Unexpected Disembarkation (Part 2 of 2)

This item appears on page 24 of the January 2021 issue.

At the end of ITN subscriber Pamela Zent’s letter “Unexpected Disembarkation” (June ’20, pg. 25), in which she described being left near the dock with her luggage in New York City after having to disembark a ship to join her husband, who had been taken by ambulance from the ship to the hospital, she wrote, “From ITN readers, I would really just like to know if other couples on a cruise have found themselves in a predicament where one member ended up in the hospital onshore and the other had to pack up and leave. What assistance did the ship’s staff offer the wife or husband in getting off the ship and on their way?”

So we asked subscribers to write in on the topic of an Unexpected Disembarkation in the middle of a cruise. What assistance did the ship’s staff provide? What was arranged?

A few letters were printed in last month’s issue. A few more appear below.

My parents, Jean and Bud Marchant, and my husband, Jerry, and I were on the eve of embarking on a 12-day, September 2009 cruise from Istanbul to Venice when my father fell ill and was hospitalized in Istanbul.

In Turkey, when a family member is hospitalized, another person must stay in the hospital with them to assist with feeding, etc., so my mother had to move in with him.

My husband and I went ahead and embarked the Crystal Serenity the following day. The concierge on board already had received the details from Crystal Cruises (Miami, FL; 866/866-8025, www.crystalcruises.com).

They reached out to us as soon as we boarded and helped us call (for free) our travel agent as well as the hospital where my parents were, the American Hospital in Istanbul. Keep in mind, this was in 2009, before cell phones would work internationally and when ship-to-shore calls were very expensive. We were in regular touch with the hospital.

Bud was due to be released the day we arrived in Kuşadası. (Turns out he had diverticulitis, which he never had before or has had since.)

Without our having to do anything, Crystal arranged to have my parents picked up from the hospital and taken to the Istanbul airport and flown to İzmir, Turkey. Someone representing Crystal met them at the İzmir airport, drove them about three hours to the ship and helped them embark.

We never had to work to contact the concierge on the ship. They reached out to us and kept us constantly informed.

From then on, we all proceeded on our trip without incident. The ship’s doctor checked in with my father from time to time, but he was fine.

My parents never were asked for a cent to pay for the transfer from the hospital all the way to the ship, including the flight. They expected to receive a bill to submit to their travel insurance but were informed that Crystal (with maybe some contribution from Frosch Travel [Larkspur, CA; 415/456-2000, ext. 101], through our agent, Jeanne Sibley; we never were told) had taken care of it.

The only thing the whole incident cost them was missing three days of their cruise plus the amazingly small medical bill for the hospital stay, which their Kaiser Permanente Medicare Advantage Plan reimbursed them for.

Susan Angel
San Rafael, CA



The year was 2001, but it seems like only last year. My husband, Kirk, was a chaplain on board a Holland America Line (Seattle, WA; 877/932-4259, www.hollandamerica.com) ship sailing from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, through the Panama Canal and down and around South America, ending in Brazil.

Three days before we arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Kirk thought he had a urinary tract infection. I accompanied him to the ship’s infirmary, where he was given some medication. The next day, his symptoms worsened, and he was kept in the ship’s infirmary overnight to provide him with necessary IV fluids to help prevent kidney failure.

Since the ship was to dock in Buenos Aires for two nights, the decision was made to send him to a hospital there. An ambulance picked us up, and after Kirk was admitted, I returned to the ship to pack our baggage.

Most of our luggage was taken to the Holland America Line office for safekeeping until we were ready to leave Argentina. At this point, the cruise line was no longer responsible for Kirk and me, other than getting the luggage to the airport for our flight to Miami five days out.

Kirk and I flew first class to Miami with the doctor who was taking care of him in Buenos Aires. We had to change planes several times before arriving in High Point, North Carolina. Kirk spent 20 days in the hospital, having to have a kidney and ureter removed because of cancer.

All the travel plans from the hospital to home were arranged by the Pensions Board of the Presbyterian Church (USA), but we would not have made it without the ship’s help in each detail.

Kirk and I always found Holland America Line to be the best.

Dorothy N. Allen
High Point, NC



My husband, Ed, and I were aboard the Queen Mary 2 (Cunard; 800/728-6273, cunard.com) in 2011 on a 21-day cruise around the British Isles, from New York to New York, when he became sick. He was cared for by doctors in the ship’s hospital.

The morning the ship anchored for Edinburgh, Scotland, Sept. 18, he was taken ashore by tender without me and then by ambulance to St. Margaret’s Hospital in Dunfermline.

I was sent to our stateroom to pack our luggage. I declined the offer of having someone do it for me. We had two large bags, two carry-on bags, a folding wheelchair and portable oxygen.

Our luggage was carried for me to the ship’s hospital, where I waited for the ship’s agent to come aboard. By tender, he escorted me and the luggage to shore to a vehicle for transport to the emergency room at St. Margaret’s.

My smiling husband, his condition improved, was propped up in bed in a private ER room. A locked box on the wall held medicines the staff was authorized to use regardless of cost; they explained that Scotland had universal health care. I was later provided with an official list of the drugs used.

After about eight hours, Ed was moved to a ward for eight men. Privacy was by movable curtains.

Since overnight visiting was not allowed, at about 11 p.m. a taxi was called to take me and my overnight bags to a luxury hotel booked for me by Cunard and ultimately paid for by my CunardCare Guest Protection insurance. The bulky luggage was kept at the hospital.

The next morning, after an excellent breakfast, a taxi returned me to the hospital.

As a foreign guest, I was allowed visiting privileges each day, and nurses were kind enough to pay for my lunches in their dining room. (In retrospect, I should have exchanged dollars for pounds at Reception on the ship.) In the head nurse’s office, I was allowed unlimited calls and emails to the US, as I had no cell phone.

On the second night, a taxi took me to a Holiday Inn, where I would spend two nights. The hotel manager put the taxi fares and food on the hotel account, ultimately paid by CunardCare.

During the day, a lung specialist shared his care plan for Ed, with which I agreed. In addition, Ed was cared for by nurses, the ward doctor and even the custodian. Meanwhile, I was cared for by hospital staff, Cunard in London, Cunard in America, my travel agent in Fort Worth and, by email and phone, family and friends.

After suppertime on the third day, Ed was moved across the hall to a private room. I left him that night tucked in bed, smiling and joking with the nurse seated beside him.

Ed died peacefully at 4:45 a.m. on Sept. 21, the first patient the floor had ever lost. The hospital staff grieved. They helped me with my grief and required tasks.

They called around until they located a Scottish registry office open that day, where I went to register the death per Scottish law, answering questions in person. The US Consulate was called, which sent to my home address the paperwork I needed, including Ed’s death certificate. The nurses also selected a funeral business, where I went to make arrangements.

The nurses arranged for a taxi to take me to all the places, the last one being the airport, from which I flew in a small aircraft to London’s Heathrow Airport.

The hospital had accepted my husband’s wheelchair and disposed of his portable oxygen. I asked for my bill, but there was none; it was all paid for by Scottish health care.

Meanwhile, Cunard and my travel agent had arranged my transportation home. Three bags were picked up at the hotel to be delivered by air freight to my house. After the small aircraft flight, I spent the night at the luxury Heathrow Sofitel before flying home on Sept. 22.

At breakfast, a German psychiatrist on his way to speak at an international meeting observed me at the next table. He gave me an hour of his counsel. On the nonstop flight home, my seatmate was hoping to get home before his father died. I remember his warm hand over mine.

The Scottish funeral business kept the body until it was air-freighted to the US, about 30 days later, expenses paid by my travel insurance. The casket was a simple pine box with beautiful brass fittings, a name plate with date and a small window. He was in a burial gown.

Though I did guarantee services by credit card when asked, as at the hotels, my costs were covered, including the Scottish mortuary and repatriation.

My Virtuoso travel agent, Nancy Moody (Ft. Worth, TX; 800/576-7153, nancy@travelxperts.com), spent hours filing the insurance claims with me at her side. I had the CunardCare Guest Protection insurance (purchased through Nancy on her advice) plus a Medicare Supplement plan.

Cunard and CunardCare in London made all the changes in accommodations and flights, and I did not pay for the hotels or flights. My notes show numerous calls from CunardCare. Cunard coordinated with my travel agent.

I did not get refunds from Cunard for unused cruise days or for air from LaGuardia to Dallas arranged through the Cunard CompleteAir Program, an option I used when I originally booked the cruise.

I cannot say enough about the kindness of everyone who helped me.

Mildred Hestand
Mineral Wells, TX