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Stranded Australian cruise passengers describe ‘worst experience of our lives’

An Australian couple stranded on an African island after being abandoned by a Norwegian Cruise Lines ship has spoken out about their ordeal – saying it was “the worst experience of our lives.”

Doug and Violeta Sanders said they had to fend for themselves after a private tour they took during a stop last week on the island of São Tomé ran past the time they needed to return to the Norwegian Dawn and they weren’t allowed to board, Sky News Australia reported.

Doug and Violeta Sanders

“It’s been the worst experience of our lives to be abandoned like that in a strange country, can’t speak the language – it’s Portuguese and African,” Violeta told “Seven’s Sunrise.”

“We have no money, our credit cards aren’t accepted,” she added.

They and the other six passengers were not allowed to get back on the vessel, which sailed off without them.

Norwegian Dawn Christopher Sadowski

The stranded passengers were helped by the US Embassy in Angola and boarded a flight to Gambia in hopes of joining the ship in Banjul, but it was unable to dock due to low tide and moved on to Senegal.

A Norwegian Cruise Line rep said the passengers were on a private tour, not one organized by the company.

Jill and Jay Campbell were “considering” not finishing their cruise. Jill and Jay Campbell

“We work closely with local tour operators to ensure excursions are planned to our schedule to guarantee timely arrivals back to the port.  The excursion this group was on was not organized through us but on their own.  As such, we are not in communication with their private tour operator,” the spokesperson said.

Attorney James Diamond from TWC Layers said it is a “hard and fast rule” that a ship can leave once a final call has been made.

The couple was denied reentry to the cruise ship after missing its boarding time. Jill and Jay Campbell

“They pay a lot of money for docking fees, and renting out the space,” he told the program. “They have times that they have to leave, those times are published and unfortunately, I know it’s morally incorrect, but they do have the right to leave.”

Among those stranded were Americans Jill and Jay Campbell.

The passengers raced through seven different countries in 48 hours to make it to Dakar, Senegal, where they finally got back on the ship, according to Sky News.

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