Several months ago, I went on a fifteen day Hawaiian Cruise. Five days into the cruise I got sick with an Upper Respiratory Infection. I went to the ship infirmary and a number of people were in the infirmary at the same time I was -- with the same symptoms. For two days I was unable to go to dinner -- when I went back to dinner on the eighth night of the cruise, several of my tablemates were getting ill -- all with the same symptoms and for those who went to the infirmary the same diagnosis. I called Celebrity Cruises and spoke with a number of people who gave me the name Michelle Taylor to e-mail her with my problems. The following letter is the e-mail I sent to Michelle Taylor and following that e-mail is her response back to me.
From: Barbara Kirkland [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Monday, May 28, 2012 7:53 PM
Subject: Sickness Aboard Celebrity Ships
I spoke with a young lady named Chelsea just a little while ago and she gave me your e-mail address in order to make a complaint about a recent cruise experience as well as two previous cruises.
I have been on nine cruises and prior to my first cruise with Celebrity a little over a year ago I had never gotten sick while aboard ship. My first cruise with Celebrity was on the Infinity in April, 2011 which went through the Panama Canal. About ten-twelve days into the voyage – I believe this was an 18 day voyage – I started getting sick; when I got home in early May I was very sick. I went to the doctor and was told I had pneumonia. I was on antibiotics for over two weeks and was sick for almost a month. In October, 2011 I went on a Transatlantic Cruise from Southhampton, England to Miami, FL on the Celebrity Eclipse – I believe it was a 13 day voyage. I got sick three or four days before reaching Miami. I went to the doctor upon returning home only to find that I had an upper respiratory infection which was on the verge of pneumonia yet again. And now the next Celebrity cruise.
I sailed on the Celebrity Century on April 20, 2012 for a fifteen day Hawaiian Cruise returning to the United States on May 5, 2012. On April 26 I got sick with a cough, fever, sore throat, etc. I went to the Infirmary on April 27, 2012 and saw the doctor wherein he prescribed the following:
1 VST New Patient LVL2 $100.00
4 Nebulizer W/OMED @ $50.00 $200.00
6 Azithromycin TB 2505216 @8.50 $51.00
20 Coricidin HBP Co 2505796 @.50 $10.00
1 Gualifenesin DM 2506428 $10.50
I have a receipt from Celebrity Cruise Lines Century Medical Center dated 4/27/2012 for check number 40013069 – Folio 8517 for the $371.50 charge. I purchased insurance prior to this voyage; however, when I contacted the insurance carrier after I returned home I was told that Medicare or my primary health care insurance would have to pay first and whatever they did not pay then they would pay the balance. That is ridiculous!
Of the seven people at my dinner table, by the end of the voyage five of us were sick with a sixth person beginning to cough, sneeze, etc. – all with the same colds, virus and/or upper respiratory infections. Everywhere we went on board ship people were sick. For two and a half days I did not leave my stateroom. My cabin steward ordered me some broth which I was able to eat and other than some water I did not drink or eat for almost three days. Upon returning home on May 5 I was still very sick and went to the doctor on Tuesday, May 8. My doctor gave me another antibiotic and sent me for blood tests to see if I had picked up some sort of viral infection. The blood test came back positive suggesting that I might have a blood clot or congestive heart failure so I was sent to the hospital on Friday, May 11, for a series of tests and chest x-rays to determine if I had a blood clot in the lungs. Thankfully, those tests were negative. I was then sent to have Doppler studies done on the lower extremities and the left arm. Those too showed no deep vein thrombosis (blood clots). So, I was sent for another blood test to check the d-dimer levels (this is what indicates blood clots) and it was still elevated. My doctor now tells me that I have a blood clot somewhere in my body but it is NOT in a part of my body that is life-threatening. That is good! Nevertheless, I am still sick.
It has become quite obvious that there is something onboard ship that makes me ill. It is very frustrating because I enjoy cruising so much and until the past year I had been very blessed with excellent health. But, I go on three cruises – same cruise line – and come home sick from all three voyages. That is just too much coincidence!!! If it was just me I would think perhaps it was just my body but with so many other people sick on this cruise one has to wonder.
My concern at this point is what will it wind up costing me for all these medical expenses. It is obvious I will have to pay something though I have Medicare for my primary health care and Blue Cross/Blue Shield for my secondary health care. It is my hope that you will be able to assist me in some way in paying these bills. I feel you should pay me for the onboard ship expenses of $371.50 and help me in some way for other expenses I may incur for the other doctor/hospital bills I have incurred since May 5, 2012. Please let me hear from you about this matter.
93 Delannoy Avenue, Unit 705
Cocoa, FL 32922
Upon sending the above letter to Michelle Taylor with Celebrity cruises, I spent weeks making phone calls to this woman since she made no effort to even acknowledge she had received my e-mail. When I finally contacted her at least a month after the e-mail she told me she had just gotten around to reading the e-mail and would research the situation and give me a call back. She never did that. After waiting for weeks I finally called Michelle Taylor gain but she did not or would not return my calls. I was finally able to speak with a number of Celebrity personnel who were sympathetic with my situation. One young lady named Chelsea was especially nice and left messages with Michelle Taylor herself to no avail. Then Chelsea even sent a message to David Banciella -- evidently Michelle Taylor's superior -- and asked that he call me himself -- he didn't. Finally, I received the following letter from Michelle Taylor. Though I do not have a scanner I am copying verbatim the letter I finally received from Michelle Taylor dated July 18, 2012:
Dear Mrs. Kirkland:
Thank you for your correspondence advising us about the illness you experienced during your recent cruise. We thank you for your patience in allowing us to review your concerns and are sorry about the unfortunate illness described in your letter.
Please rest assured that Celebrity Cruises takes all shipboard health incidents, however rare, seriously. Note that all cruise lines are required to report all outbreaks of unsafe health conditions involving passenger(s) or crew to government authorities. Our investigation of this matter indicates that, fortunately, there was no outbreak of any type of Upper Respiratory Infection or any other complaints of a similar nature from other guests during your sailing. Your Upper Respiratory Infection diagnosis appears to be an isolated incident and therefore your particular circumstance was likely not caused by any source on board the vessel.
As you might imagine, had your Upper Respiratory Infectin been caused by compromised conditions on the ship or a crew member or passenger, many other guests and/or crew would have exhibited similar symptoms -- which, fortunately, was not the case here.
Although we genuinely sympathize with you and apologize for any inconvenience you may have experienced, in view of the above circumstances we must find no liability on the part of the cruise line.
In addition, as you stated, you purchased the CruiseCare travel insurance prior to your cruise. This coverage is important should a guest become injured or sick during his or her vacation. The plan will reimburse you for your out-of-pocket medical expenses from your visit to the ship's medical facility. For reimbursement of your out-of-pocket medical expenses, please contact: Berkely Care, 300 Jericho Quadrangle, P. O. Box 9022, Jericho, New York 11753 1(800) 453-4022
We understand how an incident like this can diminish your enjoyment of your cruise and as a gesture of goodwill, we would like to extend to you a Future Cruise Certificate in the amount of $300.00 as an acknowledgement of your patronage and an opportunity for you to sail with us again soon.
For your convenience we have enclosed a general release, which we ask you to review, sign, notarize, and return to our office. Please note the Future Cruise Certificate can be combined with any other discount, is not valid on inaugral or chartered sailings and can be used on Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean or Azamara Cruises. In addition, reservations must be made by July 31, 2013. Upon receipt of the completed release, we will send the certificate to you.
We again are sorry that you had an illness during the cruise. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation. We await the opportunity to welcome you, our valued guest, back on Celebrity Cruises.
Adjuster, Guest Claims
Perhaps I am reading her note to me incorrectly but I think she has just called me a liar! I could give them the names and phone numbers of at least five people they could call and verify my story and give their own stories about their illnesses but when I volunteered to do so Celebrity informed me they could not call people to verify my story. Is that not absurd? The icing on the cake, for me, was their generous gesture of goodwill in extending me a Future Cruise Certificate in the amount of $300.00 -- almost the full amount of the expenses I incurred while onboard ship which, incidentally, Berkeley will NOT pay anything towards unless Medicare or my supplemental health care policy does not pay anything. Their reason behind this? People may be "double-dipping" -- their word, not mind -- by getting BerkelyCare to pay and then also getting Medicare and/or supplemental insurance to pay. In other words, the price of the BerkleyCare policy -- which was about $100.00 -- is worthless.
I'm sorry Michelle, but the deadline for making a reservation with your goodwill gesture has passed as I deliberately waited to respond to you until my anger had subsided somewhat. Number one: I don't lie about something as serious as having pneumonia three times in a year. Number two: I don't need money so badly that I would try to bilk CelebrityCare, Medicare and my supplemental insurance carrier of $371.50. Number three: I don't want or need your $300.00 goodwill gesture so please use it for further training which you so desperately need. Your customer service skills need dramatic improvement. Happy customers make for future sales -- unhappy customers do not make for future sales. Rest assured I will NEVER cruise with Celebrity Cruises again and while, prior to this experience, my praise of Celebrity was unmatched, that is no longer the case. I have had enough of Celebrity Cruises; please be assured that in the future when friends, family, etc. and I discuss cruises I will be sure to avail them of my experiences with you.