Imagine doing everything right. You’ve bought your cruise tickets well in advance. You hired a travel agent to make sure you got the right cruise package, at the right price, for the right time of year. You did your research. You can’t wait to spend seven sunny days in the Bahamas, drinking smoothies, and working on your tan. Yet, if you haven’t read all the fine print on your passenger ticket contract, you may be in store for nasty surprises when you get to port.
Doing what we do on a daily basis (helping seriously injured cruise ship passengers and crewmembers obtain recoveries for their injuries), each maritime lawyer at our firm knows that the cruise passenger ticket contract, for all of the major cruise lines, is nothing more than an attempt to deprive you of as many legal rights and remedies as possible. Fortunately, we are extremely skilled at working around the ticket contract and obtaining recoveries for our clients. Nonetheless, every so often we hear another story about the evil cruise passenger ticket contract strikes again.
There are many times when, despite not being in violation of any cruise ship policies, passengers have been denied access to the ship, resulting in cancelled vacations, lost money, and extra expenses. Unfortunately, the cruise lines have a tremendous amount of discretion in who they allow onto their ships. And it is this discretion that can be extremely unfair, if not discriminatory.
While there are times when a cruise line is justified when denying boarding, our firm has seen countless cases in which hopeful cruisers were unable to set sail because of arbitrary cruise policies that were not made clear at the time of booking. A recent story involving a Canadian cruise passenger offers a prime example of this all too common practice within the cruise industry.
According to the CBC, a Canadian news source, a woman from Hamilton, Ontario named Michelle Ligori was denied permission to board a Royal Caribbean cruise ship after she was asked by a customer service representative at port whether she was pregnant. When she explained that she was, in fact, two months pregnant, she was denied permission to board because she had not acquired a “fit to travel” medical note from her doctor.
Every cruise line has its own pregnancy policies. For Royal Caribbean and many other cruise lines, passengers who are more than 24 weeks pregnant are not allowed to travel. This makes good sense for women who are further along in their pregnancy, and the policy does serve to protect female passengers who are soon due to go into labor, seeing as cruise ships do not have the proper prenatal, midwife, or gynecological medical services on board to keep a woman safe if she is in labor.
However, for women who are traveling before their 24th week of pregnancy, Royal Caribbean requires women to have a “fit to travel” medical note, confirming that the woman traveling is in good health and is not having a high-risk pregnancy. This policy is not one that would be known to the average cruise traveler who will most likely assume that being only a few weeks along wouldn’t matter. It is also not one that is blatantly visible on the ticket contract.
So, what happens if a woman purchases her ticket before she becomes pregnant, is very early in her pregnancy when she arrives at the dock, and does not have a note? What happens if the woman doesn’t even know she’s pregnant? In Ligori’s case, she was turned away and denied permission to board.
What can the family do at this point? Find out in Part 2 of our series.