Why won’t Celebrity Cruises cover my therapy bill?


After Marlene Nagy plunges off a waterfall, her cruise line agrees to cover medical expenses. But does that extend to her therapy bill?

Question: We recently sailed with Celebrity Cruises from New Zealand to Australia. Unfortunately, I was injured on one of the Celebrity-sponsored excursions, a whitewater rafting adventure. Our raft partially capsized in a 23-foot waterfall, ejecting three of us.

I broke a bone in my left hand. The ship’s medical doctor X-rayed my hand and put my arm in a cast for the rest of the cruise. Celebrity did not bill. The doctor explained that was because the cruise line took responsibility since it was one of its excursions.

I visited my primary care physician when I came home, who referred me to an orthopedic surgeon. The surgeon sent me to physical therapy, hoping to avoid surgery. After 15 sessions, therapy ended a few months ago.

Celebrity took responsibility for the injury and treated me, but it didn’t cover the costs of therapy. The insurance we purchased through Transamerica Casualty Insurance Company for the cruise also denied reimbursement, stating coverage ended once the trip ended.

Per your newspaper column, I wrote to Celebrity’s president and CEO, but after over a month have not heard back. A representative emailed me a couple of times and directed me to a website page that no longer works. Can you help me persuade Celebrity to cover my $653 physical therapy bill? — Marlene Nagy, Oro Valley, Ariz.


Answer: If Celebrity took responsibility for your accident, it should have taken full responsibility for it. Also, it should have thanked you for going to therapy instead of surgery. That probably saved the company a few thousand dollars.

Related story:   How do I use my travel insurance policy?

A few facts about your case stick out. First, there’s the part about sending guests down a 23-foot waterfall. That seems a little bit out of line with Celebrity’s promise of “classic, elegant cruising.” Nothing elegant about plunging down a waterfall, if you ask me.

Then there’s the doctor who assured you the cruise line would take responsibility for the accident. When someone says that to you, you need to get it in writing. What, exactly, do they plan to “take responsibility” for? Does that extend to your post-vacation treatment as well? You can’t assume they’ll pay every bill. That’s not how cruise lines operate, or any other travel business for that matter.

Finally, there’s the insurance that rejected your claim on a technicality. Yes, your therapy happened after the cruise. But the injury took place while you were on the ship. Come on.

You did the right thing by sending a brief, polite email to the Celebrity Cruise executives I list on my consumer advocacy site. The response from a customer service representative was normal; it’s rare to have an executive reply personally, though it’s known to happen.

I contacted Celebrity on your behalf, and it agreed to pay your physical therapy bill.


Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org.

  • cscasi

    Totally agree and I am glad that Celebrity Cruises finally stumped up and paid.

  • DChamp56

    I’m extremely skeptical about a 23 foot waterfall, fall. Doesn’t seem right to me at all.

  • Charlie Funk

    It’s good to know about Transamerica and their coverage denial so that we never offer their product to any of our clients.

  • Annie M

    These tour companies that offer these excursions are bonded and insured. Why couldn’t a claim put through the excursion companies insurance to cover this?

    Glad Celebrity stepped up but they also are supposed to be vetting the excursion companies to ensure that they are properly insured. Glad you got involved and helped but they should have had a process for Ms. Nagy to follow to get reimbursed. But sometimes it takes someone who can point out how much she saved by not having surgery to cover a $600 bill.

  • Lindabator

    they do vet them – but do offer strenuous activities like white water rafting, as clients do want more adventure options — but it does stipulate these may have higher risk for injury

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    Don’t be so tough on Transamerica until you have the facts. I am not an apologist for Transamerica nor I am defending them…we don’t have the whole story so there is no need to rush for judgement.

    1. Did the OP contacted Transamerica during her cruise to report her injury(ies)? It is common for insurance policies that you need to contact them immediately when you have a claim; to submit a claim within the policy period; within a certain time period; etc.

    2. Is white water river rafting covered in the policy? It is common for travel insurance policies as well as other insurance policies to exclude certain high risk activities such as scuba diving, skydiving, bungee jumping, rockmountain climbing, hang gliding, parachuting, heli-skiing and etc. Some policies do offer coverage for high-risk activities as an optional add-on.

    3. What did the OP communicated to Transamerica? Did she mentioned that Celebrity Cruise has paid part of her claim? Or promise to pay? You can’t double dip; therefore, it is common for insurance companies to get verification of payment if there are multiple responsible parties involved.

    Just a few days ago, I submitted several receipts for reimbursement to our FSA administrator. A few of our claims were denied because the invoices from our dentist and eye doctor were NOT clear on the amount that we paid…was it covered under our coverage or was it a co-payment and deductibles. I just had to submit paperwork to show what we paid out of our pocket was NOT covered by our insurance…they want to make sure that there was no double dipping and etc.

    4. This probably isn’t the case with the OP but it is common that the major medical benefit in travel insurance polices to be the secondary coverage not the primary coverage. We have purchased travel insurancemajor medical policies for our friends and business associates who lives outside of the US when they have come to visit us…in these policies, it states that medical coverage is secondary to the insured’s primary coverage.

    I will agree that insurance companies can be difficult, etc. to work with. They can be very uncaring and non-compassionate. My point is to get the facts before making a judgement.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    Sometimes these activities can be more risking because people don’t listen to the instructions that are given to them.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I’ve been there. I’ve rafted it. It’s called Okere Falls on the Kaituna River on North Island, the tallest commercially-rafted waterfall in the world. It’s safely rafted every single day. I’ve done it twice. The local rafting companies that run trips on that river are generally extremely competent and safety-conscious. I’m surprised to hear that anyone was injured – the way this waterfall is rafted, it’s almost impossible to fly out of the raft…unless the passengers don’t follow the guide’s instructions. Honestly, I suspect that’s what happened, because I can think of no other way someone could get hurt on a commercial rafting trip there.

    That being said, I agree that the right thing happened here – she WAS injured on a Celebrity excursion, and they agreed to cover her medical expenses.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Having rafted that exact waterfall twice, I can say with pretty high confidence that that’s exactly what happened here. The rafting companies that do all commercial trips down that river are extremely professional and safety conscious, and the guides are all well-trained. The instructions are pretty easy to follow, but if one ignores them, then yeah…they are likely to fall out.

  • Maxwell Smart

    what does this have to do with the cruise company ? They only booked the rafting trip. Perhaps she should have a go at the rafting co.?

    NZ has capped claims, which stops lawyers in their tracks. Great system. NZ has free medical for everyone who’s a resident & also for Australians a reciprocal arrangement. Any medical costs in NZ that might not be covered for international tourists wouldn’t cost much, not like the insane costs in USA, where medicine is not better than in NZ.

  • Nathan Witt

    She mentioned that the raft partially capsized, and that three of the people on the raft were ejected. While it’s entirely possible that someone ignored instructions, it may well be that Ms. Nagy wasn’t one of them. Once things get that far out of hand, the consequences don’t always land on the responsible party.

  • Chris_In_NC

    Ummmm, there are RISKS associated with whitewater rafting. Have you read the WAIVER that you sign when you go whitewater rafting??? This isn’t a water ride at a water park. Guests get injured on whitewater rafting trips, even with experienced guides. This isn’t negligence on the rafting company, or the cruise line. Its called life. I’m not sure I’m happy to hear that the cruise line paid out, because they shouldn’t be required to.

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