Thousands left stuck 'floating aimlessly' in quarantine off Africa coast after cholera scare

26 February 2024, 13:27 | Updated: 27 February 2024, 11:56

The Norwegian Dawn has been banned from docking.
The Norwegian Dawn has been banned from docking. Picture: Getty

By Emma Soteriou

A cruise ship was banned from docking over fears it had been hit with an outbreak of cholera, though test results show no evidence of the infection on board.

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Passengers on the Norwegian Dawn were left "aimlessly floating" after Mauritian authorities refused to let them dock "to avoid any health risks".

The ship, which was carrying 2,200 passengers, sailed from South Africa, stopping off at Mozambique.

It was due to dock in Port Louis on Sunday but arrived a day earlier after skipping a stop off at Reunion Island.

British holidaymakers were among those on board the 12-day cruise, and faced days in quarantine.

Since test results show no evidence of a cholera outbreak, guests originally booked for February 25 will embark the ship will later this afternoon, a spokesperson for Norweigan Cruise Line said.

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NCL President David J. Herrera said: “We appreciate our guests’ patience during this time, as we navigate this fluid situation. 

"We greatly value our onboard leadership team and crew, as well as our global shoreside team for going above and beyond to ensure the comfort of our guests during this unanticipated event. 

"We believe in doing the right thing and doing everything available to deliver the best vacation experience possible for our guests.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Norweigan Cruise Line said: "Upon Norwegian Dawn’s arrival to Port Louis Mauritius on Feb. 25, 2024, there were a small number of guests experiencing mild symptoms of a stomach-related illness. 

"Despite previous reports and speculations, there were no confirmed cases nor any evidence of cholera on board the vessel. 

"Although only six guests were being monitored due to mild symptoms of a stomach-related illness, the government of Mauritius required testing in an overabundance of caution, thereby delaying the ship’s original disembarkation scheduled for Feb. 25, 2024.

"Following the results of the regulatory testing by the government of Mauritius and their confirmation that no trace of cholera was found during their testing, Norwegian Dawn has been cleared for entry into Port Louis, Mauritius, and disembarkation of all guests will commence early morning Feb. 27, 2024 local time."

One Brit who was due to join the cruise over the weekend tried cancelling his trip and was considering getting flights home to avoid travelling on the contaminated ship.

"[I am] not on the ship but waiting to get on and not wanting to... it has been complete chaos onshore," he told MailOnline.

He said it was a "complete shambles" and there had been no updates.

But mother-of-two Esther Verdaas, who is on the ship, said passengers had been warned that cholera was potentially on board and that they could face 10 days in quarantine if it is confirmed.

"You can imagine that the atmosphere among the passengers is not pleasant," Ms Verdaas told Dutch paper BN DeStem.

"Flights are being missed, people have lost money on hotels booked in Mauritius. Guests are angry, rebellious, sad.

"These are luxury problems, of course. But what I find difficult is that so much is unclear. Can we go home? When? How? Where do we get tickets?"

She said the "misery" began after they were stopped from docking on Saturday, with them consequently facing "a long extra day of aimless floating on the open sea".

The Mauritius Ports Authority said in a statement: "The decision not to allow the cruise ship access to the quay was taken in order to avoid any health risks.

"The health and safety of passengers as well as that of the country as a whole are of the utmost to the authorities."

A spokesperson for the Norwegian Cruise Line initially said in a statement that during the ship’s trip to South Africa on February 13, some passengers experienced mild symptoms of a stomach-related illness.

The ship's management worked with Mauritian authorities to ensure precautions were in place and those affected were ok, a spokesperson said.