The fall-out over Azamara’s abandonment of an elderly couple from Clearwater Florida continues.
The luxury cruise line Azamara, a subsidiary of Miami based Royal Caribbean Cruises, has been accused of abandoning its guest Dodge Melkonian, an 89-year-old World War II veteran, and his wife at a "rural" hospital in Turkey after Mr. Melkonian broke his hip on the Azamara Journey last week.
The story has been extensively covered, first by a local ABC news station, and later by the U.S. national press like CBS, CNN, and ABC as well as the New York Daily News. The international press has shown interest in the plight of the Melkonian couple. The regular cruise bloggers, like Cruise Critic and Travel Agent Central, have also added their perspective.
Azamara’s CEO has made matters worst by gratuitously tweeting comments on his Twitter account stating that 89 year old dodge Melkonian should contact his travel agent and the insurance company and essentially leave the cruise line alone.
Florida Senator Bill Nelson called the cruise line’s conduct "outrageous."
The South Florida Business Journal published an article Move Over Carnival, Royal Caribbean Takes Shot at Ruining Industry’s Image.
The Tampa Bay Times is the latest news organization to cover the story. Its article Couple Stranded by Cruise in Turkey Receives Outpouring of Support is highly critical of the cruise line’s indifference to the Melkonians.
So who are the winners and losers in this story? And what are the lessons to be learned?
The Winners: Mr. Melkonian’s surgery was a success because of the couple’s persistent travel agents who sprang into action when the insurance company (sold through the cruise line) refused to act responsibly in assisting Mr. Melkonian. And a Turkish tour guide, involved by the hard-working travel agents, not only assisted the couple in reaching a quality hospital but even donated his blood which was needed for Mr. Melkonian’s surgery.
The Losers: "The health & safety of cruise passengers are the cruise industry’s highest priorities?" Hardly. Azamara, Royal Caribbean and the cruise industry prove, again, that talk is cheap.
Lessons Learned: Even luxury cruise lines can treat their guests shabbily. The case demonstrates the "cut and run" strategy of the cruise industry. When a passenger (or crew member) becomes ill or seriously injured during a cruise, the cruise lines’ usual response to to get them off the cruise ship as soon as possible and then wash their hands of the problem.
This is hardly the first time a cruise line abandoned a passenger ashore and sailed off. We have seen this exact situation play out numerous times, particularly in ports of call in the Caribbean and Mexico. Read our article British Passenger Stuck In Mexican Hospital Following Heart Attack on Princess Cruise Ship.
Legislation Needed: The Melkonian’s travel agents are communicating with Senator Nelson’s office about drafting a law that "would ban cruise lines from leaving people stranded." The Melkonian’s travel agent was quoted saying: "Where is the humanity in that? There is no accountability, and that has to change."
Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Times