A cruise ship destined for Turks and Caicos turned into an unexpected, unplanned and unwanted trip to New York City for 1,600 passengers when Hurricane Matthew began barreling into the voyage's path.
The Carnival cruise was scheduled to head to the archipelago southeast of the Bahamas from Baltimore on Sunday, but the ship instead docked in New York City when the hurricane hit the islands. From New York, Carnival planned an alternate trip north to Canada, but because of the weather, that too was canceled.
The ship now plans to return to Baltimore, but passengers say if they're going home anyway, they'd rather get there sooner rather than later, especially if it means they need to prepare for the hurricane possibly hitting the mid-Atlantic coast.
But the ship isn't leaving Pier 88 off the West Side Highway until Wednesday evening, angering passengers who want to get home sooner and also want a refund.
"I cannot afford to pay $3,500 to ride from Baltimore to New York," said Fred Loney, 74, who had been looking forward to the trip he'd planned with his wife for a year. "That's basically what I've done."
Another woman wrote to NBC 4 saying, "Everybody would like to get home to Baltimore and get back to their properties to protect them and prepare for the hurricane, especially since we have the time now that we're not sailing anywhere."
Carnival told NBC 4 New York in a statement that prior to the start of the trip, "guests had the option of canceling and receiving a full refund. Those who opted to sail on the cruise are receiving a $250-per-person shipboard credit and a 50-percent future cruise discount."
But Loney said, "I want my money back and to be clear of this, and if you cannot provide the service, you need to provide the funds that we paid you back."
Loney said he now plans to rent a car Wednesday morning and drive back down to Baltimore instead of waiting for the ship to depart New York Wednesday evening and return to Baltimore Sunday morning. The company says passengers have the option to leave on their own if they want.
"We sincerely apologize for this disruption to our guests' vacation plans. Given the unpredictability of tropical weather systems, and with guest and crew safety as our foremost priority, we are taking a prudent course of action to keep the ship out of harm's way and provide our guests with a safe and enjoyable vacation experience," a Carnival spokeswoman said.