Travel agent Tina Wolf was all set to go on the Sept. 1 Norwegian Breakaway cruise for daughter Haylee Brania's wedding - until Hurricane Dorian got in the way, setting off a chain of events that left Wolf displeased with how the cruise line handled the situation.
Wolf clarified that it's not about the cancellation of the wedding or cruise that upset her. "It's the last-minute decisions that put a lot of people in the possible path of Dorian," she said, noting many of the hotel guests had to get rooms in Miami as the hurricane barreled toward Florida.
The wedding was supposed to take place on Sept. 1 in an embarkation day ceremony. Brania booked the wedding through Royal Ocean Events, which works with cruise lines like Norwegian on wedding packages. Then 18 of the 55 wedding guests would set sail from Miami on the seven-day cruise with stops in Mexico, Belize and Honduras.
Brania contacted her wedding planner after receiving a notification with updates about the ship's Aug. 25 sailing and Brania's Sept. 1 sailing. Norwegian said it was uncertain based on the storm forecast whether the ship would return from its previous trip at the planned time.
Norwegian acknowledged that the itineraries of the Breakaway's two sailings were ultimately affected by the closure of PortMiami, which closed Sept. 1 and reopened on Tuesday afternoon - forcing the Breakaway to conclude its Aug. 25 cruise itinerary in New Orleans instead.
The wedding was supposed to be at noon on Sunday with some wedding guests departing the ship before it set sail. But that would be impossible if the ship wasn't going to dock in Miami by then as Norwegian's update said. "How can the same ship be in 2 places at once?" Wolf told USA TODAY in an email. "If they've given the current ship/passengers a notice stating they're staying in Cozumel until Sept. 1 at 5 p.m., how can we get on the ship Sept. 1 (in the morning)?" The wedding planner remained confident, though, that the ceremony was a go since she hadn't heard from the cruise line. "We told all wedding guests that were flying in to proceed," Wolf said.
Wolf and her family aren't alone: Hurricane Dorian: Cruiser calls customer service 'disappointing,' others happy for extensions
As of 8 p.m. Friday, the Aug. 25 sailing was set to leave Cozumel the next morning to return to Miami. There was no update for the Sept. 1 sailing. But then things took a turn: "About 30 minutes later the wedding planner called my daughter to cancel the wedding," Wolf says. Wolf says she proceeded to Miami because their family and friends were there, and Norwegian still hadn't told them the cruise was canceled.
On Saturday afternoon, a Norwegian update said they were to go to the port between 9 and 11 a.m. on Sunday for an early departure. "At least we still had the cruise!" Wolf recalls. Saturday night as PortMiami issued restrictions, however, Norwegian posted an update that the cruise was delayed and would have a modified sailing leaving Sept. 4. They "scrambled" in search of hotel rooms in Miami, and with the port closed Sunday "until further notice," the family learned late Sunday evening the cruise was canceled. While the trip would be refunded (anything paid to Norwegian plus the wedding company), they were stuck with rooms in Miami with a hurricane coming.
"I am disappointed in the way this was communicated to us. The updates were vague, misleading at times and definitely were delayed," Wolf said. "This all could've been avoided if NCL would've made a decision and stuck with it. Instead we feel like we rode a roller coaster ride with them the whole weekend. They could've handled the situation better by more prompt communication and not changing the communication."
The bride called the cruise line's communication a "mess."
"I am stuck in a situation where my wedding weekend was completely destroyed and so confusing," Brania told USA TODAY. "They should have make the decision to be safe from the beginning and not risked the ship coming back in."
Some Twitter users were less than sympathetic to Wolf and Brania's complaints. In response to a tweet from Wolf about the situation, one user responded: "First World Problems." Another user called them out for "planning a cruise during peak hurricane season and not expecting any delays due to said weather" noted in a reply that the "storm was never predictable and constantly changed hour by hour ... That's probably why communication was difficult as the planning and logistics was hard to confirm during a short period of time before the weather changed."
As of now, there aren't set plans to reschedule the wedding. "They are thinking next year locally," Wolf says. "(Florida) beach wedding. Not during hurricane season."
Norwegian announced Wednesday it would be offering relief to those affected by Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas. The company said the Breakaway - the same ship where the wedding was to take place - is going on a "special mission" to Nassau with supplies donated from team members and the city of Miami. It also will give $1 million to nonprofit relief organization All Hands and Hearts.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hurricane Dorian disrupts wedding weekend on Norwegian Cruise Line