WFTS ABC Action News reports on the case of Dodge Melkonian who fell and broke his hip on the Azamara Journey cruise ship. It’s a story we have mentioned several times here on Cruise Law News. 

After the cruise line (Royal Caribbean owns Azamara) left Dodge and his wife, Jill, in a non-English speaking hospital in Turkey, the Melkonians turned to their travel agent, Elite Travel agency owner Tammy Levent, for assistance.  

Travel agent Levent contacted ABC Action News which reached out to U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, who Dodge Melkonian - Azamara Cruise Shipworked with the U.S. Embassy.

Now, the Melkonians are back in the U.S. where Dodge immediately went to the hospital. 

Mr. Melkonian needs weeks of therapy and their bills are mounting, but there is still no clear answers from Royal Caribbean.  

Ms. Melkonian said she wasn’t getting the help she needed from the cruise line and they bought the cruise insurance. She told ABC Action News that, despite having insurance, the cruise line wanted them to pay out of pocket first and then file a claim.

The cruise line, which succumbed to bad press and eventually made an initial down payment on the Turkish hospital bill, claims that it is assisting the Melkoniians. In a statement, Royal Caribbean said "our focus continues to be on Mr. & Mrs. Melkonian’s well-being and we continue to work closely with them to provide the assistance they need."

But Ms. Melkonians isn’t so sure about that, saying "the rest of the hospital bill is still not decided. So there’s a lot if confusion."  

The incident comes at a time when Congress is watching the cruise lines with a skeptical eye.   

"I just hope they change some of the policies," Ms. Melkonian said.

The Melkonian’s travel agent, Tammy Levent, said that she has received calls from Washington to discuss the issues surrounding the Melkonian’s case.

Story Credit: WFTS ABC Action News / Photo Credit: CBS News

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 Dodge Melkonian - Tampa Bay TimesAgent 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