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What Happens and What RCCL Does When Taken Off Ship to a Hospital


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this is a long review of RCCL Customer Care - who stepped up when my husband was taken off the EOS in St. Maarten and sent to the hospital.

 

In the wee hours of our third full day aboard the Explorer of the Seas my husband woke me up – he was having severe stomach cramps. Lots of people get a bit blocked up when they travel so I wasn’t alarmed. But when the cramps had gotten more severe by 8am, and he was vomiting, we went down to the medical facility for the doctor to see him.

 

She did an exam, decided it was constipation unrelated to any possible sea sickness or norovirus. She gave him something for gas, and two pills to get his plumbing going. We went back to our cabin where he threw up the pills and everything else. But that didn’t reduce the pain so back to the med facility we went.

 

He got progressively worse and by evening we were told that he would be taken ashore in St. Maarten the next afternoon, and examined at the hospital there. I was allowed to sleep on the little hospital bed next to him… sleep being a euphemism for spending the night watching him doubled over in pain.

While the nursing staff and the doctor were perfectly competent and very pleasant but it seemed that not all of the departments dealing with getting us off the ship knew what the other departments needed. I have no doubt everything was handled well in the background – but I felt clueless and adrift.

 

There were 2 other cruisers leaving by ambulance the next morning in addition to my husband and the doctor was exceedingly efficient prioritizing and working with the EMTs who had boarded to take everyone off by ambulance (picture Hawkeye, not Frank Burns doing triage on M*A*S*H). But I still felt like I was just being pushed along. Not that anything went wrong so much as I didn’t know what was going on.

 

For example, while I had assumed (I know, stupid me) that someone from the ship would come down and make sure my account was settled etc., when I finally asked “do I have to go up to settle my account, they looked at me like I was nuts and said I had better hurry up and do that.

 

No one told me what to expect other than that the hospital was notified we were coming. NOTE TO RCCL Having just one person come down and just spend 5 minutes telling me what was going on in the back ground rather than people just saying “it’s all taken care of” would have made a world of difference. Perhaps some people prefer the “we’ll handle it” approach but I’d have preferred knowing.

 

I had asked for a copy of my husband’s medical record which I needed for my insurance company. At the last moment my husband’s gurney was held up as the infirmary secretary said “hold on I need to copy his medical record for you.” Fair enough it was a zoo and I don’t fault her for not having it ready.

 

But when I was handed an envelope that looked just like the one the EMTS got to give to the hospital, I assumed it was just his medical rocords. I quickly pulled the papers out – saw that it was indeed his records and shoved then back in the envelope to catch up with the gurney.

 

No one mentioned there was also information in there for when I got to shore. It was only out of nervous energy when we were I the ER that I opened the envelope and saw that after the medical notes, was information for me, including some names and phone numbers - the most prominent of which was the “port agent.”

 

Again had someone just told me “before you go you’ll get the names and numbers of the port agent and Customer Care staff who you can call with question” it would have reduced my stress. Actually even being told “look in the envelope” would have allowed me to read the information without finding it by accident.

 

At the hospital my husband was taken into the ER, given an x-ray, and the doctor said he was going to have to admit my husband … that’s it. Up to a ward (I’m not going to describe the hospital or the care – that will vary port by port – and this is about the RCCL services) and somewhere along that process I got phone calls from two people from RCCL Customer Care.

 

Mr. Greene told me that the port agent would be my primary contact for anything I needed (and I came to learn anything means ANYTHING); then Monica called to tell me she was my contact with Customer Care and if there was anything I needed that Cleveland (the port agent) couldn’t handle, to text or phone her. During our time in St. Martin Monica also called a few times just to check up on us.

 

Thousands of miles from home, in a foreign (albeit mostly English speaking) country, not knowing what was wrong with my husband who was still in horrible pain… those two phone calls were my life line.

 

Oddly I felt less abandoned and clueless in a strange hospital then I had those last 10-12 hours on the ship. I have no complaints about the medical services… and as I said, everything was handled in the background perfectly. But I left with just trusting that something was happening without knowing anything.

 

But once on the ward (some day I’ll write up the whole story of the hospital, the hotel and Philipsburg) in walked Cleveland, the Port Agent, who introduced himself, gave me his card and told me that either I could call him or “just ask anyone, they will call me for you.” Huh? That sounded a bit egotistic. But it turned out to be true. It’s possible in a larger port than Philipsburg, St Maarten the port agents might not be as well known – but truly everyone in Philipsburg knew Cleveland, and would indeed happily call him for me.

 

I didn’t know that hotel arrangements had been made, not knowing what was available, and wanting something that felt familiar, I asked Cleveland if he could get me a reservation at a Marriott. He said he would try and later called to say that there was no Marriott on the Island but they booked me at a nice hotel.

 

I’m the first to admit to being a hotel not a B&B person. If you travel a lot you know they are different people. When I was forced to leave my husband alone at the hospital that night (that was a killer for us both) I was driven to an old somewhat run down looking (from the outside) “guest house.” I hadn’t slept in 2 days, I was not in the mood for “charming” I wanted high tech and familiar.

 

However the Pasanggrahan Guest house turned out to be a blessing. I asked if they had room service, which they didn’t. But the clerk handed me a dinner menu and said “tell me what you want, I’ll bring it to your room.” And my room was large, attractive, clean, with lots of hot water for the shower, and excellent free wifi.

 

Left to my own devices I doubt I would have chosen that hotel, but I’m so glad Cleveland did because the friendliness of the staff became my second life line. Not to mention they have The Best pancakes for breakfast and excellent pot roast which I had twice so I can’t report on much else. By breakfast the day after I arrived everyone knew I was the lady whose husband was in the hospital, just as they knew the husband of the other passenger who was admitted. The third passenger had returned to the ship.

 

We were in St. Martin from about 1:30 PM on Monday May 20, 2013 until our flight to Miami took off on Friday May 24, 2013 at 8:30 AM. During that time I went back and forth between the hospital and the hotel innumerable times, and one time needed to run to a bank. Each time I called Cleveland and in 10-15 minutes one of his drivers (all of whom I got to know) picked me up with amazing cheerfulness. When I needed to fax something and the hotel fax machine didn’t work, we walked to Cleveland’s very convenient office. When I needed to get to the bank (another long and funny story), and none of Cleveland’s drivers were around, he drove me himself.

 

As it turned out my husband had a life threatening torsion in his colon. While we had evacuation insurance and had been talking to them to have him flown back to the US for treatment, when it was finally diagnosed late in the afternoon of his second day in the hospital – an emergency non-surgical procedure to try straighten out the twist was scheduled and I was informed if that if didn’t work the surgeon was standing by and would do emergency surgery. Because he was so distended, everyone was surprised his colon hadn’t already ruptured and that even a pressurized flight (not to mention just the passage of a few more hours) could be fatal.

 

Luckily the procedure worked, and my husband’s pain was immediately relieved. He did have to stay in the hospital another night and could only be released when we SWORE we wouldn’t fly out until Friday and would come back on Thursday to the out patient clinic for a final check up.

 

Through all of this, knowing I could talk to Cleveland (it turned out his office was only 2-3 blocks from the hotel) was a comfort. He always sounded busy and like he was doing 10 things at once. But in person he exudes cheerful competence and he never ever forgot to have a driver where needed, and when.

 

Through all of this, Monica’s periodic phone calls, and more importantly having her phone number in my cell phone under “Monica RCCL” was comforting and allowed me to let my husband know we weren’t alone there.

 

My evac insurance company – MedJet Assist – was also a comfort. I called them several times, basically saying “I don’t know anything yet” but they assured me that it was good I was updating them and that when the doctor came by we should call again and they would conference in THEIR doctor to make the decision about transport. Although as I said, it became moot when the diagnosis and prognosis was made.

 

I was amazingly impressed with the support and comfort RCCL, and through them the Port Agent provided while we were in St. Maarten. I has assumed that once we were off the ship RCCL’s role in our ordeal was over. But I was wrong. Not only did they follow up – but they took the lead in ensuring we were OK, I had the support I needed and sitting here on the first leg of our flight home, I am truly grateful to the Customer Care Team of RCCL. Well done and thank you!!!!!!!!!

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So glad to hear your husband is okay but so sorry your cruise ended this way. Having seen two different gentlemen my age suffer heart attacks on different nights in the theater on one of our recent cruises I've wondered what the process of getting them off the ship to treatment might be like. May I ask please from whom you purchased your travel insurance?

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I love a story with a happy ending. I am glad to hear your husband is better and you are on your way home. I am sorry you had to go through such an experience but it is wonderful to hear about the great care and attention you received from RCL Customer Service and Cleveland. I agree that the smallest of communications that can help lower stress are often missed by Dr's and nurses when they are really busy with many issues unknown to patients and families. It is good to hear of the many positives that you remember. By posting this I think you will help others. It has made me more aware of some of the things to think to ask about, which I hope I will never have to do. Thank you for taking the time to post this.

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Nina - your story is amazing! I wonder if you realize you have much needed information at your fingertips for future cruisers? When things settle down, would you please consider a post listing, in order, what a person needs to do and needs to prepare for, when there's a medical emergency requiring deboarding the ship?

 

This would be so helpful, especially in light of your first-hand experience. If you decide to list the steps to take and know about in case of a ship-board illness, I personally promise to include a copy of your information in my suitcase on every future cruise I take!

 

Glad to know your hubby received the treatment he so obviously needed. Happy cruising to you both!

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Nina, thank you so much for your story. It really is stories like yours that should encourage everyone to take out cruise insurance. Not so much for getting reimbursed, but for the care that you, yourself, received during those very trying days.

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I'm sorry for what you went through, but I'm glad there was a happy ending.

 

When I was on Explorer back in March, I ended up in medical twice for extremely bad anxiety. We hit a really rough storm on day two, and I had a complete meltdown. The nurse and the doctor were beyond amazing. I was a complete mess for them to deal with, but they were so kind and compassionate towards me. I was so thankful they were there, otherwise my trip would have been ruined. I think they were amazing!

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Thank you for letting us know what happened. I always wondered how things worked when people were evacuated from the ship for medical reasons.

So glad your husband is well again. Have you planned any future cruises?

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So glad to hear your husband is okay but so sorry your cruise ended this way. Having seen two different gentlemen my age suffer heart attacks on different nights in the theater on one of our recent cruises I've wondered what the process of getting them off the ship to treatment might be like. May I ask please from whom you purchased your travel insurance?

 

OK, I spent a lot of time researching "cruise insurance" and found out that my basic medical insurance, which is through an HMO covers me for emergency and necessary care WORLD-WIDE. So it didn't seem like i needed cruise medical insurance. I think a lot of people buy it but don't need it.

 

Also noteworthy is that the hospital, in this case St. Maarten Medical Center does not take ANY foreign insurance - it's pay as you go. I had to provide a deposit (luckily they take credit cards). My primary HMO insurance is already processing our claim for reimbursement, pending receipt of all of the medical records.

 

What I did have is evacuation insurance (which makes me laugh given my husband's lack of evacuation medical problem) which would have airlifted him out of St. Martin if needed. That was through MedJet Assist. Since we ultimately didn't need them, I can't say how the coverage was, but the hand-holding was great.

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Nina - your story is amazing! I wonder if you realize you have much needed information at your fingertips for future cruisers? When things settle down, would you please consider a post listing, in order, what a person needs to do and needs to prepare for, when there's a medical emergency requiring deboarding the ship?

 

This would be so helpful, especially in light of your first-hand experience. If you decide to list the steps to take and know about in case of a ship-board illness, I personally promise to include a copy of your information in my suitcase on every future cruise I take!

 

Glad to know your hubby received the treatment he so obviously needed. Happy cruising to you both!

 

I would be happy to do that - when things settle down, and I'm reviewed everything. I'll post a new thread which I will link to in this tread and hopefully others will contribute too.

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I am sorry your husband was sick and had to be taken off this ship. I am happy to read that he made a full recovery and no surgery needed!

 

I can completely understand what you went through, my DH was sick and also taken off by ambulance. His experince of being taken off was flawless and very professional, all his medical records of his ship treatment were in an envelope ready and waiting. While ours was at the end of the cruise, it was in Seattle so we at least were in the US. We were able to fly home 2 days later, but his medical sage continued.

 

In the end my DH ended up having gall bladder surgery, a very scary ending as it had died and turned gangrene resulting in a weeks hospital stay and about 4 full months to recover.

 

I hope your next cruise is uneventful and that you both have a happy and healthy cruise!! :)

 

***

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Nina -thanks in advance for the detailed info you'll be giving us! I'll look forward to your post and will definitely save it for future reference (a copy will be included in my suitcase!)

 

RCCL cruisers can find the name and contact information of the Port Agent for the port you are currently visiting...it's printed in the Cruise Compass (front page, lower corner). I always bring that info ashore with me in case I need assistance while off the ship.

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So glad to hear everything turned out okay and no surgery was needed but what a terrible ordeal you both had to go through.

Maybe after you get home and settle down you could write to RCI and thank them for the all the care and attention you received - but also note that maybe they could print up a paper to give to family explaining what you will have to do (close your account, etc.) and what will happen after you leave the ship.

Welcome home!:)

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Thanks for posting your experience. I was especially happy to hear that Med Jet Assist was "there for you" even tho you did not ultimately need them. I have renewed our coverage with them every year for the last 5 (when we went to Africa and I REALLY did not want to risk being hospitalized there!). Thankfully I have never had to call on them but it is a comfort to not only have it but to know from others' experience that indeed they will take care of us if the need arises.

-------------------

Helen

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Again, I echo everyone's sentiments of thanks that your husband and you had a positive outcome. It is so kind of you to take the time to share this information as others have mentioned....you never know when you need it.

 

Joan

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