What to expect if you’re expecting to cruise

Bryan and Fola Nelson were excited about their upcoming five-night Bahamas cruise on the Carnival Fascination. It was to be their last vacation before the birth of their first child.

Then, not long before their scheduled departure, Carnival delivered some bad news: Not only would Fola Nelson be denied boarding, but the cruise line would also pocket her entire fare, minus port taxes.

Why? Because like many other cruise lines, Carnival bans passengers who are 25 weeks or more pregnant.

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“My wife will be 10 days over that,” says Bryan Nelson, a teacher in Minneapolis. “And despite her doctor’s okay, the cruise line is sticking to its policy.”

Cruise lines’ rules on pregnancy are a common source of complaints from travelers. But like so many other cruise industry policies, this one wasn’t always a hard-and-fast rule. Had Nelson become pregnant a decade ago, the company probably would have let her reschedule her trip at a minimal cost.

Not today. And the change is something that her cruise line seems happy to let the world know about.

Carnival’s policy allows pregnant women to sail only through the 24th week of pregnancy. Every passenger who is expecting must show a physician’s letter verifying that mother and baby are in good health and fit to travel. The letter must also include the estimated date of delivery. “Carnival’s pregnancy guidelines are put in place as a precaution to protect the unborn baby and the mother,” says Aly Bello, a spokeswoman for the cruise line.

That makes sense. Cruise ships offer reasonable emergency medical facilities for guests and crew members. But prenatal and early infant care can require specialized diagnostic facilities or treatment that might not be available on a ship or in the closest port of call.

Even with the rules in place, complications can arise. This month, a 31-year-old passenger was airlifted from the Disney Magic, 180 miles off the Texas coast, because of medical problems related to her pregnancy.

Other companies have virtually identical policies. Norwegian Cruise Lines refuses to admit passengers past the 24-week mark. So does Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. “This decision is made because of the unique nature of a cruise ship being at sea for extended periods of time and the possibility of a guest’s medical condition becoming critical during those times at sea,” says Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez.

But not every pregnancy is planned, and cruises are often booked months in advance. You’d expect cruise lines to help passengers who get pregnant in the months between the booking and sailing dates, particularly if the company can re-sell the cabin to another customer.

But Carnival turned down requests from both the Nelsons and their travel agent to waive its rules. Bello noted that the Nelsons should have bought the travel insurance that Carnival offered. If they had, they would have received a 75 percent future cruise credit.

That’s becoming an increasingly common response. Cruise lines appear eager to make a public example of customers who didn’t buy travel insurance. The reason? Travel protection now accounts for a significant portion of their profits, and bending a rule would effectively undermine the business model.

“I don’t think it’s unreasonable for the cruise lines to adopt pregnancy policies, particularly given the limited nature of the medical facilities on cruise ships and the absence of doctors who are experienced in obstetrics and gynecology,” says James Walker, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., attorney specializing in maritime law. “The problem arises when there is a good-faith misunderstanding by the pregnant passenger, and the cruise line takes a rigid attitude and pockets the consumer’s money.”

The Nelsons say that they’re troubled by the way their situation was handled. Neither their travel agency nor Carnival bothered to disclose the pregnancy restrictions in a clear way before they booked, they say. “We reviewed cruise tickets from our travel agency and found nothing about pregnancy,” says Bryan Nelson.

I asked that agency, Orlando-based Cruise Vacation Outlet, what it tells its customers. Todd Elliott, the president, said that the agency directs all clients to complete an online check-in to review any terms and conditions. The agency’s welcome letter to new customers also directs them to the terms and conditions, which contain information about a cruise line’s pregnancy restrictions.

In an e-mail to the Nelsons, their travel agent, Jay Garcia, bottom-lined it: “We are not responsible for unforeseen circumstances that are beyond our control.”

Nelson is not entirely satisfied with that response. He says that the welcome letter refers only to visa and passport requirements and that he was never told to review the terms and conditions on the cruise line’s Web site. His wife’s pregnancy was flagged a few weeks before the cruise, when they tried to check in online.

Even if they’d booked their cruise using Carnival’s Web site, they would have had to wade through four screens of information before reaching the details about cruising and pregnancy. It’s something they could have easily missed.

As someone who once had to postpone a family cruise because of the 24-week rule, I’m sympathetic to Nelson’s problem. I don’t think it’s right for him to lose his entire cruise. No one is arguing that the cruise line policy on pregnancy is wrong. But waiving a rule for a borderline case such as the Nelsons’ wouldn’t affect Carnival’s stock price, and it would go a long way toward creating loyal repeat customers.

At any rate, making an example of the Nelsons seems insensitive and opportunistic — even if Carnival’s contract allows it.

Should cruise lines waive their change rules for passengers who get pregnant?

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Update (Feb. 27, 2014): This one had a happy ending, at least for the Nelsons.

Happy to report that we received a check from Cruise Vacation Outlet as FULL compensation for the cruise sold to us while pregnant where they did not forward us Carnival’s disclosures and rules; nor did they refer us to the need to check Carnival’s rules ahead; either of which would have provided the simple prompt needed for awareness of Carnival’s pregnancy travel policies as they agreed to in their TA agreement with the cruise line.

After a reconciliation court (aka small claims court) hearing where we were pro se vs. Cruise Vacation Outlet’s representing attorney, we won judgement and even happier to report that the full amount has been given to the charity of our choice. It was less about the money, more about justice!

158 thoughts on “What to expect if you’re expecting to cruise

  1. And yet one more reason why it’s stupid to take a cruise. I think I’m up to about 15 reasons now. These cruise lines should be legally required to refund a fare if the cabin is re-sold. Only in the travel biz are you allowed to sell a single item to multiple people and keep all the money. What other business could get away with this?

    1. No travel provider I’m aware of hides the fact that if you want your non-refundable travel to be refundable, you need to pay extra money. They aren’t “getting away” with anything. They offer once price if you want to take the risk of cancelling, and another if you want the travel provider to take the risk instead.

      Some people can absorb the cost of losing their travel booking, and for such people, non-refundable bookings make sense. Why impose the added costs of fully refundable travel on people that are willing to take non-refundable bookings?

      1. I am not aware of different restrictions in fares (refundable vs. non-refundable) for a cruise. I thought cruise fares are all non-refundable (after a certain period). Am I missing something.

        1. Neither am I. It sounds like the OP didn’t realize it until they completed the online check-in at which point it’s really too late to do anything about it at all. I think it was just an amateur mistake in picking a cruise vacation for a pretty-far-along pregnant woman. I think if they had realized it much earlier, Carnival would’ve been more lenient at giving them a re-do.

        2. You are missing the available insurance plans, most of which have (or offer) the ability to waive most, or all, cancellation penalties via cash or cruise credit, depending on policy.

          1. Well an extra insurance policy is not a fare and it does not make a fare refundable. It might pay for the loses due to a non refundable fare but the fare is still non refundable. However most insurance policies have pregnancy as an a exclusion.

          2. If it makes the trip refundable, I think the fact that it’s not part of the “fare” is a distinction without a difference.

            And most 1st-party cruise policies these days have decent Any Reason riders, making any pregnancy exclusions moot.

      2. Indeed you are correct about non-refundable bookings. However, If I have bought a non-refundable booking on any mode of hospitality or travel and am unable to use it, if the provider, be it hotel, airline, cruise line or whatever, resells it to someone else, they have stolen something that is mine. I paid for it and whether I show up or not, it belongs to me for whatever duration I paid for. If they resell it they are obligated to, at the minimum, return my money.

        1. How not refunding a non-refundable booking “stealing”? As long as everybody involved knows what they are getting into, I don’t see any theft going on.

          They haven’t stolen anything; the providers KNOW that some people will cancel and not receive refunds (with the provider pocketing the money), and this is why non-refundable bookings cost less. Pre-paid hotel stays are cheaper than cancellable ones, same thing with rental cars or non-refundable airline tickets.

          Both sides win: The customer gets a cheaper trip, and the provider gets guaranteed revenue.

          1. Trips get cheaper due to supply and demand or competition. Suppliers will pocket as much money as they can including all the fees they can grab. None are benevolent. Don’t kid yourself.

      3. Does a cruise company offer a refundable fare? Or does their trip interruption insurance cover it? I would think that a cruise company sold cancellation waiver would not cover known pregnancy and further not cover a subsequent pregnancy since it, for the purposes of lawyers and insurers, is a preventable condition.

        Chris would know – but has a cruise company ever refused to cover pregnancy which occurred after final payment under the pre-ex or customer caused clause?

        1. Most cruise-line-sold policies offer a 75-100% “Any Reason” cancellation penalty waiver. Some (HAL) offer cash, most offer cruise credit. And it means just that: Any Reason. It covers anything you wish it to cover.

          1. Carnival has this :
            In addition, should you or your traveling companion need to cancel your cruise for “any other reason”, you may be eligible for cruise credits up to 75% of the non-refundable, prepaid cruise vacation cost. Brought to you by Carnival Cruise Lines*.

            It does not refund.

          2. like I said – a cruiser has NO CHOICE – there are no non-refundable fares – you buy it -you own it. At least hotel, car rental and airline purchasers can buy a refundable rate. Why does ANYONE cruise?

          3. but you can still cancel up till 90 days prior, and then the penalties kick in depending on cancellation dates. SAME is true with escorted tours or travel packages. NOT just cruises!

    2. Amen. I have not cruised since 2001 and have no intention of doing so again – 2000 people competing for every time for every service, 2000 people competing to get off the ship at port calls, the cattle atmosphere, the forced tipping, the automatic surcharges added to everything, the onerous contract, And the horror stories you hear. Done, done and done.

  2. I don’t think this is the cruiseline’s fault and I see their point re: making the OP as whole as insurance would. If so, this would go into the “I didn’t know” file along with people who don’t have proper documentation. That said, I wonder if the travel agent didn’t drop the ball a bit here. If they are first-time cruisers, is there a checklist of some sort to go through with them, as I’m sure most people wouldn’t think of the pregnancy clause that’s unique to cruising.

    And I hate to be hard-hearted, but the point isn’t re-selling that specific cabin, it’s selling out the entire ship. If it was just the cabin, then in theory the cruiseline is at a disadvantage.

    This is a tough one. I doubt Carnival is going to do anything about it, because it’d set a bad precedent. If they refunded 50%, they’d probably end up even and the OP would likely be happy with that. Or the OP could beg Carnival to allow transferring the ticket over to someone else and try to sell it. The Carnival site says, “This ticket is valid only for the person(s) named hereon as Guests and cannot be transferred or modified without Carnival’s written consent.” At least if Carnival allowed that, they wouldn’t be out anything and the OP could get as much as they could from the sale. Has anyone ever heard of a cruiseline allowing that before?

  3. I am sure there are multiple medical conditions which a cruise ship is not equipped to handle. Are they handled the same way? Or is pregnancy special? Perhaps the cruise line should require everyone to have a physical before being allowed to board. That way they could collect even more money from their customers by selling the same cabin multiple times.

    1. There actually is a mini-physical of sorts prior to boarding; namely they screen any passengers reporting symptoms that may be norovirus. To keep people from lying on the questionnaire (spreading a highly-communicable, profit-sucking, disease), I believe they DO provide refunds to passengers denied boarding. However, this rarely happens; unless you are ill right there in the check-in area, you usually still get to board, but are confined to your cabin until you feel better.

      1. So she was denied boarding due to a medical condition. According to your statement it would seem she would receive a refund because she was denied boarding due to a medical condition. That didn’t happen.

  4. This is on the agent; it is the agent’s job to go over all this with the customer. (Or, at the least, let the customer know, in big, bold, type, that they are responsible for reading the cruise contract; the contracts aren’t terribly long considering what is involved.)

    As far as Carnival is concerned, it’s a nearly last-minute cancellation, and one that could have been prevented had the agent done their job. And yes, Carnival is perfectly aware that they will probably be able to re-sell the cabin. However, as with airlines, the possibility of “free” money is already “baked in” to the cruise price. If there was a new law that required that you receive a refund if the cabin is re-sold, you can be sure that fares would go up to pay for the new rule.

    I don’t know why so many people that write in here have trouble understanding that non-refundable travel does not magically become refundable travel because you have a “good reason.” If you want to cover most reasons you’ll have to cancel, buy insurance. And if you want to cover every reason, buy the (expensive) Any Reason rider. (Incidentally, if cruise credit is enough, most line-sold policies include a decent Cruise Credit Any Reason rider as part of every policy.)

    Travel providers (airlines, cruise lines, hotels, rental cars, etc.) know that they will be able to pocket cancelled pre-paid bookings. And every provider makes available a way around it. If you don’t pay for it, don’t expect any sympathy.

    And Chris, the argument “waiving a rule for a borderline case such as the Nelsons’ wouldn’t affect Carnival’s stock price” is silly. Of COURSE refunding, in full, every cancelled booking with a “good reason” would effect the stock price. Refunds up = profits down = stock price decline.

    As a side-note, there ARE all sorts of crazy provisions in cruise contracts (cancellation penalties not being one of them.) For instance, they generally have provisions that if they have to disembark the entire ship at a remote port for safety reasons (like the vessel broke down), you technically aren’t entitled to transportation home nor a refund. Labor strike at the port? No refund. etc. However, no cruise line I’m aware of has every actually denied refunds in such cases, so I’m baffled as to why the provision is even there if they never expect to never use it. Those provisions would make for an interesting story.

    1. Wow what a long explanation! But aren’t hotels in the same “boat”? Why is it possible to get a 6PM cancellation for a hotel? A cruise is nothing but a floating hotel.

      1. I don’t think so. Someone can walk into a hotel after 6pm and ask for a room. Once the ship has sailed, any empty cabins stay emtpy!

    2. All this might apply if the Nelsons wanted to cancel, but they didn’t. Carnival made them cancel due to a policy that was not clearly disclosed. Ergo, Carnival is stealing their money.

      1. The fact that her agent failed to inform her of the restriction is hardly Carnival’s fault. Calling this “theft” is a bit broad.

  5. How did the cruise line know she was pregnant? I did not even show at 25 weeks. I picked clothes that were looser than usual for comfort and most of my friends did not even know.

    1. They were being honest. Also, every woman is different. People were asking me when I was due at that point in my pregnancies (thinking it was days away.)

  6. Yup, good old Carnival. I told you the story of how they treated a friend of mine who fell into the “booked it, became pregnant before sailing” story, right?

    Basically, Carnival’s stance is get an abortion or don’t sail.

    I can understand the nature of the rule, however, when the unexpected happens, the cruiselines should do better than that. A rebooking (with perhaps a $150 per person fee) would be reasonable, methinks.

    Oh, and “insurance” that gives you a 75% discount on a future sailing is not insurance.

    1. I completely agree, Raven! I was also going to point that out about the 75% discount being the offering for the insurance payment, but saw your post. This is laughable. Can you imagine another business offering this kind of insurance? It would NEVER fly.

  7. The OP says “…the cruise line is sticking to its policy”. You don’t like the policy, don’t book with that cruise line. If pregnancy occurs between initial booking and final payment, and the pregnancy is beyond the limit, don’t make the final payment, get your deposit back, and no problem. Seems simple to me!

      1. Did not consider that – I think with most cruise lines you could get your money back if it is before final payment time. Forgot that Carnival has that no-refund prepaid arrangement. I’m not sure I’d book it that way, kind of risky, in my opinion. I do sympathize with the OP, but I also see the cruise line’s position.

        1. So why are these folks complaining is they can REFUND their PREPAID money? I don’t get it.

          Added: Maybe they cancelled 14 days or less from the cruise date. Or, they simply lost their Deposit (which is not refundable) for an Early Saver Fare.

  8. Where would one find information about pregnancy on Carnival’s website? I started looking around in FAQ, then tried travel with disabilities, finally searched “pregnancy” and got a section that talked about minors and the documentation needed for them and the very last paragraph mentioned the 24 week rule. Given the popularity of cruises with people of child bearing age shouldn’t this have been easier to find – especially because I was LOOKING for it!
    As one who left work at noon for my daughter’s birth before 5 pm, I do understand that one should plan ahead, but if the timing of the pregnancy is a deal breaker, then it needs to be clearly stated somewhere early in the planning.

    1. I found it within 20 seconds. Went to the website, typed in “Pregnancy”, got a link that said “Minor and Pregnancy Policy”. How is that hard to find?

      1. Not hard at all if one were thinking that pregnancy is a problem, but next to impossible if one simply continues living normally and not thinking that a pregnancy creates a problem.

        I saw nothing until I typed into search that even hinted there was a question.

        1. Pregnancy is a medical condition. Someone’s who’s pregnant should be checking things like “can I fly” and “can I do X activities at my destination” and “can I go on the rides at WDW”. At least that’s what a responsible person would do. Just like a diabetic should be checking things like “does my destination hotel have a fridge in the room for my insulin” instead of arriving and finding there isn’t one and having a fit. Just like someone who uses oxygen should thinking ahead and not just arrive at the airport assuming they’ll be able to use it on the plane. If you have a medical condition then it’s YOUR responsibility to see what needs to be done to accommodate it.

          1. Exactly! All travel arrangements has terms and conditions so this couple should have checked everything out. They need to own up to not taking due diligence regarding her condition and any restriction by the cruise line.

          2. Since when ????
            Pregnancy is a natural condition, not a medical one, and most pregnant persons can live a perfectly normal life. Of course there are a few things they should not do, but stepping on a cruise ship doesn’t necessarily qualify as a dangerous or strenuous activity.
            Air travel usually boast a 9th month prohibition, therefore, i can certainly understand why someone who is close to the 6 month mark would not even check with the cruise line !

    2. If you open the Carnival Cruise contract (which the agent SHOULD have provided to the customers), section 5: FITNESS TO TRAVEL, SPECIAL NEEDS, PREGNANCY, INFANTS, DRINKING, DISEMBARKATION

      Even skimming the contract would have suggested that pregnancy might be a problem.

  9. I don’t like how the cruise line tried to blame the Nelsons for not having insurance, but it’s also not their fault that she got pregnant. Even with a doctor’s note, travel is iffy. So they have a policy in place to avoid those iffy situations. That said, the line ought to refund the fee if they’re not going to let her sail-because she might not ever want to take another cruise with them again.

    1. At this point, I don’t think a doctor’s note carries one iota of weight. If she goes into labor at sea, it’s not the doctor who’s going to be saddled with the responsibility / potential of something going wrong. I’m not a proponent of big business, but the cold hard math is that the OP wanted to cancel at a late date. The cruise line would rather have sure money in their hand as opposed to perhaps them cruising at some later time. But then if she just had a baby, it probably won’t be for a long time. What’s in it for the cruise line other than a very slim chance of having the OP as a future customer? On paper, it’s not a good wager.

      1. That was exactly my point, Icarus! Travel is iffy for a pregnant woman whether or not she has a doctor’s note, so the cruise decided on a policy that they’re not going to chance it. That’s totally reasonable. But if the cruise was booked before she became pregnant, and they’re not going to let her sail, then they should refund her money. Period. If they want to make money on their cabins, it should be strictly on whether or not someone is actually staying in it on a cruise. They should not jerk someone around who originally booked when they could cruise, not deny them the cabin and then their funds back.

        1. I’m with you… to a point. It all depends on when they informed the cruise line. If it’s months in advance then no harm, no foul, refund / re-do. But if they inform them at the last minute (because the OP themselves didn’t know which is what the article suggests), then why should Carnival eat the booking? I re-read the article trying to figure out when the OP booked but that point’s not clear…

          1. Well, how can the OP inform the cruise of what they don’t know themselves? That just isn’t logical. By keeping the money, they made a profit at the expense of good customer relations.

  10. The disagreement here seems to be over how much pre-sale disclosure there was on the pregnancy restriction. The real problems is that if this passenger should never have been ticketed for this cruise, why is Carnival stealing her money?

    Oh yes, I’m sorry – I only needed to read as far as “Carnival” to understand why.

  11. I am curious why cruise lines would have a 25 week limit, that is very early in the pregnancy. The airlines have a 34 week limit, and 98% of women deliver between 38 and 42 weeks. I understand the cruise line having a slightly earlier limit since there is more time before they land than a plane, but 25 weeks is ridiculous. However, I do still support the doctors note.

    Also with most people bookign cruises 40 week to a year out, how would they even know they will be pregnant or 25 weeks along at the time of the cruise? Many couples take months or even years to get pregnant, its not like anyone can just plan it, and plan their cruise around it. If all the civil rights and workers rights act protect a pregnant woman, why would cruise lines and insurance be able to simply deny someone based on pregnancy?
    Yet another reason I think cruise line are evil. Even airlines will refund tickets if you can’t fly due to pregnancy as they consider it a medial condition. As bad as the airline are, cruise line are worse.

    1. I often wonder what kind of people own these cruise lines. Why do they want to screw people, especially those who are weak and need the most help.

      1. To quote Dr. Seuss, “If they didn’t do it, someone else would.”

        I’m not sure if thats the real reason, but I believe they think they have enough customers lined up to replace them, and they already got this persons money and its unlikely that person would cruise again anyway even with a refund, so keep the money. Or possibly they think like the Hostess CEO who lowered his employees salary and gave himself over 2 million in raises while the company was going bankrupt. Its all about greed. In their mind, the customer not sailing is a great thing becuase they get that money, plus they can re-sell the room and get the same amount of money again, and the new person is going to spend money on liquor while the pregnant woman is not. Its a triple win for the cruise line.

        If it were my company, I would be more concerned about customer service. I would want people to be happy and have a good experience. But I guess in the mind of the cruise line, happy people are not as profitable, and by running their cost benefit analysis on the various contract restrictions and customer outcomes, I think they found that they need to do this in order to maximize their profitability and since there are always new people wanting to cruise, it won’t hurt them long term either. Its sad that that is how people do business these days.

        1. Isn’t this the same cruise line that refused boarding a grandma (who immigrated from Italy) because her naturalization certificate did not have a raised seal? It kept the poor family’s money they saved for a year.

          Isn’t this the cruiseline whose founder gave up his American citizenship and moved to the land of milk and honey to avoid paying taxes?

          No wonder you cannot expect this cruiseline to do the RIGHT thing. Something is wrong with their moral compass.

        2. So good customer service is to let her sail, have a problem and lose the baby? They were being cautious, and err on the side of common sense. The agent should have been clear about the terms, and the clients needed to read up on their responsibilities here.

          1. The rules of the cruise fare was ignored by the OP and his wife. Why should they be refunded? Do rules not apply to them?

          2. Rules do apply to them, but if they became pregnant after booking, then got denied transportation, they should be refunded. It’s not a case where they forgot paperwork, or they didn’t do something.

      2. We have just gone through one of those cycles of great interest in cruising. It became faddish, and everyone wanted to take a cruise. In this hot-market atmosphere, the less reputable operators rush to take advantage of the less informed.

        The cruising fad prompted building of a number of new ships, many of them very large in size. Now that the market is getting saturated
        the marginal operators will start to drop off – in this case, leaving how many poor suckers hanging?

      3. They don’t want to ‘screw’ people. Why didn’t the OP and his wife read the T & C’s BEFORE making the purchase. Or did they think this didn’t apply to them and that writing and complaining would help if something came up? Tony, you are in the business and know people lie through their teeth to try and get their money back.

        1. About 99.99% of my clients do not read the rules. Anyone selling travel knows something similar. But even the most careless traveler deserves some fairness. I don’t think the pregnant lady was trying to wiggle out of the contract. It was the cruiseline prohibiting her to cruise.

          Using the airlines as an example. I believe they will refund your ticket if they deny you boarding. So why don’t cruiselines do the same? The article says they tried to resolve the issue weeks prior. Isn’t that enough time for the cruiseline to resell the room? I believe that losing all your money just because you are pregnant and not allowed to sail is way too unfair a penalty. Why not allow a re-do when the mother is able?

          I do not question the right of the cruiseline to limit their risk and prohibit pregnant women from cruising. What I question is why they get to confiscate the money.

          1. I understand your point and yes, the cruise line could let them sail later, but at the same time, these passengers needed to have read the T & C BEFORE paying for the cruise. The husband said that the doctor’s letter didn’t get them anywhere with the cruise. Well if he had read the T & C, it clearly states that doctor’s letter won’t help on the cruise line’s policy. How much clearly can this get? What if the cruise line couldn’t have sold that cabin at the last minute? They would be out that cruise cost plus letting the passengers on another one. I don’t know why people think a business should bend their rules when the rules are available and very clear so customers can make good decisions BEFORE making a commitment.

          2. I think they said they used a TA and was not told about this potential problem.

            One thing pregnant women will realize with this case, is how UNFRIENDLY cruise lines can be to them. When my wife and I took lamaze classes, we thought we get through everything. We would never have thought a lazy cruise could hurt the unborn baby who was floating in water (already).

          3. My understanding of cruise line profits though is that it comes from all
            the on-board spending. So, Carnival decided to pocket the money and get
            nothing more which probably wasn’t that much since it seems it was
            booked way in advance instead of a)making the couple happy b)letting
            them rebook C)and getting all the money they would spend on-board. I
            know the very few times I cruised, I spent more on-board than the ticket
            to get on the cruise.

    2. I’m not a physician but I had 2 premature babies. Viability begins at 24-25 weeks. If a woman delivers at that time, the baby could make it but only with immediate medical intervention which cruise ships just can’t provide. So not having the baby in a hospital ready to handle that changes the outcome completely. Delivering a baby prior to that 24-25 week mark is an utter heartbreak for the parents but the final outcome of having that happen on a cruise ship or a hospital is not that different because the baby wouldn’t have made it anyway.

      1. Ive been implementing a system for a medical school and teaching hospital for the past year asked a few questions after reading this article, and a few more after reading this response. Here is what I found out:

        The chance of spontaneous labor prior to 35 weeks and 0 days is 0.02%. Of those who do have spontaneous labor, 80% or more have complications and would never be medially cleared to travel.

        That means one out of 5,000 pregnant women could go into labor before 35 weeks, and only 1 out of 25,000 pregnant women who are cleared to travel would go into labor before 35 weeks. 34 weeks and earlier and the chances are even lower.

        I personally think the cruise lines are being way to over cautions. Stick with 34 weeks like the airlines, and require a doctors note saying they are fit to travel.

        Edit: The doc just e-mailed me back again and added that a baby born 33 weeks and later usually doesn’t need a NICU, but sometimes does. And a baby born between 25-32 weeks needs a NICU and is very likely to have permanent cognitive problems, but not always. I just thought I would add as he was very excited to share this with me.

    3. If medical emergencies occur up in the air, airplanes can usually make it to land far more quickly than a cruise ship can.

      1. I was thinking the same thing; a plane over the middle of the Pacific might be 5 hours from land; a ship might be a DAY from land.

        1. There is always Hawaii and Guam in the Pacific. Not that easy for a polar route unless you consider rural Russia and China as good. The later is always on my mind when I fly JKF-HKG nonstop.

      2. True, but most cruise ships have a doctor on board with limited medical facilities that should be able to handle a baby being born.

        1. A preterm baby born earlier than 28 wks in the pregnancy is unlikely to survive without extensive medical facilities on site.

    4. It must have to do with insurance. My wife was about 8 months pregnant when she and I drove a stick shift station wagon across the country when we moved to Sacramento. We did not see anything wrong in doing it. Her doctor okayed it and so did her dad who was a doctor who delivered many babies. I suppose cruising is a lot less stressful than driving and crossing Death Valley.

      1. Good for you and your wife! Life is to be lived, not overprotected.
        The restrictions all depend upon the whim of the person in power – pregnancy is perfectly normal when an entity wants to deny services and a medical condition requiring limitations when another entity wants to deny other services. My doctor allowed, and even encouraged, a lot of activities that could be considered strenuous but I was physically fit and accustomed to them. Too many pro-active risk management types have put a plastic bubble around everyone and increased the expectations and consequently the number of claims.

        1. Also so many babies are delivered by midwives. I cannot believe a ship with thousands of passengers [including crews from the thirld world where there are not that many maternity hospitals] cannot find a person to assist in a childbirth. Have we all turned to iphone using idiots? Is there an app showing how to pull a baby out and cutting the chord?

          1. @TonyA_says:disqus The ship has limited medical facilities. Given the litigious nature of our society, if they allowed late-term pregnant women on board, how long before they get sued because “my baby died because you didn’t have a NICU” or “you left me and my new baby stranded in a third world country.” Beyond that based on past posts, how many people on this board would scream that people deserved a 100% refund because the ship had to steam in the wrong direction to meet up with a helicopter to take the woman off and therefore had to skip a port. There’s a reason why malpractice insurance is so high for OBs. I can understand why a cruiseline might not want that on their hands.
            Oh and I hate Carnival with a passion so it’s not fun defending their practices.

          2. There are several very detailed medical apps that are intended for physicians (costing $200 or more each) so I bet there is an app – or soon will be. My neighbor’s kids were all born in July, the rotation time in a teaching hospital. A new resident came into the room with a copy of Obstetrics under his arm and she yelled at him to get out if he was still reading the book. He left very quickly!!

          3. In poor or developing countries that have high population growth rates, there are (free) Maternity Hospitals that specialize purely in childbirth. I remember hearing that for non-complicated childbirth, the mother is expected to leave and return home the same day.

            Aren’t these ships registered in those countries (i.e. Panama or Bahamas maybe)?

          4. Try using your iphone for instructions on delivering and saving the life of mother and child in the case of a 7th month birth !!!…

        2. true – but in a cruise line’s case – they know that IF there is a problem your chances of getting adequate care is slight to nill if out to sea or on a small island with few options.

    5. they aren’t evil, just cautious. And since by 90 days PRIOR to departure (time of final payment) you SHOULD be aware you are pregnant that far along, this is a moot point, as you get a full refund. Again – this onus falls squarely on the agent for not informing them properly.

  12. Harsh perhaps, but the 24 week number is not plucked from the sky. It’s the generally-accepted age of viability. If she went into labour at 23 weeks, it’s considered a heartbreaking loss as nature takes its course. If she went into labour at 25, it’s premature labour requiring emergency hospital care for both mother and baby… something that NOBODY wants to happen on board a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean. I feel so sorry for this couple, but I can understand why it comes back to a question of travel insurance.

  13. I had a very similar experience; My husband and I booked a cruise to the Bahamas as a “last hurrah”. We were supposed to go when I would have been 27 weeks. There was no mention ANYWHERE of any pregnancy restrictions. (I looked before I booked!) Fortunately, I decided to be proactive and call Carnival the same day I made the booking to ask about their pregnancy restrictions. They told me that because I called the same day (and we had purchased the travel insurance) we would be refunded 100% of the cost… but it took MONTHS and a multitude of phone calls and emails to finally get our money back. One agent finally admitted that “Refunds were not a priority because we already have your money.” My daughter was born before we finally got our refund.

    1. I don’t get this. I booked with Carnival for my babymoon over 5 YEARS ago and the information was easily available on their website then. It is now. Why can’t people find it?? Boggles my mind.

  14. I can’t be the only female that is taking this as a lesson, based on the discussion here: If you’re a female of childbearing age, don’t bother booking a cruise.

  15. Most of our trips are land trips where only a hotel and airfare is at stake, hence we never buy travel insurance. Oh and for the record, as most good TA’s will tell you, never buy your travel ins. from the cruiseline; you get less coverage than if you buy it from an independant agency and the cost is the same. That said, wee always buy travel insurance when we take a cruise knowing that “stuff happens” and we don’t want to lose our money if something goes wrong. I think the Nelsons were nuts not to buy insurance when the wife is pregnant – 25 week rule or not – too many things can go wrong in a pregnancy to not have insurance, just in case.
    That said, I think Carnival is wrong not to either give them a 75% refund of their money, or a full credit to use in the future – good for a few years when the baby is a toddler.
    As a child-free couple, we don’t bother to read the pregnancy rules, but what happens if a couple books a cruise one to two years in advance (as the cruiselines encourage you to do) and then the wife becomes pregnant unexpectedly? Do they get a full 100% refund under the “Act of G-d” rule? They should! After reading Raven’s post, I see that apparently Carnival has a “get an abortion or lose your money” rule.
    I’ve been on about 10 cruises, never one on Carnival. Never will.

    1. Unless they purchased an advance, nonrefundable cruise fare, which are out there, most cruise fares are refundable in full up until final payment, which is 60 days out. If they purchased the former, then they have themselves to blame. If they purchased the latter, they had plenty of time to cancel for a full refund. No knowing/readikng the T & C’s BEFORE booking is their fault.

  16. I can’t beleive the attitude of the people here. What about all the other passengers who didn’t get knocked up?

    I’ve known people who have gone into labor at 26 weeks. The cruise ship is not prepared to deal with this sort of medical emergency. If she knew she’d be planning a child, she should have bought a refundable fare, or insurance that covers this, or at least see if she could transfer her tickets so someone else could go in her place.

      1. It’s readable in Google Translate. Nice picture with his Twitter profile – looks like the gentleman (not giving away his Anglicized name) achieved a lifelong dream.

        1. I am using an Android tablet which I believe has Chrome as the native browser. The translate feature does not work for me so I guess that is why I can’t read his name. When I clicked the characters it gave me a twitter account in English.

        1. Thanks for the translate. I thought using Android with built in Chrome will auto translate different characters. But it does not.

          1. It was written without vowels, as is most Israeli Hebrew, so I think that must make it harder for auto translate programs. It sure makes it hard for me.

  17. As a travel consultant, I have to deal with this issue quite frequently. While I agree the cruise line should be more lenient towards guests who become pregnant unexpectedly prior to a cruise, I feel the booking agency has some fault in the matter as well. There is simply no excuse for not making clients aware of the possible roadblocks to a successful vacation.

    In my own travel practice, when someone books a cruise with me, I have a checklist that I complete with them that covers various things – the pregnancy rule, travel visas required (if going to a destination like Brazil), special considerations when traveling with children, and any special requirements (such as medical considerations) that are important. My clients are also provided with a copy of the cruise line’s most recent terms and conditions – I don’t simply tell them to go look on the cruise line website, I give them a copy right there.

    I feel it is my duty as their travel consultant to do what I can to ward off any potential setbacks that would lead to an unpleasant vacation. The pregnancy policy the cruise lines have has been a complete non-issue for me and my clients, and the few clients I have had that became pregnant before the cruise have been able to switch over to another sailing or cancel altogether because 1) they knew about the issue early enough, and became pregnant before the penalty phase kicked in or 2) they had travel insurance which reimbursed them for any penalties. I’ve also had no issues with any cruise line providing a refund to a client – they’ve all done so within a week.

    Steve Cousino, ACC, CTA

      1. Aw, come on. I leave home a lot, but only hop a boat if it’s the only way to my destination, such as expedition on ships. There’s a whole planet to see without cruising.

  18. For me, the crux of this hinges on whether they made the booking when they knew she was pregnant or beforehand and she became pregnant. It SOUNDS like they knew she was pregnant since they say it was to be “a last hoorah before the birth of the child.” If so, then the OPs had the obligation to check if that was a limiting factor for the cruise, either online, or by asking the TA because it is a distinct possibility it might be. If they DID ask the TA about it early on and the TA failed to give them accurate information, then I see a small claims case since they took action based on the TAs (faulty) information. Carnival are being d****s here, but there is plenty of blame to go around for not getting the information prior to purchase *if* they knew they were pregnant. If not, well then that just sucks all the way around and Carnival really needs to be more flexible. I have to admit, my first instinct was to say “So lie and say “false alarm…not pregnant” but Carnival would probably require documentation of THAT, too.. Sigh. This sucks all the way around for these people 🙁

  19. Let’s see, if the history of American litigation teaches us anything it’s that if you bend the rules for someone you’re opening yourself up to getting bent yourself. It will take only one woman to miscarry at 26-27 weeks while on the high seas and sue the cruise line for letting her sail in her condition. It won’t matter if she had no reason to fear miscarrying, or that she was warned against traveling, she’ll blame the cruise line and public sympathy will side with the poor grieving mother.

    A couple of decades ago a lawsuit like that would have been unheard of. Now, they’re so commonplace they’re cliche.

    1. I think you are looking at this incorrectly. The OP and his wife have to read the terms and conditions BEFORE making a payment.
      I don’t see noted how they booked the cruise. Yes, there is a mention of an agent, but that agent could have come into this after the OP booked this online so this would be helpful to know. I alway refer clients to any TO or cruise line’s T & C’s and most require either the client or me to mark that the T & C’s have been read.

  20. To me this entire thing is just ridiculous actually. It’s not like she just woke up one morning and discovered she was 20 weeks pregnant and then tried to cancel.

    – If they’re beyond the point where they can get a refund then it means that they’re cancelling in less than 60 days, because according to their website up to 61 days prior to departure for a 5 day cruise there’s no cancellation policy.

    – If she’s going to be 10 days over the 24 week cutoff, and if they tried to cancel say on the moment the booking became nonrefundable, then she was 125 days into her pregnancy at that point or almost 17 weeks along.

    – They apparently booked the cruise BEFORE she became pregnant, even if they didn’t know she was pregnant for the first 2 months that still leaves 9 whole weeks that they could have cancelled the cruise in and NOT had to lose any of their money for it. 9 weeks that they could have gone to the website and typed “pregnancy” into the search bar and found out in less than 20 seconds that she’d not be able to board the ship.

    – I’ve never seen ANY agency booking contract that spells out and includes ALL the rules for the airlines or cruise lines or hotels. They do however put in something about checking the airline’s/cruise line’s terms and policies. It’s just common sense to know that you’re bound by the rules of the company that you’re travelling wth. And if the couple had contacted their agent as soon as they found out about the pregnancy – or at least in those 9 weeks they had before the cancellation deadline – to say “hey is this going to be an issue” then they would have had a refund.

    I don’t like Carnival, but you can’t blame them in this case.

  21. I am really bothered by Carnival’s action. The OP didn’t cancel, Carnival denied them. And then they keep the money? To me, that sounds and feels like thievery.

    1. It is NOT thievery. There are policies regarding pregnant cruisers. The OP didn’t obey the rules. There are consequences for not obeying the rules.

  22. I voted no because everyone should always seek out all available information regarding restrictions, refunds, etc., before booking anything, and that doesn’t mean just cruises. There’s so many “gotcha”‘s in the travel industry from airlines to hotels to rental cars to cruises that it’s just the prudent thing to do.

  23. If she just never claimed she was prego could she have went to board and when they saw the situation just denied her boarding and she could have obtained a refund (as if she had norvo-virus)?

    1. Some time, Lynn, I will tell you of my (Libtard) parents 50th wedding anniversity cruise that my idiot (Libtard) sister arranged.
      “Free cruise tickets” ended up costing me $8000 in plane fare for the family/missed on-call compensation/and other expenses.
      Not to mention stress in the fact that I was trapped on a ship with the 6 people I like least in the World (parents, sister, her spawn, and brother-in-law (he’s a fairly innocuous guy, but he married the she-bitch). Even being on the ship with the 3 people I love most in the world (Wife and kids) couldn’t compensate.
      Loathe and despise cruises.

  24. This raises the ultimate dilemma! To buy travel insurance or not?? Such a tough one. Having travelled a lot I feel like my money has been wasted… But in the end, if I have to make one claim worth a few thousand dollars, I end up even on all the premiums I’ve paid. What is the better option? I think companies should have a bit more responsibility in this regard. I bet the cruise line re-sold the cabin and re-pocketed the full fare all over again.

    1. That is a good question. Cruises, IMO, offers the WORST policy. You usually lose all your money paid or if you are lucky get a [partial] certificate for a retake.
      You can easily configure (IMO) a better and more flexible trip flying to a destination and getting cancellable hotels and local tours. I feel a lot safer being on land and away from a thousand or thousands of hungry cruisers salivating for the next glorified cafeteria meal.

        1. I do sell those. None will reimburse lost fares due to pregnancy.
          Having read the policies (word for word) and helping clients fill up the voluminous paperwork, I have second thoughts about which kind of insurance is best for cruising. Consider the case (published here) about folks who flew to Florida days earlier to catch a cruise that gotcancelled. I am not sure an independent policy would have been better especially if air is bought separately.

          1. I wouldn’t disagree with you but in the case of a cruise, pregnancy should be a non-event. Most cruise lines have liberal enough cancellation policies (like Carnival) to allow you to cancel if you are going to run into the pregnancy ban. Even the most restrictive I could find would mean that a woman would be 10 weeks pregnant when payments went completely non-refundable.

          2. John, the down and full payment schedules for a cruise do not apply for the discounted PREPAID fares. I believe the option is to prepay in full to get a good price. But that is not refundable.

          3. So… if you aren’t willing to take the risk on losing your fare… wait until 5 months out to book that way you won’t hit the 24 week ban prior to sailing.

          4. Incorrect – ONLY the deposit is nonrefundable and the balance of the T&C remain the same as in any regular booking. (This was just to prevent folks from grabbing the best discount, and moving it forward to another cruise).

          5. She said they “cancelled” a few weeks prior.

            Well according to Carnival, you lose 100% of the fare is you cancel 14 days or less.

            So 14 days is a few weeks – 2 to be exact.
            Therefore, she lost everything.

            I am not sure what percentage of the total fare is deposit for Carnival’s Early Saver Fares. I think you prepay for the whole cruise upfront but I could be wrong.

  25. we had something similar happen with a happier result with Norwegian. Booked in Jan for Nov, found out I was pregnant in April. Would have thought nothing of it except the due date was… the same week we were to sail. Called Norwegian and were able to reschedule the cruise for a year after, no problems. Maybe because we hadn’t finished paying for it yet?

    1. Same thing would have applied for them – if you cancel or switch BEFORE the penalties kick in (final payment date), you are just fine. These guys waited too long to do so.

  26. Actually, I blame the agent here – she could have cancelled up to 90 days prior if the case was getting pregnant AFTER booking the deposit. So no surprise by that time. It was just that she did not have the information (or didn’t bother to read the letter she got from the agent). But if she had a problem at sea, it could be calamitous – you have no idea JUST how bad medical services are either at sea or on a small island. Can’t actually blame Carnival here, as the terms are well laid out online.

    1. It isn’t clear on how the OP booked this. Did they book it online, then call or did they do it all by phone? The T & C’s are usually linked to the confirmation by email…or at least that is how I do it.

  27. I cruise often, at least a couple times a year. Although I obviously enjoy cruising, there are a number of things about the way cruise lines do business that I don’t care for but in this instance I have to agree with them. A few years ago on an 11-night cruise, on the second sea day, a young woman was less than 25 weeks pregnant and suddenly and apparently unexpectedly had complications. We were two days out at sea and had to turn the ship around to get back to a place where a helicopter could evacuate her. That extra time turning the ship around could have been time used to save her baby, instead we heard (and have no way of knowing for sure) that she lost her baby. The ship had no other choice but to turn around and spend the time getting back to a place where a helicopter could reach us. The heartbreak of such a loss for parent is indescribable. No vacation is worth it. I’m sorry this couple loss their money and hope they have a healthy, happy baby. Carnival could have and probably should have done more but nothing surpasses one’s own research which this couple did not do as soon as they found she was pregnant.

  28. Carnival is wrong, because the guests gave ample notice. The travel agent is wrong, for not giving ample and basic T & C spiel when purchasing the tickets.
    Pregnancy IS a medical condition. It effects the homeostasis of a person, (i.e. blood pressure, digestion, hormonal, musclular etc). Every pregancy is different. After the Concordia tragedy and countless bacterial infection outbreaks on cruises, why anyone would want to take any person, with any serious medical condition is beyond me. This industry is not regulated enough in safety and service.
    However, to each his/her own. If it is such an issue with any travel provider, then have people with medical conditions, sign a disclosure statement, explaining how limited medical treatment/personel is available, and the risks/expenses you take are your own. Let them travel.
    Just explain the risks, and let the consumer make up their mind.

  29. If they booked, knowing that she was pregnant, they should have taken the responsibility of asking specifically about any restrictions from the cruise line regarding this, to cover their own bases. But, crusie lines should be more flexible in at least giving a full credit for the amount paid, with a longer expiration date than a year, to passengers who become pregnant and can show that they either were not, or did not know about the pregnancy at the time of booking.

  30. The 24 week policy is there for a reason. It should not be changed. Having had a premature delivery myself at 22 weeks – there would have been no help available at sea. I hope people remember this policy is for the health and well being of mother and child.

  31. The way I see it is the bottom line is the cruise line refused check in and boarding. If the passenger wants to change by their choice I’d back Carnival, but when Carnival refuses the booked passage then sorry all bets are off. Either refund the money or allow a no fee re-booking.

    1. Based on the update, the problem doesn’t sound like Carnival was in the wrong. They were enforcing the policy. The problem was the TA failed to inform them, as they had agreed to in their contract with Carnival, to inform the passengers of the policy and the court agreed. I’m sorry it took so long for them to get it resolved, but glad it was resolved in the passengers favor.

  32. They let really old people cruise – seems like they’d be a higher proportion of emergency evacuations than early/mid pregnancies.

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