In the past week, USA Today published an online article relating the story of a couple who had been “kicked off” their cruise ship when the wife developed internal bleeding from an ulcer. Reportedly, the cruise ship physician and staff felt the woman’s situation was critical enough that she required hospital care. The couple declined the option to seek medical treatment in the destination, so the cruise line made arrangements to taxi her from the next port to the airport for return flights to Miami to seek medical care in the United States (at the couples’ expense). The couple didn’t speak the language. They felt unsafe, and they didn’t know to whom they could turn for assistance in a foreign country. On the flight home the wife was writing out a will, thinking she wouldn’t make it home alive. The whole story is the stuff of a lot of traveler’s nightmares—even experienced travelers such as this senior couple. So, what are some ways you may prevent this from happening to you?
First, use a travel professional to arrange your trip. Your travel consultant will serve as an advocate and a point of contact with the cruise line and with friends/family, and he/she will also be able to assist in making arrangements to get back home.
Second, register your trip with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). This will give you access to an English-speaking point of contact within the destination, and the local consulate/embassy staff will be able to provide assistance to travelers in the event of an emergency. Likewise, the State Department has a 24-hour Consular Emergency Line that may be called from outside the United States.
Third, purchase travel insurance. I cannot stress this enough! When you have a travel insurance policy in place—especially with a company like Travel Guard, which I regularly offer my clients—the travel insurance policy will include 24-hour worldwide emergency assistance. You’ll have access to English-speaking interpreters. In the event that money is required up front before medical treatment will be provided, your travel insurance company can help front the money so you can get the treatment you need. The travel insurance company is also able to assist in making travel arrangements to get you back home—including ambulances and private flights. It’s a small price to pay for peace of mind, and a whole lot of very useful service and support when you really need help, regardless of where you travel.
Fourth, get a pre-trip health check-up with your doctor to make sure you’re healthy enough for the anticipated trip. In the case of the female passenger who was kicked off the cruise ship, one would assume she knew of, and was treating, the ulcer prior to travel. If you’re taking medications for a medical condition, or you have physical limitations, all of these should be taken into consideration when considering how to experience your next trip. For example, if you have a known heart condition, an escorted tour or itinerary requiring a lot of physical activity may not be appropriate for you. Be honest with yourself (and your travel consultant) about what you can/cannot physically tolerate. In foreign countries there may be limited medical facilities available where you’re traveling. Likewise, the medical facilities onboard a cruise ship are not fully equipped like a hospital.
Fifth, have a formal will in place prior to travel. Medical emergencies may occur without warning. Making major decisions during a stressful situation is not ideal and may have some serious outcomes. I’ll also add here that if you are a parent who is leaving minor children at home with a caretaker, I always advise my clients to leave a notarized Parental Consent Form with the children’s caretaker so that in the event the child needs medical treatment while the parents are away, the caretaker is authorized to seek treatment for the child.
While the idea of being “kicked off” a cruise ship in a foreign country is certainly a scary one, there are many ways to make the situation better. Working with a professional travel consultant like me is the first step to ensuring you have the care and support you need should a medical emergency occur while you travel.
me today to make your travel arrangements. I provide support before, during, and after your trip. Wherever you travel in the world, you won’t be “stranded” when you work with Jennifer Walker Travel.
Until next time…