Expulsed from cruise because our child had flu symptoms (and Down Syndrome)
This was our first family vacation traveling with our two young children; our daughter who is 2 and our son, who happens to have Down Syndrome, and is 3 and half. We chose to get on a Norwegian Cruise because we wanted a sailing port where we could drive to (NYC, we were leaving from the Montreal Area, in Canada), we figured our children were a little young for taking the plane. Once onboard we noticed that more than half the passengers on the ship were also French speaking québécois like us.
Our room was OK, not the cleanest, but it was what we reserved, a mini suite with balcony, so we were happy.
We sailed on January 1st and the very same night, unfortunately, our son started to have a slight fever associated with flu symptoms. He spent the next day in the cabin, watching TV and resting.
The second night on the ship was, according to the staff, the worst in 9 months. Of course our son, like many other passengers onboard, was sick during the night, not helping him recuperate from his flu.
On January 3rd, we arrived in Port Canaveral, FL in the morning for a day of fun in Florida. Well, it was 35 degrees and the sky was grey, so we decided to remain on the ship. As our son still had a fever, we inquired with the ship nurse to see if a consultation with the ‘doctor’ was possible. More specifically, I enquired about the medication onboard, I suspected our son had an ear infection or a throat infection (hard to tell without a medical exam as he does not speak) and might need paediatric antibiotics. I was reassured that the doctor could see him and prescribe him the appropriate medications.
I contacted our travel assurance prior to our appointment with the ship physician to have this medical visit approved prior the seeing the doctor. The Customer Service agent at our insurance company offered to refer us to a medical doctor in the vicinity, one with whom they usually ‘do business’ with. I declined saying that I spoke with the nurse and was reassured; they could see him and give him the proper medication onboard.
The doctor could see our son at 6 pm. The ship was sailing at 10pm.
When we arrived at the medical center, Dr. A. literally refused to examine our son. I told her suspected our son had an ear infection or a throat infection but Dr A. still refused to look at either his throat or his ears. Obviously it was for her liability first, patient second, especially when the patient as a flu AND Down Syndrome. Dr. A. directed us to the closed ER saying she did not have the proper equipment to see him, contrary to what we were told when we call and spoke with the ship nurse. Dr A. reassured us: we had plenty of time to seek medical advice and come back on the ship to pursue our family vacation; she was going to refer us, and arrange transportation for our family via a port agent. However, we soon found out this wasn’t exactly true. The referral was actually a letter instructing us to obtain a FIT TO TRAVEL letter to be able to be admitted back onboard.
The port agent, Sarah, was nice but she was the one that had to bring us the new about our cruise termination. Sarah said all ER she contacted had over 4-hours wait, and that, it was her experience, that ER in the area always referred young patients to paediatric hospitals. Sarah told us, if they transfer you; ask to go to Arnold Palmer [in Orlando, 55 miles away]. We asked to be transported directly to Arnold Palmer (this was already turning into a nightmare, having to be transported to an ER and that transferred to another hospital for an ear infection or a throat infection, not to mention our cruise termination), she explained the her mandate was to transport us to the nearest ER, period.
We were faced we the facts:
our son had an ear infection or a throat infection and our cruise was terminated.
We still had to take a decision:
Option 1 –Nowegian Cruise Line service
Taking the cruise service and being transported to an ER where our son would not be treated, then be transferred to another hospital we knew nothing about.
We were guaranteed to miss the embarkation time
We did not know what would become of our luggage.
Option 2 – do it yourself and take care of your family
Taking our kids and what it humanly possible to transport when traveling with a 2-year-old and a 3 and a half sick kid with Down Syndrome and a stroller
Take a taxi to a paediatric hospital
We decided in favour of option 2 and informed the staff we were just leaving, not taking their transportation. Surprisingly enough we were asked for our passports and a credit card before being authorized to leave the ship. We were informed that we were in violation of the Jones Act and that NCL was obligated to charged each and everyone of us 300$ to disembark (!?!). This misfortune was starting to cost us quite a bit but apparently we had no choice if we wanted to leave the ship, which we didn’t but were obligated to do by NCL. It did not make sense and it was really stressful.
We were able to find a taxi at 7h30 pm in cold and dark Port Canaveral and paid 130$ to go to the Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital in Orlando. On the way to Orlando we decided to go to the hotel first. Once at the hotel, our son’s fever was gone and we postponed the visit to the doctor to the next day. We were in Orlando, we live in the Montreal area in Canada and our car is parked in NYC. Nevertheless, we don’t regret consulting the ship physician and being expulsed from our cruise because the way the treated us was so horrible that being at the Airport Holiday Inn in Orlando feels much better than being on the Gem.
It is clear to us that the ship physician refused to see our child because he had Down Syndrome. It is also clear for us (and any LinkedIn member, by the way) that the ship physician is NOT a medical doctor.
We were tremendously and egregiously inconvenienced by the way they (mis) treated us and suffered economic damages (loss of our cruise, stay in the hotel, plane fare to return, etc).
NCL Guest Relations has thanked us for this opportunity to respond to our complaint, but had offered no excuse or apologies.
We are really disappointed by their customer service and the overall cruise experience.