Mauritius stops Norwegian Cruise Line ship from docking, cites health risk

FILE PHOTO: Cruise ship Norwegian Dawn departs port near Hamilton Bermuda

By Villen Anganan

PORT LOUIS (Reuters) -Mauritius stopped a ship belonging to Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings from docking at its ports due to what it said was a health risk and took samples from about 15 passengers who were in isolation on board, its port authority said on Sunday.

The Norwegian Dawn had been scheduled to dock in Port Louis on Sunday, but since it had not gone to Reunion Island, it arrived in Port Louis a day earlier, the Mauritius Ports Authority said in a statement.

"The decision not to allow the cruise ship access to the quay was taken in order to avoid any health risks," the authority said.

"The health and safety of passengers as well as that of the country as a whole are of the utmost to the authorities," it added, without giving any details about the nature of the health risk.

A spokesperson for the U.S.-headquartered Norwegian Cruise Line said in a statement that during the ship's trip to South Africa on Feb. 13, some passengers had experienced mild symptoms of a stomach-related illness.

Once in Port Louis, the ship's management worked with Mauritian authorities to make sure precautions were in place and all on board were okay, the spokesperson said.

The port authority said its test results would be known in 48 hours.

Officials at Mauritius' health ministry were not immediately reachable for comment.

The ship has 2,184 passengers and 1,026 crew members. Of these, about 2,000 passengers would have disembarked in Port Louis after completing their cruise while another 2,279 new passengers had been expected to board the ship, the port authority said.

"Passengers who were due to board the 'Norwegian Dawn' and begin their cruise from Mauritius today will not be able to do so due to potential health risks," it said.

Those who were disembarking or joining the cruise will now do so on Feb. 27, the Norwegian Cruise Line spokesperson said.

Tourism is one of the major drivers of Mauritius' economy.

(Reporting by Villen Anganan; Writing by George Obulutsa, Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)