How to get help for a “horrible, frightening and costly” cruise

By | July 8th, 2016

To say Richard Zitser had a bad cruise might be something of an understatement. And to suggest there’s a quick fix, or any fix, might be untrue.

Zitser, a passenger on a Caribbean cruise on the Oceania Insignia, says he was removed from the ship after complaining of vertigo. He bounced between a hospital in Barbados and the cruise ship for several days before coming back to the States.

He wants Oceania to cover the $30,000 he had to spend to get home — money he says he wouldn’t have needed to spend if Oceania hadn’t shown him the plank.

I’m not sure if this is an advocate-able — or winnable — case, but there are plenty of takeaways for all of us. I’ll get to those in a second.

First, let’s hear from Zitser. I’ll give you the abbreviated version, but you can also review his lengthy complaint on our help forum.

My wife and I had a horrible, frightening and costly experience while cruising on the Oceania Insignia.

We had gone to the ship’s doctor because I had a mild case of vertigo, which I have not had in five years. The doctor insisted it was much more than vertigo, never checking my eyes or ears.

My wife used her cell phone to call our doctor, who told the ship’s doctor, who told the doctor it was simply vertigo. But the ship’s doctor sent us by ambulance to a hospital in Barbados.

I was abruptly and rudely thrown onto a gurney, taken down a steep, loading plank and into an old ambulance.

Thus began a six-day ordeal, where my wife and I were locked in a dirty “clinic” by a doctor who never examined me in any way whatsoever and sent a form to the ship saying I was unseaworthy, thus forcing us off the ship.

We were locked in the clinic from the inside. A sympathetic employee helped us escape.

We made it back to the ship only to find out we were not allowed on the ship, because I was “unseaworthy.”

You get the idea.

Zitser wants to know if he can recover any of the $30,000 in estimated expenses that he incurred as the result of his incarceration in Barbados.

This isn’t an easy case. First, there’s Oceania’s ticket contract, the adhesion contract to which Zitser agreed. Section 8 makes clear that the cruise ship can remove him for almost any reason. (“We reserve the right, in Our sole discretion, to deny embarkation to any person for any reason other than discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual preference, disability or other legally impermissible classification.”)

Second, it appears that offloading the Zitsers was the result of a diagnosis of the onboard medical staff. Their personal physician in the States said it was vertigo, but the ship’s MD disagreed. Who wins? I would go with the doctor who is attending to Zitser in person.

The real breakdown happened when the couple was removed from the ship and taken to a clinic in Barbados. Were they really incarcerated? If so, maybe their first call should have been to the U.S. embassy. I’m certain the staff there takes a dim view of imprisoning Americans in a hospital.

I’m not sure what to do with this case. The long case description in our help forums really makes me wonder about what Oceania has to say about the Zitsers. Beyond that, there’s no way any of us should board a ship without travel insurance and a medical evacuation policy in hand. The Zitsers could have been flown back to the U.S. quickly; instead, they languished in the Caribbean, waiting to be freed.

Should I take Richard Zitser's case?

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