CruiseMates Newsletter

5.01.2008
Responsible Cruise Lines
by Paul Motter

I hate it when this happens, but relying on a news report to be accurate is no longer a safe thing to do in today's world. So, I have to correct what I wrote in the newsletter of two days ago, which is more than the source I used for my opinion has done.

I was recounting a news report by Orlando WFTV television that quotes a family as saying they were simply put off of a cruise ship in Nassau just before midnight with no aid and left to fend for themselves.

I was a upset that the report described the cruise line as abandoning a family of five, two parents with three young children, in a foreign port without giving them any support. Nassau is a foreign country (Bahamas) even though it is only 50 miles from Miami, and it requires a passport to fly back to the United States. This family did not have passports, because they are not yet required for ocean travel (not until June 2009) but they are required if you want to re-enter the U.S. by air, which this family was now forced to do.

The family claimed they were left on their own, eventually needing to find the U.S. embassy to purchase temporary passports and airfare home. Add that cost to the balance of their cruise (four out of five nights) and they were out almost $3000 for a misadventure they never asked for.

That was what the family claimed, but either the family was not telling the whole truth, or the news station was purposely going sensationalistic solely because it was a "cruise ship" story. The truth? The cruise line sent these people to the hospital in an ambulance and booked and paid for a hotel for them to stay in that night. They also told them how to make arrangements to settle the balance of the cruise they missed out on.

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The bottom line is that the ship's doctor believed the sick infant needed emergency care right away which the facilities on the ship could not supply. The cruise line was not responsible for the fact that the family did not take out travel insurance, or that they were traveling without passports. Such decisions are purely the passenger's responsibility, not the cruise line's.

WFTV Orlando failed to report anything about the ambulance or the hotel room provided, or that the family was given a number to contact at the cruise line they could use for emergencies. I don't know if WFTV knew, or if the family failed to tell the whole truth, but bottom line is that when the news station was subsequently contacted by the cruise line to tell their side of the story the news station ignored them.

In the end, the cruise line even voluntarily reimbursed the family for the passports and the air tickets, above and beyond the call of duty. They had already done more than enough as no airline would have paid for a hotel for a sick passenger arriving in a foreign country. An airline may have called for an ambulance, but in this case, the cruise line did both, but it was not reported.

Once again, I thought the days of presenting purely sensationalistic news items solely because the subject is a cruise ship ended many years ago. I am somewhat astounded that this narrow-mindedness still exists anywhere in the press, and especially in Florida.

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