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.

Heart Attack - Cruise Ship - Valerie KingThis 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.     

Mexican Hospital - Cruise Ship - Heart AttackCruise 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 and consider sending her a donation of $100 to help the family with this plight.


Photo credits:  Knight family via Warrington Guardian

  • Howard

    I’m curious about one thing. You stated that this is a healthy 67 year old passenger. If she was healthy, how can the insurance company deny benefits citing exclusions for pre-existing conditions. If she were healthy, there would be no pre-existing conditions. You seem to be going after the wrong party in this case. You should be telling about the horrors of insurance companies who won’t pay. People who do have pre-existing conditions should do their homework when traveling and not depend on others for giving you all of the info.

  • No matter what the details end up being that come out of this case, it’s just horrible to see anyone go through stress beyond the actual medical condition they are suffering from. I hope Ms. King comes out of this okay.

  • Kim

    Unfortunately it appears these cruise passengers did not purchase travel insurance in conjunction with this trip. This is information on the cruise line’s coverage, per the Princess Cruises website:

    You never know what might put your vacation investment at risk. The last thing you want to think about is what would happen if you became ill or injured while away from home.

    Put your mind at ease with Princess Vacation Protection

    Fortunately, Princess Vacation Protection can protect you from unforeseeable losses stemming from an array of circumstances, and even allows you to cancel your vacation for any reason at all.

    Princess Vacation Protection highlights include:
    – One of the best vacation protection programs at sea
    – Travel protection from trip cancellation, interruption and delay
    – Comprehensive emergency medical coverage and assistance
    – Lost/delayed baggage protection

    This program, like many travel protection programs, will refund 100% of your otherwise nonrefundable cancellation fees in the event of an emergency. Yet unlike similar programs, Princess Vacation Protection allows you to cancel your vacation no matter what the reason.

    Even if the reason for your cancellation does not qualify you for a full refund under the plan, you will still receive 75% of the nonrefundable fees in the form of a credit toward your next Princess vacation. That’s a service unique to Princess Vacation Protection.

    And for those wanting even more peace of mind, Princess Platinum Vacation Protection doubles the limits of certain benefits and increases the voluntary cancellation credit to 100% of the nonrefundable fees. While both programs come with lost baggage protection, Princess Platinum Vacation Protection will even double those limits if your luggage is lost.

    If passengers are delayed pre-cruise for a covered reason, they are eligible for up to $500 per person to cover costs associated with catching up to the cruise. If they’re delayed post-cruise for a covered reason, they are eligible for up to $1,500 per person to cover associated costs.

    If passengers opt to cancel their cruise after being delayed they are eligible for Future Cruise Credits of 75% for Standard Protection and 100% for Platinum Vacation Protection.

    Princess Vacation Protection is available for purchase up to the final payment due date of the voyage, even if your booking is already paid in full. So protect your investment with Princess Vacation Protection or Princess Platinum Vacation Protection!

    If you have any questions or require additional information, please call BerkelyCare, the independent administrator of Princess Vacation Protection, at 1-877-846-8833.

    9AM – 5PM (EST) Saturday

    Also mentioned “Rest assured, your coverage for emergency evacuation is not affected by the pre-existing conditions exclusion.”

  • Nicole

    My friend’s father was dumped by Princess Cruise Lines in Turkey with pneumonia. He ended up dying in a Turkish hospital. It is all very sad. Think of these things BEFORE you go on a cruise and BUY INSURANCE from a reputable company. Do your homework.

  • Lisa Parr

    Was the Mexican hospital named “Amerimed?”