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David Herrera on what really happened in Mauritius and why he's so optimistic about NCL

'We went above and beyond because that's the right thing to do,' David Herrera said of how NCL dealt with the Norwegian Dawn delay in Mauritius
When thousands of Norwegian Dawn passengers were delayed in Mauritius last week through no fault of Norwegian Cruise Line, the company sprang into action to make things as right as it could for guests.

'We were generous,' NCL President David Herrera said. 'We went above and beyond because that's the right thing to do.'

As widely reported, Norwegian Dawn was delayed turning around at Port Louis on suspicion of cholera. As subsequently clarified, no trace of cholera was found in government tests.

Unfounded rumors

Herrera doesn't know how the cholera rumor started and was frustrated it got echoed far and wide, along with a claim the ship was 'wandering aimlessly.'

'Nothing in that report was accurate,' he said.


Norwegian Dawn had six people being treated on board for 'mild symptoms of a stomach-related illness.' NCL told officials 'We're sure it's not cholera'

Six people were being treated on board for what the company called 'mild symptoms of a stomach-related illness.' Yet local health officials took stool samples to test for cholera in what NCL described as an 'overabundance of caution.' And it would be two days before the results were known.

'We were surprised,' Herrera said. NCL told the officials 'We're sure it's not cholera,' citing shipboard sanitation procedures, galley protocols and passenger safety videos, along with the Norwegian Dawn medical staff's diagnosis of the six ill people.

According to the Mayo Clinic, cholera is a bacterial disease that usually spreads through contaminated water. Modern water and wastewater treatment has virtually eliminated cholera in industrialized countries.

An opportunity to demonstrate responsiveness

In any case, 'Once we found out the tests were going to take two days, we had to adapt,' Herrera said. 'We had 2,000 guests flying in to join the ship, and we had 2,000 guests getting off. It created an opportunity for us to demonstrate how responsive we can be for our guests. I am very, very proud of the way the team reacted.'

As reported here, NCL rebooked flights for those on board who'd bought their air tickets with the line and covered the cost of flight changes for those who'd arranged their own air. Everyone got a future cruise credit and, if needed, a free hotel in Port Louis.

Those embarking were also given free hotel accommodations, a per diem to cover meals and expenses, a prorated refund, a $200 on-board credit and a future cruise credit.

'Our customers have to come first. We made the correct and, yes, a little bit expensive business decision,' Herrera said.

Before the incident, NCL had sent a couple directors from Miami to make sure the Mauritius turn was smooth, something it does in new ports that aren't used to having large ships.

Norwegian Dawn had just turned in Port Louis a couple weeks before following the deadly Tropical Cyclone Belal. Herrera said that was tough and a lot was learned. It also 'gave us comfort the second time around but still we overstaffed. We wanted to make sure we got it right.'

All hands on deck

When the ship was delayed from Feb. 25 until Feb. 27, NCL deployed more support, flying in care team members, along with a regional VP. With offices in Sydney and the UK, the line has a 'follow the sun' call center approach so an NCL employee is always answering the passenger hotline.

Herrera and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings President/CEO Harry Sommer, who were involved throughout, along with SVPs and an EVP in Miami, got real-time updates from their staff in Port Louis.

The feedback on the ship was 'favorable, very complimentary,' according to Herrera. 'The captain and the general manager and the crew really went above and beyond to deal with the situation.'

He also praised Miami-based Senior Director of Communications Stephanie Cardelle and her team for getting out the facts about what happened — and didn't happen — on Norwegian Dawn.

'It was an unfortunate event but we move on,' Herrera said. 'We'll be calling on Mauritius again. We built some good relationships locally. I'm looking forward to calling again. These are high-demand cruises.'

Exceptional demand

The delayed turnaround happened on the same day NCLH reported its first full-year profit since the pandemic and 'exceptional' demand for the NCL brand. The buoyant outlook sent the stock surging nearly 20%.

'Our business is strong now. We're back,' Herrera subsequently told Seatrade Cruise News. 'I'm excited. It's great to see all the work we put in during and after COVID paying off. We stuck to our efforts to emphasize what the NCL experience is and the value that "Free at Sea" provides so I'm very optimistic about the future.'

He's thrilled how the new Norwegian Viva's being received and about the first Prima Plus ship, 2025's Norwegian Aqua.

'When you have a beautiful ship like Prima and Viva, then you build a bigger version, you can tweak and add, sprinkle a bit of pixie dust here and there,' as Herrera put it.


The Norwegian Aqua Slidecoaster

Already announced are the Aqua Slidecoaster (in place of the racetrack) and the new Glow Court, a digital sports complex with an interactive LED floor, offering a variety of interactive activities by day before later transforming into a nightclub.

A name for Prima Plus 2

A name for 2026's Prima Plus 2 has been chosen, but remains under wraps for now.

Meanwhile, 2024 is a rare year without a capacity increase.  

'It is nice to have one year off because beginning in 2025, we are back to back [with ship deliveries] for the next four years,' the NCL chief said.

'I can't wait,' he added. 'Every one's a challenge, every one's an opportunity.'