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Viking cruise passengers tried to maintain their sense of humor after marine growth on the ship’s hull left them trapped onboard for 10 days: ‘It was a plot twist’

The Viking Orion made headlines last month after the cruise ship missed several planned port stops due to “marine growth” found in the ship’s hull.Divers had to clean the Viking Orion in international waters last month after the cruise ship missed several planned port stops due to “marine growth” found in the hull.

Courtesy of Kenn Heydrick.

  • Passengers aboard the Viking Orion missed several port stops due to marine growth on the ship.
  • Two cruise-goers told Insider they tried to maintain their sense of humor amid the anger-inducing ordeal.
  • “There wasn’t a lot to do,” one guest said. Another said it was a “challenge” to keep busy. 

Kenn Heydrick and his partner had been dreaming about the Oceania cruise for more than two years; they planned to revel in New Zealand’s crystal blue waters and embrace Australia’s stunning sights. COVID-related postponements had delayed the trip multiple times, but as the end of December rolled around, it was finally time to set sail.

It was to be the “trip of a lifetime,” Heydrick told Insider.

But instead of traipsing through Tasmania and sightseeing in Sydney, Heydrick and his partner, along with hundreds of other Viking passengers, spent their holidays stuck at sea, commiserating with one another and trying to pass the idle time after nearly ten days trapped onboard the Orion ship.

“Most of us were upset,” Heydrick, 64, said of his fellow passengers.

The Viking Orion made headlines last month after the cruise ship missed several planned port stops due to “marine growth” found in the ship’s hull. Passengers who paid upwards of $10,000 per person to take the two-week journey spent New Year’s Day — as well as much of the preceding week — stuck onboard the ship, sailing through international waters before eventually docking just 18 miles off the Australian coastline where divers came to clean the boat.

Heydrick, who spoke to Insider a few days after returning to Texas following the ordeal, said he specifically booked the Orion cruise because of the excursions offered at each port. Julie Reby Waas, 62, a Florida-based passenger who took the cruise to celebrate her 15th anniversary with her husband, said the same.

“I had wanted to go to Australia and New Zealand since I was very young,” Reby Waas told Insider.

But what was meant to be a 15-day adventure that included stops at nine port cities across the two countries turned into a cabin fever nightmare just a few days into the trip after New Zealand officials told the ship to leave the country’s waters due to biofoul growing on the hull, which includes plants, algae, and tiny marine animals that risk bringing invasive species into non-native environments.

The New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries said earlier this month that the Viking Orion first docked in the country in mid-December — before passengers boarded — and was given a “restricted” status due to the biofoul and told to depart New Zealand waters by December 29. Ship officials ultimately chose to leave Wellington on December 26 to have the ship cleaned in Australia, according to New Zealand media.

A Viking spokesperson did not respond to Insider’s questions about when they were made aware of the biofoul. 

Passengers wouldn’t learn this until later. When they boarded the ship in Auckland on December 22, they were all smiles, Heydrick said. The patrons enjoyed excursions and stops in Tauranga and Wellington during the first few days of the trip. 

But when the Orion departed Wellington on December 26 it would be the last time passengers stepped foot on dry land for more than a week. 

Cruise liner Viking Orion (L) is moored in Melbourne's Port Philip Bay on March 24, 2020.Cruise liner Viking Orion (L) is moored in Melbourne’s Port Philip Bay on March 24, 2020.

Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images

A string of disappointments 

The captain originally announced that only three of the trip’s upcoming excursions would be canceled because of the marine growth: Christchurch, Dunedin, and Tasmania were now off the board.

“For over two years I anticipated the joy of revisiting the splendor of South New Zealand, the water, cliffs, and cities; they’re just beautiful,” Heydrick said. “I was very upset that we were to have it bypassed.”

The passengers said they were told they would sail straight to Adelaide, Australia, a four-day journey, where they would dock and have the ship’s hull cleaned before getting back on schedule and heading to Melbourne and Sydney.

“We tried to maintain a sense of humor about it like it was a plot twist,” Reby Waas said. “There’s really nothing we could do about it.”

Heydrick made friends with several other travelers, sharing in their disappointment together at dinners and shows.

But days into their endeavor, the captain then announced that Australian authorities would not allow them to dock in Adelaide after all; the ship would need to be cleaned in international waters before being allowed into the country. 

”At that point, the rage went over the top — now we’re going to miss Melbourne,” Heydrick said.

The ship dropped anchor about 18 miles from the Australian coastline, close enough for the passengers to see all they were missing, but far enough away for divers to tackle cleaning the hull in international waters, a feat that took two days.

A spokesperson for Viking described the biofoul as “standard marine growth” and said the cleaning process was “routine” for nautical vessels. 

Boredom among the passengers, which had already taken hold in the preceding days, intensified: “There wasn’t a lot to do,” Reby Waas said. Heydrick said it was a “challenge” to keep busy. 

The ship’s crew members kicked into overdrive, both passengers said, offering extra activities like “Name that Tune,” and double-booked guest speakers and shows.

“They could not have been nicer or more helpful,” Reby Waas said. “They were doing the best they could under not ideal circumstances.”

"Viking Orion" cruise ship under the flag of Norway is seen anchored at Bodrum Cruise Port in Bodrum district of Mugla, Turkey on April 18, 2021.“Viking Orion” cruise ship under the flag of Norway is seen anchored at Bodrum Cruise Port in Bodrum district of Mugla, Turkey on April 18, 2021.

Photo by Osman URAS/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Heydrick was less impressed, however, with Viking’s corporate response to the fiasco. The company initially offered passengers a voucher valued at 50% of the cost of their cruise to be used on a future voyage, passengers said. But after additional Australian stops were canceled halfway through the trip, the cruise line bumped the voucher up to the full price.

Heydrick said the voucher is a nice gesture, but not nearly enough.

“They need to reimburse us for what we have already expended — the time spent planning, the vacation time taken,” he said.

Reby Waas, meanwhile, said she plans to use her voucher in the future — just not on an Australian cruise.

“I wouldn’t take that chance again,” she said. 

Read the original article on Business Insider