. At that point, a cruise line representative wordlessly handed Bernie a tersely written form letter saying they should call an 800 number with any concerns or questions, and disappeared.
“We felt abandoned,” Wax said. “Norwegian was totally without sympathy. Here we were, an elderly couple, 3,000 miles away from home, no clothing, no medicines, no nothing. And they just walked away without a word.”
Bernie Wax said he blamed himself for a silly lapse, noting that Norwegian had explicitly told travelers to bring their passports. But he became increasingly angry when he tried calling for help, only to learn the customer service office would be closed for the next three days because of the Christmas holiday. The couple wound up bunking in with a granddaughter who lives in LA for a week, waiting for the return of their luggage.
And after Norwegian for weeks refused to even acknowledge his firm but polite demand for a refund of the $2,300 spent for the cruise, Wax contacted the media for help.
Norwegian declined to respond to the media, but finally responded to Wax last week by refusing a refund, citing a clause in its terms and conditions that says guests are not entitled to a refund or credit when they are denied boarding for lack of proper documentation.
But by Sunday afternoon, the Miami-based company had relented.
Bernie Wax said he had not heard directly from Norwegian by late Sunday afternoon, but that he was pleased with the turn of events, noting that he had received “lovely e-mails from supporters from all over.”
Wax said he now plans to book a cruise that leaves from Boston.
“We’re really looking forward to it,” he said.