WFTS, an ABC affiliate in Tampa, Florida, reports on a story that we hear about all too often – an elderly passenger is injured during a cruise and ends up alone in a foreign hospital where no one speaks English. The cruise ship then sails off.
In a case which has received attention from Florida Senator Bill Nelson, Jill and her husband, Dodge Melkonian, age 89, were sailing aboard the Royal Caribbean luxury brand Azamara Cruises. Mr. Melkonian fell and broke his hip and ended up in a Turkish hospital which Mrs. Melkonian described as dirty, where no one spoke English, and was not equipped or qualified to perform the emergency surgery.
The news station quotes Mrs. Melkonian stating that "I think Royal Caribbean needs to be held accountable. They have to revamp policies for international accounts."
She bought insurance through the cruise line and tried to get her husband transferred. But the cruise line reportedly would not cooperate and told her to file an insurance claim first.
Mrs. Melkonian reached out to her travel agent who was helpful and summed up the situation saying: "The man could be dying. He is 89 years old with a broken hip, You have insurance, shouldn’t it cover you? They drop you in a hospital that’s not capable of even doing the surgery."
The travel agent contacted an English speaking tour guide who, in turn, contacted the U.S. embassy which helped transfer Mr. Melkonian to Istanbul, a six-hour trip. The cruise line reportedly ignored the couple once they were off of the ship and the insurance company tried to cancel the transportation.
Senator Bill Nelson said he is working to bring the couple home safely:
"Royal Caribbean has a responsibility to take care of their passengers, even when they have to put them in a foreign hospital," said Nelson.
Photo & story credit: WFTS (ABC Action News) Tampa Florida
August 21 2013 Update: ABC News picked up the story. Its quotes Florida Senator Bill Nelson saying: "It’s outrageous that they would leave an elderly couple in a foreign country without adequate support."
August 22 2013 Update: CNN’s Headline News picked up the story this afternoon. "Couple Stranded Abroad After Cruise Injury."