The Washington Post published an interesting article about what pregnant women should expect when they go on a cruise. Written by Christopher Elliott, the article is entitled "What to Expect if You’re Expecting to Cruise."
Different cruise lines have different policies when it comes to when a pregnant woman is no longer welcome on a cruise ship. Some cruise lines prohibit women who are 24 weeks pregnant to cruise. The theory, I suppose, is that the risk of something going wrong with the pregnancy, such as premature birth, increases once the pregnancy enters her third trimester?
As Mr. Elliott points out, just two weeks a go a pregnant woman aboard a Disney cruise ship had to be medevaced after developing complications shortly after the ship left Galveston. You can watch the dramatic hoisting of the passenger up to the Coast Guard helicopter here.
Of course neither cruise lines nor pregnant passengers want to have to summons the Coast Guard to conduct a rescue on the high seas late at night. Once the ship is a few hundred miles away from port, no helicopter will arrive to save the day.
So everyone seems to be on the same page that cruise pregnancy policies are a good idea. But the problem is – what happens when a pregnant customer does not read the fine print buried in the cruise ticket and is a few days past the cruise line’s deadline? What rights does the cruise consumer have in this situation?
None, it seems. The Washington Post article correctly points out that the terms of the ticket control. Unfortunately, the cruise line is likely to block a "too pregnant" passenger from boarding while keeping the passenger’s cruise fare. No refund. No exceptions. No future credit.
That’s a harsh approach, particularly because some people buy cruises up to a eight months to a year in advance. If a baby is conceived after the cruise is purchased, you’d think that the cruise lines would say congratulations and be reasonable. They’re not. Cruise lines seem to take advantage of the situation.
Mr. Elliott writes that it is almost like the cruise lines want to make an example by barring pregnant women who don’t comply with the policy as a motivation for the public to purchase travel insurance which, not coincidentally, is also sold by many of the cruise lines.
The newspaper quoted me, for what that’s worth; Here’s my take:
"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 . . . 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."
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