Cruise ship rerouted from Bermuda makes stop in Halifax

The Norwegian Cruise Line ship was rerouted to Halifax on Sunday, thanks to hurricane Florence. Some passengers said they were frustrated they weren't offered other options.

Passengers scramble to buy warm clothing as cruise reroutes to avoid hurricane Florence

Katie and Alan Burgess of Maine say they're trying to make the most of their 'Bermuda' cruise vacation after being diverted to Halifax because of hurricane Florence. (Emma Davie/CBC)

Instead of the sandy beaches of Bermuda, passengers on the Norwegian Dawn cruise ship were greeted with bagpipes and a chilly fall breeze on Halifax's waterfront Sunday morning.

The cruise ship left the Port of Boston on Friday and was supposed to head toward Bermuda, but due to safety concerns surrounding hurricane Florence, it sailed toward the Maritimes instead.

Florence, formerly a tropical storm, reached hurricane strength Sunday as it neared Bermuda and headed for the U.S. East Coast. 

Many passengers only found out about the change of destination on the morning before their departure — meaning their first stop in Halifax was to shop for warmer clothing. The next stop is Sydney, N.S., on Monday, then onto Saint John for Wednesday and Bar Harbor, Maine, on Thursday, all with climates dramatically different from the island of Bermuda.

Despite the last-minute change of plans, many people seemed eager to explore the city.

Norwegian Dawn passenger Richard Hatin said he was signed up for a double-decker bus tour of Halifax and hoped to see the Citadel and the grave sites of the Titanic victims. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

"The adventure is the travelling," said Richard Hatin, adding he didn't hesitate about getting on the ship, even with new destinations. 

"And now we get to come to some beautiful new places we haven't been to yet. So this is kind of exciting."

Katie and Alan Burgess said they found out the night before they left that they weren't going to Bermuda.

"We had the travellers insurance so we could have got 75 per cent of our money back, but we didn't really want to do that," Alan Burgess said.

"We've never been on a cruise before, so we were like, whatever. We're from Maine, so we wouldn't normally pay to go North, but that's OK."

The Norwegian Cruise Line ship was rerouted from Bermuda to the Maritimes because of hurricane Florence. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

Katie Burgess said the first day from the shuttle to the parking garage "was a little doom and gloom.

"Once everybody got on there, the staff and crew, we were able to make light of it," she said.

"We're on vacation. We're not doing dishes or laundry or going to work, so we'll make the most of it ... and that's pretty well the consensus on the ship."

'Pretty disappointing'

But not everyone was sold on coming to Halifax.

"It was pretty disappointing, not going to lie on that," said Hannah Simmons, 14, from Maine.

"We were hoping for really nice weather, but instead we have the same weather as at home."

Neil and Elaine O'Brien were disappointed too, especially since they did this exact route with Norwegian Cruise Line a year and a half ago.

"We were all set for a day out in the sun and some golf in the heat," Neil O'Brien said.

"But we're not set for the cold. This is the warmest outfit I've got right here," he said, pointing to a thin sweater.

He said they would have cancelled, but the cost to do so was "half the price of the cruise."

Michele and Dexter Francis said, while they were excited to make the most of their time in Halifax, they were frustrated there weren't more options for passengers when the route changed at the last minute. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

Michele Francis said she tried to negotiate with Norwegian Cruise Line to go somewhere warm on a later date, but the options were limited.

"Of course, I'm not saying let's cruise into the hurricane, but let's give people the option [for later] ... I want to be somewhere warm, not somewhere cold."

Norwegian Cruise Line said in an email that due to the nature of a cruise vacation, things sometimes change for "a myriad of reasons such as weather which are beyond our control.

"As such, we reserve our right to cancel or substitute a scheduled port of call as needed. At the time of booking, guests are made aware of this stipulation and provided with terms and conditions," said a spokesperson, who did not provide a name.

"While we recognize these itinerary changes may be disappointing, our on-board teams are prepared to ensure the best vacation experience possible given these weather-related necessary changes."

'We would like to wow them'

As passengers filed off the ship in Halifax, a fleet of tour buses and taxis waited to greet them.

Terri McCulloch, communications manager for Ambassatours, said the company had bookings from Dawn passengers before they even got off the ship.

"The cruise industry is kind of flexible and we have to be quite flexible. We will lose ships because of storms, as in they won't come to our ports, and then we'll have to respond when ships are diverted to our port. We tend to gain more than we lose," she said, adding that staff are working around the clock until about October.

"The main thing for us is we want people to have a great experience on their vacation. If they didn't end up in Bermuda, we would like to wow them here in Nova Scotia."