Kicked off my cruise for peeing near the pool

Nice day for swim. / Photo by A. Tinworth - Flickr
When Karen Del Zoppo’s husband suffered a heart attack two years ago, he sustained severe anoxic brain damage, which left him with the mental state and motor skills of a two-year-old.

Del Zoppo didn’t want that to stop the family from enjoying a vacation. As a registered nurse, she’s more than capable of caring for her mentally handicapped husband. So she recently booked a getaway for the couple and her brother and sister-in-law — a western Mediterranean cruise that left from Venice, Italy.

And that’s when the incident happened.

Before I get to the details, a warning: This case is not for the squeamish and it contains some adult themes. If you are easily offended, please stop reading now.

After checking into the cabin, Del Zoppo and the rest of the party went to the pool and enjoyed a few drinks after the long flight. At one point, her husband stood, walked to the edge of the pool, and relieved himself.

I did run to my husband to attempt him to stop, but he gently pushed me aside to finish his basic need.

Please be aware, he did not pull his bathing suit down, but covered his penis by pulling it out of the top of the bathing suit, and held his hand around it, and nothing could be seen except the stream by the pool’s edge.

The passengers who witnessed Del Zoppo’s accident were outraged.

One irate passenger who saw this told me that my husband was an animal, and belonged in a cage, and not on this cruise. He continued to repeat this incident to anyone who would listen, and made an incident report.

Things did not end well. A Holland America representative suggested her husband might be a threat, because passengers saw her husband pushing her away while he tried to do his business. But she says they weren’t aware of his condition.

Anoxic brain damage happens when the brain doesn’t get enough oxygen for several minutes or longer, and the damage is said to be permanent. In other words, while her husband looks like an adult, he is very much a child.

My husband cannot even make a fist, and lacks motor control in his hands. He can’t even open a soda bottle or jar for me. His equilibrium is also abnormal.

He has never been anything but friendly. Even the security guards that were posted at our room, said he was no problem and extremely pleasant.

But Holland America had made its decision: It said her brother and sister-in-law could stay, but insisted they disembark immediately, before the ship set sail. They returned to the States, and were told they couldn’t get a refund for their portion of the cruise.

“I am beside myself with this treatment that we encountered, and the loss of a great deal of my hard-earned money,” she told me.

She wants me to help her get a refund.

Holland America’s cruise contract, which passengers must agree to before boarding, is clear about its liability: it has none.

Section 6 of its contract spells it out, saying guests may be removed from a cruise for any reason, including,

(a) you are or become in such condition as to be unfit to travel or dangerous or obnoxious to other passengers or employees; (b) you are inadmissible under the immigration or other laws of any country included in the Cruise, Cruisetour or Land Trip itinerary or fail at any time to possess required travel documents; or (c) you fail to abide by the rules or orders of the Master or other ship’s officers.

And what are your remedies if you’re kicked off the ship? You have none.

If transportation is denied after departure, you and your baggage may be landed or transported to any port or location that we select, without any resulting liability for refund, payment, compensation or credit on our part. If you are disembarked or any other actions are taken for any reason pursuant to this paragraph A.6, you will not be entitled to any refunds or damages.

I have mixed feelings about this one. Yes, I could talk to Holland America about this involuntary disembarkation, and it might review the incident and offer her something — a cruise credit or a partial refund of the $11,000 she spent. Based on my past experience dealing with Holland America, I would say it’s unlikely.

But the cruise line was well within its rights to remove the passenger, at least as far as its cruise contract is concerned. Should it have done so? That’s debatable.

Update: (10 a.m.) The debate appears to be over. I just received a note from Holland America that while it stands by its decision to disembark the couple, it has decided to give them a refund. It says the decision was made last week. I am contacting the customer now to confirm.

Update: (1:30 p.m.) And here’s the confirmation from the customer to my question of whether Holland America had offered a refund.

Yes, they are. I kept posting on their facebook page. I think they weren’t too happy with it! I’m so GLAD!

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Sadie_Cee

    Holland America asked the OP and her husband to leave the cruise because his behavior was unpredictable.  With his level of mental disability, no one would be able to predict how Mr. Del Zoppo would act from one moment to the next.  His caregivers clearly were unable to control his random actions.  As anti-social as relieving himself in the pool was, he could have done something to cause greater harm.  Once HA became aware of his condition, HA had no choice but to take the necessary action. 
    HA as a cruise operator has a wide range of responsibility and was forced to act in the best interests of all concerned.  If HA had allowed Mr. Del Zoppo to remain on board it would be opening itself to untold liabilities.  Clearly, Mr. Del Zoppo’s mental disabilities could cause him to injure himself, another cruise passenger, a member of staff or cause damage to the vessel itself.
    I do see how this case illustrates the truth of the statement that ‘love is blind’.  The OP obviously adores her husband and while on an intellectual level she is aware of the extent of his disabilities, emotionally she is unable to admit that a cruise of this nature would be an inappropriate environment for him.
    It seems that HA has made a refund which is very generous of them.  On the next family travel  venture, it would be wise for the OP to disclose to carriers her husband’s condition and find out their policies regarding disabled passengers in advance.

  • Lindabator

    This isn’t just a matter of inappropriateness – due to his size, and his wife’s inabiltity to control him, what’s to stop him from harming someone else or himself next time?  They have to put the safety of everyone on that ship first – she should never have booked this cruise without the proper care for him, and she was obviously not that person.

  • Lindabator

    AMEN!  Would it still okay to these folks if he pulled it out at dinner???

  • Lindabator

    You are too much!  :)

  • Rosered7033

    I now fully understand why caveats are issued with settlements. HAL should have only refunded her with the express understanding she cease & desist all relevant postings & discussions. She’s gone WAY overboard (excuse the pun) with this.

  • TonyA_says

    I gotta believe these folks were drinking cocktails when this happened.

  • TonyA_says

    Weirder Facebook Posting
    Please note the OP bought a GPS tracking device for her DH.

    Karen Del Zoppo commented on’m trying very hardly to get this equipment to work, but have not succeeded! The watch never fully charges via the locator icon (and does NOT shut off). Most of the time, the portable receiver just keeps locating forever with no results. It’s difficult trying to arrange times to correspond with customer support in Spain, as I need someone at home to help me with the testing.I CANNOT let my husband take off alone, and then try to find him! When I purchased this, I thought I would be communicating with someone in the US. I’m truly disgusted and annoyed right now with this system and correspondence.


    Wait a minute. If you buy a GPS tracking device, it means you are expecting your husband to walk farther away from you. Far enough to see street level maps. That’s the whole point for a GPS device. But from what we have learned about what happened in the ship, her husband cannot even be left alone within eyesight range.

    I now wonder. If she really bought a GPS device for him, was the husband left alone to wander by himself on the ship (while the other 3 went drinking)?

  • Lindabator

    Nope – too busy having drinks by the pool – didn’t even NOTICE his getting out of the chair.

  • Lindabator

    HAl has always been a classy company, I just think in this case they may have been too generous (as was Seabourn with the lazy wife)

  • Sadie_Cee

    Sounds like a real piece of work! 

  • Lindabator

    Amen – mine’s gone – too bad HAL gave her ANYTHING!

  • TonyA_says

     No wonder she bought a GPS tracking device for her husband.

  • Rosered7033

    Btw, on her FB page she rants about an “Alzheimer’s GPS watch” she apparently bought to help her keep track of her husband. Wrong on SO many levels.

  • Lindabator

    She still thinks she’s done nothing wrong, and everyone else should just deal with it.  She is one person who NEVER should have gotten this refund.

  • Rosered7033

    Well said- apparently you and I saw the same thing at the same time.

  • Lindabator

    Well, like HOUSE said – everyone lies!  (You do a great job, and its really terrible when folks like this use you as their tool, when they clearly are only out to punish HAL for their reckless and ridiculous choices!)

  • Lindabator

    Yes, they are a classy company – too bad they can’t say the same for all their guests!

  • TonyA_says

     Looks like the husband is a social person who wants to wander around. The way the sister-in-law described him (he is a happy guy who has a love of music, dancing, and people) and the need for a GPS tracking device points to that conclusion. Having said that, I don’t think you want him wandering around swimming pools.

  • Raven_Altosk

    “Special Needs Guy Stalks a Kid on a Di$ney Cruise”

    I’ll bet good money this isn’t the first time something like this has happened and a contributing factor to why HAL is totally CYA in the OP’s case.

  • LeeAnneClark

    And just the very fact that they think it’s no big deal when a grown man walks up to a pool and pisses in it, and that anyone who objects to it is making “something bigger than what it was” pretty much says it all.  The person I feel the most sorry for is the disabled husband, who apparently is being dragged all over the world and left unsupervised. 

    What a tragic story.

  • LeeAnneClark

    You have brought up a key point in this incident which I believe has been largely overlooked:  you simply cannot compare a full-grown adult male with a small 2 yr. old child.  This family seems to think that because he has the mental abilities of a 2-yr-old, he should be viewed and treated like an actual 2-yr-old child.

    But he is NOT a child.  He has the body of a man, and was obviously strong enough to push his wife away when she tried to stop him from doing something objectionable and disturbing.  If a 2-yr-old throws a tantrum in public when they don’t get their way (as 2-yr-olds are prone to doing), you pick the kid up and dash him off to his room and put him in time-out.

    Tell me, what do you do when a full-grown adult male throws a tantrum, or swings his fist in frustration, or refuses to stop doing something? 

    Just take a few moments to think about how normal, ordinary 2-yr-olds behave.  And now, imagine that 2-yr-old doing all of those things…in a man’s body.

    I find it utterly mind-boggling that this family seems to think that everyone is required to accommodate this severely handicapped person’s needs, whatever they may be including the need to urinate in public.  The selfishness and entitlement is stunning.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Yeah, I saw that.  Wow.  Just…wow.  I hope she publicly posts her future vacation plans, so I can make a point of not being in the same country, much less the same city or :::shudder::: on the same cruise ship with her and her overly-entitled I’m-the-boss-of-you attitude.

  • gritchie

    Holland America… in future, please don’t back down from people like Del Zoppo. You did the right thing in disembarking her and her husband. It’s just a shame you knuckled under to her ranting and gave her a refund.

  • backprop

    One thing is for sure after reading the facebook posts – this woman is a grade-A loser.  Total bottom of the trash heap.  Any remains of sympathy I had for the situation (though I was never for a refund) have since evaporated.  And I’m really disappointed that Holland America caved to this piece of garbage.

  • TonyA_says

    Anyway WELCOME! and come back (post) soon. Look’s like you’ll fit right in :-)

  • TonyA_says

     Hey, that is some very scary stuff. Stalkers in a ship!

  • Bagus Nourse

    Next time he should not pee near the pool, but while in the pool like everyone else.

  • Deb Kelly

    Depends on who you talk to and which day it is….the story keeps changing.

    I’ve always believed that if you tell the truth to begin with then it isn’t hard to remember what you said.

    Clearly, none of them practice that. 

  • Deb Kelly

    In the future if I were you, I’d search their name and add facebook at the end since most people do have accounts.  I’ve found her posts doing a google search with just her name. 
    I’m sure you’re thinking “fool me once….”  Better luck next week with whoever you decide to post about.

  • jennj99738

     Since you think the family should get a voucher for future travel that the husband should be put on another cruise?  What makes you think the next cruise will be different?  The wife unfortunately can’t care for her husband herself and he can’t go around urinating in public. 

    I understand this matter has been resolved but I am curious why you believe a voucher for a future cruise should be offered to this couple. 

  • Ann Lamoy

    Wow, that last post of hers is just pure obnoxiousness. You can believe I’ll put HAL on my list of cruise lines that I will trust if this is how they handle obnoxious people like her. It seems pretty clear they did remove them for good reason and refunded their money even though they didn’t have to. Although I wish they hadn’t. The cursetomer isn’t always right.

  • Ann Lamoy

    What an unpleasant person. I feel very badly for her husband tbh.

  • Ann Lamoy

    The only thing I feel bad for Mrs. Del Zeppo about is the fact that her husband suffered the heart attack and the brain anoxia. Other than that, I think she is a horrible person.

    My sympathies with this situation lie completely with the husband and HAL. The husband because his wife was selfish enough to take him completely out of his comfort zone and put him in a bad situation. And also for her to exploit him and put his picture all over FB? Disgusting.

    HAL did the right thing by making the couple leave the ship. They’ve also handled the whole brough-ha-ha brought about on their FB page with class and dignity. Frankly I wish they hadn’t refunded her the entire amount. The cursetomer isn’t always right.Hopefully they will pass her name around the cruise lines and they will ban her from taking a cruise.

  • Rosered7033

    Holy S***T, Mickey! That is one scary thread! Concerns me that the post was closed in less than two days – damage control?

  • Raven_Altosk

    That would be my guess. 

    I searched those boards for more info and learned that the locals there are annoyed because after that, Di$ney started strictly enforcing their age limits. No more 17 yr olds with the mental capacity of 7 year olds in the little kid area.

  • Linda Loudermilk Tomberlin

    I’m so very sorry for her husband’s condition, and I do understand that he can’t control his behavior.  However, that means you shouldn’t take him on a cruise where he will be expected to behave like an adult.  

  • Linda Loudermilk Tomberlin

     Who’s to say he wouldn’t urinate in a fountain?  Or a hallway? 

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Even worse is this one where she makes a joke about him getting ready to pee in the boat. 

    I’m all for dark comedy and “better to laugh than cry” and I certainly don’t envy her circumstances, but she’s over-the-top.

  • Jen Armstrong

     Well maybe he would have been better supervised in the childrens’ program. I’m assuming the workers there are probably prepared for someone who doesn’t realize that it’s not okay to pee in a pool, and the supervision would have been better than what he got from his wife. That’s why I suggested that.  Maybe he was overwhelmed by the huge crowds or something, and that led him to act inappropriately.  He might have even had more fun, and so would the rest of his family knowing they didn’t have to watch him so closely. I don’t think he would’ve been “everyone else’s problem” any more than a child passenger would have been. Or maybe going on a cruise wasn’t a good idea in the first place for them, but obviously I can’t make that decision.

  • Terri Lundberg

    I think her husband’s condition does not excuse the fact that he urinated in the pool.  In fact, his condition, in my opinion is irrelevant.  They probably had to empty that pool and refill.  So how long were the other paying customers without the pool because her husband’s actions?  Though I feel for her situation, she clearly did not have control of her husband/charge, and if I were in the pool and her husband starting peeing in it, I’d be irate as well, and would have complained as well. I don’t care about seeing his penis.  Who cares!  I’m a big girl.  What I don’t want to see is him pissing in the pool.  

    I don’t even think more information is needed.  Even if Holland America had known about his condition, I can guarantee they didn’t know he may pee in the pool.  If she had told them, “well I can’t control him sometimes and things may get a little out of hand or disruptive,” they may have told her to choose another cruise line.  

    They should consider themselves lucky they got the money back, because Holland America lost on that deal.  They had an empty cabin they could have sold to someone else, they had to refill the pool, and then they gave them back the entire $11,000.  SMH

  • pauletteb

    “…she’s more than capable of caring for her mentally handicapped husband.”  If that were the case, she would know that, just like a two-year-old, she had to keep an eye on him every second. Instead, she was too busy enjoying herself to notice that her husband had wandered off until he started relieving himself, potentially contaminating the pool area in the process. Holland America was well within its rights to kick Del Zoppo and her husband off the ship, for her husband’s safety as well as for the health and well-being of others. That being said, I can’t imagine the difficulty and heartache she experiences on a daily basis, and  I’m glad the cruise line refunded her money.  BTW:  The passenger who through the hissy fit is an ass!

  • cjr001

    Unfortunately, because she got her refund, I doubt she will learn anything from this.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    I’m sure you’re right, cjr.  Like the sun rises in the East, so will idiots like this go on being idiots.

  • cjr001

    What a manipulative… well, I shouldn’t finish that thought.

    Now that she’s ‘won’ this battle, there’s probably no end of things she’ll put her poor husband through for a little attention.

  • MN mom

     He is a GROWN man with a brain injury.  You don’t put a grown man in a child’s program.  This is a cruise ship – if you need a supervised program for him, then a cruise isn’t the vacation for him, plain and simple.  Do you think the  workers in the children’s program are trained to deal with brain injured adults and their issues?  If his own wife couldn’t control when and where he exposed and relieved himself, how do you expect the childcare workers to do that?  And what children are you willing to have him expose himself to in the process?  What if he decides to relieve other “basic needs” while there?  Would that be alright, too?  If he gets upset or angry, he is a full grown man – how do you suggest that HAL protect the children in the program against him if he turns violent?  And with brain injuries, there are no guarantees with behaviors – it’s sad, but it’s the facts.  Would you put YOUR child in that situation and be willing to accept the consequences of what might happen?  i wouldn’t, and i would never ask anyone else to, either.  i’d be furious with HAL if they expected other parents to put their children at risk in order to “supervise” an adult who clearly should not be on board due to health issues. This isn’t about equality for the disabled, this is about what’s right for THIS man and his needs……and it is obvious from all that has been detailed here and on fb that his needs are great and his abilities are few.  The decision to take him on such a trip was misguided at best, and asking an entire ship filled with passengers and crew to accommodate HER poor decision is rude, selfish, and beyond comprehension.  LOTS of people on that ship scrimped and saved in order to take THEIR dream vacation.  Why should they have to make sacrifices to their trip in order to accommodate hers?  Her behavior since has been deplorable.  HAL has been gracious with her and arranged contact with their guest relations to be in touch with her back in May – it’s all documented on fb.  At that point, she should have dropped from public sight and dealt straight with HAL, but instead she continued to badger other fb users, taunt people, call folks names, and generally behave in a highly inappropriate manner.  If i were HAL, i would have cut off all talks at that time and refused to even consider a refund.  HAL took the high road and did offer her a refund and she STILL chose to behave in a childish and boorish manner.  These are the people who make it difficult for the people who really need and deserve the compassion of a company to receive it.  Karen should be ashamed of herself, but i’m guessing she’s gloating all the way to the bank.  i feel for her husband, but i loathe that woman and her actions. 

  • Rosered7033

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. Ms. Armstrong needs to put on her thinking cap before making statements such as those, and then trying to defend them. I would be enraged if HA allowed what she suggested.

  • MarkieA

    I’d be shocked, too if someone peed in me! Sorry, had to do it :)

  • Jen Armstrong

     Okay, you don’t have to be mean. For your information, I have a master’s degree and I know how to use my “thinking cap,” thank you! I was unaware how annoying the wife had been. I was simply commenting on the fact that the husband’s brain injury made him to act like a child, so perhaps the childrens’ program might have been an appropriate option. And for the record, I have a physical disability myself and that is what sparked my interest in this case.

  • LipglossandaBackpack

    Someone needs to call social services (on Staten Island?) and they need to investigate whether Karen Del Zappo is competent to act as the caregiver for her husband.  As a teacher, if the parent of one of my students was behaving in the manner of Karen Del Zappo, it would be my legal responsibility to call social services.  She is not demonstrating sound judgment or mental competence, and her husband may be at risk. 

  • MN mom

     i understand where you were coming from – i think – but just because an adult acts like a child – for whatever reason – doesn’t make it appropriate to put them in children’s programs.  Acting “like” children and being a child are two very different things, especially when adults have the strength and body of well, adults.  The wife’s poor behavior aside, a child’s program is no place for any adult with a brain injury.