Most people on most cruises are middle aged and older. Any time you get a thousand or more middle aged and elderly people together for a week or so, simple unavoidable statistics dictate the likelihood of at least one person becoming critically unwell, or even of dying.
So cruise lines are no strangers to issues to do with passengers needing critical care during a cruise. No-one is disputing that, not even the cruise lines. But what is in dispute is the adequacy of the care arrangements the cruise lines make.
Unsurprisingly, if a passenger has a serious medical emergency, the cruise ship offloads the passenger at a shore hospital with more sophisticated facilities for patient treatment and care. But depending on where the cruise ship is at the time the emergency occurs, the closest hospital may not always be the best hospital – and, more to the point, it may not be a suitable choice of location at all.
That of course is something that we as passengers understand. If we, for example, go on a world cruise that involves sometimes multiple days at sea far from any port at all, and weeks at a time touring around the horn of Africa or other places where medical care is much less advanced than we are privileged to enjoy at home, we of course accept the implied risks inherent in our choice of cruise itinerary.
But there’s surely an obligation on the cruise lines to make the best choice they possibly can when it comes to deciding what hospital, in what port, to offload a passenger. We as passengers can’t be expected to research the health care services at every hospital in every port on our itinerary, and to have a type of ‘living will’ list of where we wish to be taken in the event of incapacitation. The cruise lines, with their many ships going around the same itineraries all the time, surely can be expected to build up a database of the best hospital facilities.
The cruise lines can also be expected to add further value by creating a ‘concierge’ type relationship with their preferred hospitals. Just like concierges have special relationships with restaurants and theaters that can enable the concierge to get preferential treatment for their guests, surely the cruise lines can ensure that their passengers are given full fair treatment when hospitalized. It is a simple concept – ‘We will designate you our preferred hospital on this island if you in turn agree to follow best medical practices in caring for our passengers’. The hospitals get a steady flow of patients, who they can charge western rates of health care services to, and the patients get the western standards of healthcare they expect and hope for. Everyone wins.
So in a perfect world, that is what would happen. But in the real world? Read this horror story about an unfortunate passenger’s experiences after being disembarked from Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas and transferred to a hospital on the Caribbean island of St Kitts.
Not to downplay the terrible tragedy of what unfolded for the passenger, but the thing that horrifies me the most is the denial and non-responsive response from Royal Caribbean. Where is there any indication of any interest at all in the cruise line seeking to add any value at all to this key part of managing their passengers’ experiences?
Royal Caribbean’s spokeswoman says
The health and safety of our guests is always our foremost concern
without seeming to notice or care that simply saying this doesn’t make it so, and indeed, their actions seem to colossally contradict their claim of the health and safety of their guests being their foremost concern at all.
Shame on Royal Caribbean.