Biofoul: The Stowaway Turning Dream Cruises Into Trips to Nowhere

But not every passenger was able to weather the delay so gracefully.

One woman, who had hoped to spend the long-planned trip seeing the animals of Australia and New Zealand as a last hurrah with her aging father, was constantly teetering on the precipice of tears. Another passenger, Ms. Goff recalled, publicly declined the offer of a compensatory voucher for a future cruise, saying that he had chosen to take the trip after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, and that he did not expect to live long enough to take any other cruises.

“If it was true, it was heartbreaking,” Ms. Goff said.

Different cruise companies have taken varying approaches toward compensating passengers waylaid by biofouling incidents. Regent has promised passengers a refund, said Mr. Hadlock, whereas Viking offered only a single-use cruise voucher, equivalent to the money paid for the ticket, that expires after one year.

In a statement after the voyage, a spokesman for Viking said that “a limited amount of standard marine growth” had now been successfully cleaned off the ship. Those who had missed ports had been provided with a voucher valued at 100 percent of what passengers had paid to Viking, which could be used for “any future voyage,” he said. Passengers who had attempted to seek cash refunds said they had been unsuccessful.

A spokeswoman for Regent acknowledged in a statement the “inconvenience, frustration, and disappointment” the disruption had caused passengers.

In situations like these, where ports are missed because of bad weather, mechanical difficulties or emergencies like a person falling overboard, passengers have very little legal recourse. “You have to look at the cruise ticket to determine what rights any passenger has,” said Jim Walker, a Miami-based lawyer who specializes in cruise ships. “And there aren’t any. It only really contains limitations and exclusions that benefit the cruise lines.”

For passengers who had traveled thousands of miles and saved for the trip of a lifetime, those vouchers are a difficult reminder of what might have been. Others have been left with a bitter taste in their mouths, and with questions to which they have found few answers.

Mr. Hadlock, who had been aboard the Explorer, phrased it plainly. “Passengers would still like to know how this happened,” he said. “How was a major cruise line caught so off-guard by regulations?”

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