Vaccination form incomplete

My husband, William, and I were to take a 12-day Amazon River cruise aboard the Princess Regal, Jan. 16-28, 2007. The cost of our trip was $6,653 including airfare.

The Walnut Creek Urgent Care Clinic gave us the vaccinations we needed for Brazil. The Brazilian Consulate accepted these records when we obtained our visas, and in San Juan, Puerto Rico, we were accepted on board ship after the Princess agent checked our passports, Brazilian visas and immunization records.

However, at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 19, we received a call from the purser curtly telling us that our yellow fever documents were incomplete and might be rejected by Brazilian Immigration. Our forms had the clinic’s stamp and date of injection but lacked the lot number for the vaccine plus the full signature of the person who gave the injection.

We were asked to have the clinic FedEx a new original immunization form to the port agent in Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago. If the new records were not received before the ship sailed on Sunday, we would need to get off the ship there. The purser asked that we get the FedEx tracking number so the package could be followed on the Internet.

On Saturday afternoon, a day before arriving in Trinidad, we found an envelope in our stateroom with the ultimatum of leaving the ship and returning home at our own expense or signing a promissory note for a minimum of $1,500 if we decided to stay on the ship. This note would cover a possible fine by the Brazilian authorities. We were told the fine could be as much as $150,000. There is no way that a reasonable person would sign an open-ended promissory note.

On Sunday morning we were told that it would not be possible for the FedEx package to be received in Trinidad in time since mail is not delivered on the weekend. The earliest we could possibly receive it would be Monday (actually, it arrived on Tuesday). At this point, the purser arranged for the port agent to transfer us from the ship to a hotel in Port of Spain at our own expense. We lost seven days of the cruise and had to pay our way home.

Princess had never given us any more guidelines than to have proof of yellow fever vaccination. When we questioned this on the ship, we were given a vague answer suggesting that it was our responsibility to figure it out.

It is our suggestion that travelers to parts of the world requiring immunizations be very careful about where they receive their immunizations, which forms they are recorded on and what specific information is required by those countries. This seems obvious, but for this trip we thought we had done everything needed.

In the “Travel & Health” column in the January ’07 issue of ITN, Dr. Spira mentions yellow fever and the need for an International Certificate of Vaccination (ICV). Actually, our Walnut Creek clinic was not using the ICV but a yellow form stamped with the Seal of the State of California. The person administering the vaccine said the clinic always uses this particular form, even though we did have our old ICV with us that day. She preferred to use the clinic’s form.

We have had a negative response from Princess Cruises regarding how they view the problem. Essentially, they blame us for not having the correctly recorded documents, therefore they are declining to compensate us for the loss.

BerkelyCare, the carrier for trip-interruption insurance, also has refused us compensation, saying that this was not a medical reason for the interruption and therefore it is not covered. BerkelyCare is the company that provides the policies sold by Princess, so it seems that in the future it would be unwise for us to purchase insurance from a travel vendor such as a cruise line or tour operator.

Norcal Mutual Insurance, the insurance company for the Walnut Creek Urgent Care Clinic, has denied a claim, as the doctor maintains that his clinic met community standards for our care.

We continue to feel very disappointed and cheated by Princess Cruises as well as unjustly treated. It seems that Princess should, at the least, compensate us for the seven days lost on the cruise plus airfare home, as we paid Princess for this. We have been loyal customers of Princess Cruises; this was our sixth cruise with them.


Walnut Creek, CA

ITN sent a copy of the above letter to Princess Cruises (24305 Town Center Dr., Santa Clarita, CA 91355), BerkelyCare (Box 9022, Jericho, NY 11753), Walnut Creek Urgent Care (112 La Casa Via, Ste. 135, Walnut Creek, CA 94598) and the Consulate General of Brazil (300 Montgomery St., Ste. 900, San Francisco, CA 94104) and received no replies.