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Norwegian Cruise Line Loses Autistic Child, Father Demands Answers

Travelers Today       By    Katie McFadden

Updated: Feb 04, 2013 11:00 AM EST

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A father claims that Norwegian Cruise Line lost his autistic son while he was in the Kid's Club on the Norwegian Epic. Now he's looking for an explanation.

Cruise Critic reports that Richard Zelden and his wife dropped off their 11-year-old autistic boy at the ship's Recess Kid's Club before going to dinner on November 23, 2012. Upon returning to their cabin, they found their son with a cabin steward two cabins down.  The parents never gave permission for their son to leave the kids center.

"We were taken aback as we knew he had been signed into the Kid's Club and did not have signing privileges to exit alone," Zelden told Cruise Critic.

Zelden said the steward was cleaning their cabin when the boy returned by himself. The steward reported the child to his supervisor and he watched over him until Zelden returned.

When Selden went to the Kid's Club to ask about what happened, they didn't even realize that the boy was missing. Zelden claims the youth director apologized but couldn't explain for the incident occurred.

Anne Marie Mathews, , a Norwegian spokeswoman, told Cruise Critic that they have investigated the incident since it occurred.

"We have conducted an extensive review of the situation and took corrective action with the crew members who were involved. We have extended our sincerest apology to the family and offered them compensation," Mathews told Cruise Critic. She did not explain what sort of corrective action was taken.

The cruise line gave the same explanation to Zelden, saying  "You can be assured that the appropriate corrective steps have been taken. Please accept our sincere apologies for this upsetting experience."

M Margalit Francus, founder and editor of explained that is is common for autistic children to wander, which is why they deserve special attention.

Norwegian claims that their kids program is also made for children with special needs, but they do not provide personal care.

"In most cases, our youth staff is able to adjust activities within the youth and teen programs for those children that require special care," Mathews told Cruise Critic.

Zelden is still wondering how his child was able to get out of the Kid's Club and make it from Deck 14 Forward to the cabin on Deck 11 Aft. He's most upset about the amount of fear that he and his wife felt when they realized that their child wasn't safe. He wants a more clear answer.

"This is the safety of a child that's involved," he said. "We are grateful that he didn't go up to Deck 15 to the pool area."

Zelden wasn't pleased with Norwegian's response and he was particularly upset over Norwegian's offer of a $1,500 cruise credit for a future cruise if he would sign a nondisclosure agreement.

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