Judith Abramson’s western Mediterranean cruise on the Oceania Marina last April did not end well. After a sudden illness, the ship’s doctor decided she needed to go to the hospital, and she was unceremoniously disembarked in Naples, Italy, under less than ideal circumstances, she says.
“I was put off the ship with no money, no ID and no one to help navigate the language,” she told me. “I was in the hospital for three days and not one person from the cruise line or the ship came to inquire about me or my problem.”
Worse, her travel companion was treated the same way
“Elaine was told that she had to pack up and leave the ship immediately. No one gave her any assistance in finding a hotel room. She had to make an overseas phone call to a family member who found accommodations at a nearby hotel,” says Abramson.
And the final insult, she adds, is that no one from Oceania bothered to contact her family to let them know she’d been hospitalized. This isn’t the first time that we’ve received complaints about Oceania.
“We feel that the least we are entitled to is a complete refund of our trip,” she told me. “Any help you can give us with this would certainly be appreciated.”
Can Oceania do that? In a word, yes. Check out its passenger ticket contract, the legal agreement between Abramson and the company.
We may, without liability for any refund, payment, compensation or credit of any kind, refuse to embark, or may disembark, confine to a stateroom, quarantine or limit the activities during the Cruise at any time or at any port any Guest who may be suffering from contagious or infectious disease or whose presence, or that of any accompanying child, in the opinion of the Carrier, the Master, or any doctor, may be detrimental to the comfort, enjoyment or safety of other persons, or who, in the Carrier’s or Master’s opinion, might create a risk of harm to himself/herself or any other person, or who may be excluded from landing at the destination by Immigration or other Governmental Authorities. In such cases, the Guest shall not be entitled to any refund of the Cruise Fare or CruiseTour Fare or any compensation whatsoever.
Gee, that’s a mouthful.
My advocacy team and I suggested Abramson send a brief, polite email to Oceania. Describing her ordeal and making her best case for compensation. It responded with a lengthy explanation of why it did what it did. (Here’s our guide on resolving your consumer problem.)
Let’s hit the highlights.
Concerning your medical disembarkation, we hope you can appreciate that the doctor’s prime objective was ensuring your wellbeing, and getting you to a hospital facility that would be medically equipped to handle your circumstances, as quickly as possible.
While we do understand that you felt rushed, things must move very quickly in these situations, particularly when time is limited and the ship is scheduled to leave port shortly, and would be at sea for many hours thereafter.
As you may know, our ships have limited medical facilities, and to eliminate the risk of a possible life-threatening emergency at sea, the doctor felt it was imperative for you to get to a shore-side hospital while the ship was still in port.
Regarding the way it treated her traveling companion, Elaine Sommers.
We can understand your anxiety with not being able to personally gather your belongings or say goodbye to your traveling companion, Mrs. Sommers.
Nonetheless, we have been advised that all necessary assistance was rendered aboard ship to Mrs. Sommers, in preparing, packing and disembarking the vessel to accompany you.
Our concierge, Maria, together with Mrs. Sommers, contacted On Call (the emergency assistance arm of BerkelyCare), activated your insurance and obtained a case number, which was provided to Mrs. Sommers, along with the contact details for On Call, so she could keep in touch with them for continued assistance.
The concierge also provided On Call with the details of the hospital where you were taken. Additionally, she accompanied Mrs. Sommers to the gangway, where the port agent met her and arranged transportation to take her to the hospital.
It is also customary for port agents to provide a contact phone number to the guests for them to call for any assistance needed thereafter. The port agent had also assured the concierge that he would help to find a hotel for Mrs. Sommers if requested to do so, but according to your letter, it seems that this was not the case, and we will certainly be discussing this matter with the necessary individuals.
And, to the question of whether she was stranded, as Abramson suggests.
Mrs. Abramson, while we wish we could provide staff members from our ships to accompany all guests who need to be medically disembarked, unfortunately we are unable to do so.
However, the emergency medical personnel, or ambulance transporting the guest, are always provided with the Medical Parole and Referral Letter by our ship’s doctor, for delivery to the hospital, so that the hospital personnel can be fully updated on the patient’s condition and the reason for being referred.
Therefore, we believe the hospital staff should have been fully informed of your situation, even though you were unable to speak their language.
What about her family?
It is not clear why your families were not contacted in as timely a manner as they should have been, as that is the normal course of action, as soon as the notification is sent from the vessel and received in the Head Office.
We can only presume that given the time zones and other logistics, it could have been a matter of timing why Mrs. Sommers was able to contact your family before anyone from the Head Office was able to do so.
It is customary, as well, that once a case has been opened, travel insurance companies do contact the patient’s next of kin, based on the patient’s instructions.
Furthermore, when a guest has purchased travel insurance, and emergency assistance has been activated, as it was in your case, there is normally no need for Oceania Cruises or anyone else to be further involved, as the insurance company fully takes over, which is what they are supposed to do.
The insurance company usually makes arrangements for all air and/or land transportation, in addition to moving the patient to alternate facility if necessary, and any other actions, depending on their own requirements, and the patient’s needs.
We have been in touch with On Call on this matter and they have advised that they were actively involved in helping you during this situation.
Oceania apologized for the “stressful” experience and offered her two $500 vouchers.