An Unfortunately True Account
Of Our Mediterranean Misadventure
Our cruise was billed as a twenty (20) day Mediterranean Adventure, sailing from Civitavecchia, Italy, on September 14, 2008, on the MS NOORDAM. We were thrown into the Mediterranean Sea by Holland America officers about 7p.m., September 26, 2008. We had sailed about an hour out of Sicily and were cruising the straights of Messina toward Turkey.
My husband Barry, age 70, had a cold and a runny nose. The doctor gave him an “inhaler” that was much too strong. He had a reaction, the nurse gave him the anti-dote and in about 2 minutes he was fine! I know the ship claims no responsibility for the doctors who run their clinics but I think they should have doctor’s who are certified in either family medicine or emergency medicine. Some, I have been told are ophthalmologists! But, our real nightmare began after Barry recovered from the bad drugs the doctor gave him.
The ship’s doctor panicked, called the bridge, told them there was an emergency and the ship stopped in the middle of the Straights of Messina. We were ordered to pack the cabin and within an hour, thrown off the ship. Even though it was clear to at least 1 nurse as well as us that Barry was fine now, the doctor refused to call the Captain and admit he’d made a mistake.
As they prepared to throw us off the ship, the ship’s officers told me we were going to Calabria. I know that very little English is spoken in that state of Italy, so I pleaded with the ship’s officers to get us someone to meet us on shore who spoke English. They did not.
Several ships’ officers took us down to the bowels of the ship where there was a rubber Avon-type boat about 20 feet long. A half dozen ship’s officers circled around us as the crew tried to lash this rubber boat to the ship. We could all see that the rubber boat had no medical equipment, no oxygen, no medical personnel, and no where to sit. We begged not to be cast off on this rubber boat, but Holland America had decided. They pushed us off, along with all of our luggage, on to this rubber boat with 3 Italians who spoke not a word of English.
Thereafter, we tossed around the Mediterranean for about an hour in the dark until finally being taken to a desolate area in rural Calabria. It is a good thing Barry was not in “repertory distress” as the ship’s doctor claimed, because in this rubber boat he probably would have died.
Once we reached land, both Barry and I were forced to scale a 25 foot seawall from the Avon, by climbing a ladder placed over the stern, onto the flying bridge of second boat, and another ladder up to the top of the seawall.
There was no one there to meet us from the ship or any of its agents. There was no English speaking person to see to our care or translate. Luggage and Barry and I were loaded on to a truck and taken to a truly third-world clinic in a darkened village. Barry was examined, advised that he was "perfectly okay" and needed no further treatment or examination.
We had no where to stay the night. There were no hotels in this rural village. We were able to arrange through a man from the clinic we know only as "Tony" to get us a ride to the main town and find us a hotel. We needed a large vehicle because of all of our luggage. We drove in the dark with a stranger who spoke no English, through very “bad looking” neighborhoods, broken glass in windows, laundry lines hanging out, long, dirty alleys. Eventually we traveled 40 to 50 miles to Reggio, Calabria.
If the people we stumbled upon at that clinic in desolate, rural Calabria that night had not been honest we might have been kidnapped or killed. The villagers knew we were “rich” Americans. We had been on a very fancy cruise ship. They also knew that all of our cash, all of our valuables, all of our jewelry was on our person. It surely wasn’t on the ship. The ship had sailed. We were totally vulnerable! No one would even have reported us missing for 10 more days because the cruise wasn’t scheduled to end until October 4.
This is nothing against Italians. I am Italian-American. My grandparents came from Calabria. But I do not speak the language. Actually the Italians were our saviors when Holland America abandoned us in the rural village in Southern Italy.
We later discovered that Holland America had made no plans to assure our safety, or our care. This is particularly distressing in Calabria, because that is a province well known for speaking no English. HAL agents (the closest one 50 miles away, across the straits of Messina) were of absolutely no help in assisting us to get home from Reggio, Calabria. Because of the wrong diagnosis by the HAL doctor (saying Barry was in “respiratory distress” our travel insurance would not help us either.
After a frustrating series of dozens of telephone calls, and faxes, in an attempt to secure some assistance from Holland America, we "gave up", and called Alitalia Airlines, and Delta Airlines, rescheduled our own flights, and flew home at our own expense.
We heard nothing further from them. Holland America never offered to take any responsibility for this fiasco.
We took our first cruise in 1975, as newly weds. We have taken one or two cruises annually most years since then. I can tell you that after this terrifying experience, we took our last cruise this September. But I would like to warn other unsuspecting Seniors that this kind of thing can happen. I’ve been told it is not even rare for a cruise ship to dump a passenger and sail away.