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Paul Motter January 21st, 2013 02:57 PM

Your Cruise Has Been Refused
Your Cruise Has Been Refused
by Paul Motter

A cruise line can legally refuse to let you board with no compensation under these special conditions.

Any indication that you may
be sick is enough for a cruise
line to refuse your cruise.

I just received an email with a true story from a man who, along with his daughter, were refused boarding on a cruise out of Florida just last week. Ironically, they have cruised with this cruise line 10 times before, but this time they were left on the pier and given no compensation for the cruise they were refused. They ended up staying in San Juan, Purto Rico, for six days, spending $3000 for hotels and expenses to replace the vacation they had already paid for on the cruise ship that refused to board them.

What happened? The 15-year-old girl had a slight fever and had told the truth about on the health questionaire form every passenger is presented with during the boarding process. They were shown to a doctor who took the girl temperature and found it to be slightly elevated. An hour later it was normal. But they were told the girl would not be allowed on the ship, and so naturally the father did not leave without her. A truly sad story for anyone looking forward to an extraordinary cruise.

But the worst is that it may happen more than you think. People arrive with their luggage at a port of embarkation, ready for the "cruise of a lifetime" vacation they have been planning for a year -- only to be told at the very last minute that their right to board the ship is being denied.

Trip January 21st, 2013 03:18 PM

Paul, what a great, and, much needed informative, timely article. I have a few questions though...

1- Does a pregnant woman require a Drs. letter stating her due date,when she books? If not, anyone could push back the due date.

2-Is that photo in your article, a heat sensor, which is able to tell if people have fevers? I don't remember seeing this on my March cruise.

3-Doesn't it seem sad that they still refused her passage, after the temp was down the 2nd time they took it?

Having been disembarked from the Epic, due to my husband's illness in St Thomas, with the hospital happily taking Bruce's Medicare card, I can't imagine being dropped off in a port, that did not have a hospital up to the standards we are used to, would only have added to the stress, we were under. I do know someone that had this happen in Jamacia,and they were horrified with the situation. January 21st, 2013 08:20 PM

I hate to hear things like this, but the sad part is - stuff happens.

This is one of the main reasons why I ALWAYS suggest travel insurance. Had they purchased a good travel insurance policy, they would not have had to suffer a financial hardship and could have enjoyed an otherwise lousy situation. It's a small price to pay just in case the unforeseeable happens. As I always say, you hope that buying travel insurance is a waste of your money because if you need it, it's usually not for a good reason. But it's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

Case in point; we were scheduled to spend 2 weeks going to Europe just before Christmas 2011. During this trip, we were going on a 7-night river cruise to see the the well-known Christmas markets. The day we were suppose to fly out our son, who was 28, developed chest pains and I had to rush him to the ER. They immediately ruled out heart attack and lung problems, but could not find what was causing the pain. They checked him into the hospital for tests and three days later determined it was his gull bladder, which they eventually removed. As usual, we had purchased the travel insurance and received full reimbursement for the almost $4000 we lost due to the last-minute cancellation.

We once had a small family group of 16 people going on a cruise and after landing in New Orleans and on their way to the pier, one of the young women got a bad pain in her side. The bus driver diverted to the nearest hospital where they diagnosed that her appendix was about to rupture and she needed immediate surgery. Bottom line, her husband and two children could not go on the cruise and no one else wanted to go without them. They had all purchased the travel insurance and called me from the hospital to see what they options were. I called the insurance company and found they could all cancel without any penalties.

I could provide some other examples, but it's strange what can happen on the way to a cruise. With travel insurance, it just provides a comfort zone and eliminates a certain amount of stress.


Donna January 21st, 2013 09:01 PM

I couldn't agree more with purchasing travel insurance for any trip. You stated very valid points and yes, stuff does happen that you never plan on. The cost of insurance is a small price to pay. I always buy it and had the unforseen occasion to actually have to file a claim, was so glad to have spent the dollars on the coverage.

Trip January 21st, 2013 10:56 PM

Having insurance is the only way to travel,and our insurance, sent a nurse from Miami to St Thomas to fly with us and monitor my husband..the cost of this nurse was $9,000.00.!!

We had purchased a years insurance, for the both of us, on a flash sale online. It cost us, less than $9.00, that's right $9.00..!!!! Thankfully we were well protected .

LaurLaw January 22nd, 2013 06:01 PM

Cancelling cruise due to illness
I'm not saying it's not good business to keep sick passengers off a ship...but it's VERY poor business to not offer compensation. The passenger is not making the choice that they feel so poorly that they would chose to not travel. In addition, there is a medical facility onboard every ship.

I don't think the ship has the right to refuse without compensation. They can offer stipulations like quarentine a passenger to their cabin until medical release is received, etc but they propbably don't want to deal with, they should offer compensation.

The difference between a ship and an airline is space. Other passengers are at the mercy of the sick traveler and do not have a choice. They are enclosed in an area that has no ventilation. That is not the case on a ship...and again, medical is available. I'd be curious what the legal stipulations are. Just because these are the cruiselines guidelines, it doesn't mean it's legal or just

Paul Motter January 22nd, 2013 06:13 PM

Hi LaurLaw and welcome...

It appears you have some legal background. I have to warn you that once you get started in looking at Maritime law you may become addicted to studying it.

You may be correct in your assumptions, and in this case the cruise fare was low enough that a small claim court could settle it. (making it possibly simple to litigate).

I can tell you this, were you (as a lawyer) to write a letter challenging the decision their reply would be a copy of the cruise contract which the guest signed when they bought the cruise. Among other stips the contract says the cruise line has the right to refuse the cruise for any reason, including failure to go to life boat drill, fighting, arguing, using foul language, etc.

The jurisdiction for cruise ships is the nation where the vessel is flagged (often Bahamas, or Panama). The contract says the cruise line must be sued in the state where the head company is incorporated (in this case Florida). Local laws do apply if a ship is within the territorial waters of any given state (up to the 12-mile limit) but outside of territorial waters the jurisdiction goes to federal officers (the FBI) and courts (Federal Maritime court).

As you know, there is no such thing as "international law" although maritime law is largely regulated by various treaties which most nations have signed. One pending treaty (since at least before 2000) which the US has not signed yet is the LOST treaty (Law of the Open Sea Treaty). It is doubtful we ever will sign it since it limits access to "international" waters up to 200 miles unless given permission, and a number of other factors the US feels would impede military matters.

Most civil matters in these treaties have to do with crew members, more so than passengers.

Regarding the medical facilities. Cruise ships have them as a convenience, not as an official medical facility. So, it cannot be forced to take care of anyone. One could argue that they then also could not deny a cruise, but they don't, the cruise line (and/or captain of the vessel) do that, under the advice of the doctor.

Paul Motter January 22nd, 2013 06:21 PM


1- Does a pregnant woman require a Drs. letter stating her due date,when she books? If not, anyone could push back the due date.
Not that I know of - but that is a good question. Once again, since the cruise line makes the final determination it would be in the guests best interest to have such a letter. What is the exact rule? Is it that you can't cruise within 6 weeks, or 8 or 12 weeks of your due date?


2-Is that photo in your article, a heat sensor, which is able to tell if people have fevers? I don't remember seeing this on my March cruise.
It is a thermal heat sensor, but its from an airport, not a cruise ship (just a picture) and the airports use them to look for "nervous" people, not sick people.


3-Doesn't it seem sad that they still refused her passage, after the temp was down the 2nd time they took it?
To be clear, the father said it was normal an hour later, the doctor only took it one time and it was 100.4, to the best recollection of the father when he wrote the review. But, yes, I would have considered going back and asking for another test.

LaurLaw January 22nd, 2013 06:40 PM

A friend of my mother's were on a cruise when her husband got sick. It was Costa Rica I think but might have been Dominican any case, the hospital had no ac and nuns running the wards. They had netting at the windows to 8out the bugs but he was still covered in mosiquito bites. The ship just dropped them off with no assitance (not even help her find a hotel in a country where she was unable to speak the language)

A similiar situation happened to my husband. However the Carnival doctor was great. We were leaving Cozumel when he had terrible abdominal pain. We were heading back to Tampa and the doctor wanted to keep him onboard long enough that we were closer to America soil. It seems if they airlift you off of the ship it's $15000 cash up front (can't imagine what you would do if you didn't have that kind of money since the ship is kicking you off) and they take you to the closest point of land, not the country you request.

Just little things that make you realize that you although I love cruise vacations and the majority go off without a hitch (although I was on the nightmare transatlantic crossing of MSC Orchestra in 2009) you are at the mercy of the cruiseline and had better saved up plenty of back up money just in case.

green_rd January 23rd, 2013 07:50 AM

I've often wondered how many people lie on those health forms to be sure they are not denied boarding

Paul Motter January 23rd, 2013 04:06 PM


I have heard all kinds of stories, even about Turkey, Italy and other civilized nations where hospitals are concerned.

But when it comes to airlift medical emergencies - I have a blanket insurance policy to cover this with AMEX that only costs us about $100/year. It comes as an option on my credit card.


I actually hope they all do, since your cruise WILL be denied of you sign that in the affirmative. But if you DO lie the PLEASE quarantine yourself onboard.

I have gotten emails from people who say they were not even checked out, they were just denied. If they cannot find the doctor they might just say "too bad."

Truck Cruiser January 23rd, 2013 11:26 PM

Trust me....if i'm not feeling 100% and I'm at the cruise ship ready to board, the cruise lines will never learn that I am not feeling well!:)

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