Most cruise passengers who sail on luxury cruises to the Caribbean, Mexico or Europe have a false sense of security. They think that if anything goes wrong during the cruise, the cruise line will take care of them. But when passengers get sick, the reality is that the cruise line will dump them off of the cruise ship as soon as possible, and the passengers will be left to fend for themselves in foreign ports.
So it is heartbreaking to read of a healthy 67 year old passenger from the United Kingdom who suffered a heart attack while cruising on the Sea Princess cruise ship. The cruise line disembarked her ashore in Mexico where a hospital charged her over $125,000 in medical expenses so far.
This story involves Ms. Valerie King who was sailing with her husband, Tony King, on the Princess cruise ship from San Fransisco to Barbados after leaving on October 9th. Ms. King suffered a heart attack while on board the cruise ship. The ship doctor informed her that she had to disembark at the next port which was Cabo San Lucas in Mexico on October 12th.
A newspaper in the U.K., the Warrington Guardian, reports that after being sent from the cruise ship, Ms. King has been stuck in the hospital and has incurred over $125,000 in medical expenses. Ms. King's daughter, Anita, flew from England to Cabo San Lucas to try and support her father as her mother's stay in the intensive care unit is now approaching three weeks.
The newspaper quotes daughter Anita as stating that the hospital is "pressing for payment and the account manager followed us into a cafe after we had visited my mother to ask about settling the bill."
This case reveals a problem that many passenger do not understand when considering a cruise. We have been contacted by many cruise passengers who end up in hospitals in Mexico and the Caribbean ports of call. The hospitals in Mexico are the worst when it comes to running up medical expenses on cruise passengers. The first thing these hospitals want to know is your Visa card numbers and the expiration date. This is in stark contrast to healthcare providers in some European ports, such as Sweden or Norway, where the medical treatment is outstanding and the passengers are not charged for anything.
When reading about this case, I thought of my own family experiences. My father had a heart attack in London. He received good medical care in the British health care system and was charged nothing. I can not imagine having to experience a nightmare like the Knight family where your parent is essentially a hostage in a sub-standard medical facility with the hospital administrator following you around like a over-zealous bill collector trying to collect over $125,000.
Cruise lines need to warn passengers that if they become ill while sailing into Mexico, the local medical system is designed to suck the patients like a lime at a tequila party.
In addition to the big bill from the Mexican doctors, the cruise line handed Mr. Knight with a bill for his wife's overnight stay in the cruise ship's sick bay of around $5,000 dollars. This took his credit card just about to the limit and left him with no funds to give a deposit to the hospital.
Cruise lines should not use their limited medical facilities as a profit center to gouge passengers in distress.
What a predicament. Vacationing passengers spend thousands of dollars for a cruise only to be charged $5,000 by the cruise line and dumped in a Mexican hospital which charges over $125,000! The Knight's travel insurance in the U.K. also denied coverage citing exclusions for pre-existing conditions.
Please take a minute and help the Knight family. Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and consider sending her a donation of $100 to help the family with this plight.
Photo credits: Knight family via Warrington Guardian