SYDNEY – Viking Cruises will compensate hundreds of passengers on its Orion cruise ship after cruisers were forced to stay on board and miss multiple stops because officials blocked port access due to marine growth on the ship's hull.
The 930-guest capacity Viking Orion docked in Sydney on Wednesday (Jan 4), the final stop on what is normally a 15-day, nine-stop cruise of New Zealand and Australia.
But plans went awry, local media reported, after New Zealand officials asked the ship to leave the country's waters part way through its cruise after finding small amounts of biofoul – plants, algae and small animals – that grow on ship hulls.
Steaming directly to the southern Australian port of Adelaide and bypassing planned stops in Tasmania and New Zealand's south island, officials stopped the ship approximately 12 nautical miles (22km) out to sea while professional divers cleared the hull.
The four-year-old luxury vessel finished its journey as planned with stops in Melbourne and Sydney.
Stranded on board for eight days, Miami-based lawyer Julie Reby Waas said missing scheduled stops like Tasmania was "enormously disappointing" but it would not dissuade her from cruising again.
"Most of the people I think on the ship have kept their cool and have maintained a sense of humour," Reby Waas told Reuters.
"I think everybody is very tired of it. The ship is beautiful, but you know, there's only so much space to explore, and so I guess (it's) claustrophobic in some ways."
Viking confirmed to Reuters in a statement that all guests would receive a voucher equal to what they had already paid for use on any future voyages.
Tickets for a 15-day Auckland to Sydney cruise departing Jan 10 range from A$8,995 (S$8,177) to A$29,995 on the Viking website.
Viking's Orion is the second cruise ship to fall afoul of New Zealand officials in the past month.
New Zealand fisheries officials stopped cruise ship Coral Princess entering the country's waters in December after finding snails on the hull.