View Full Version : Medical evacuation!

02-19-2004, 11:00 AM
I was going to comment just to the poster on trip insurance, but thought some people might not read that and benefit from our experience. Anyway---I wanted to let you know what may happen in case of a medical emergency while on the cruise.

If you have really good insurance, you may be able to forego the trip insurance. Not considering this, we didn't buy the insurance. Now we'll see how good my Dad's insurance is!

My 72 year old father and I were on a Disney Cruise earlier this month. On the Castaway Cay day of our cruise, my dad and I went on the Seahorse Catamaran Snorkel Trip. That's when the "accident" happened. My dad nearly drowned! He took in water through the snorkel gear and through his mouth---he's not a beginner, so this was sudden and quite unexpected. He did make it back to the catamaran ship---by himself---where he was helped out and collapsed into unconsciousness. Fortunately he was still breathing on his own, but very rapidly.

The catamaran phoned ahead and we were met by medical staff back at the ship. There his stomach was emptied, he was heavily sedated and put on a breathing machine to slow his breathing and not tax his heart, and medicine was administered to remove the water from his lungs.

At that point, arrangements for getting him off the ship and to a hospital were in the works. It did take about 9 hours to get to the hospital---something else to consider if you already have a life threatening problem! It was determined a helicopter would take too long. It was also kicked around that he would go to the hospital in Nassau or Freeport. To my relief, they arranged for him to go straight to Ft. Lauderdale-----by way of a tug boat meeting the cruise ship at sea, the tug taking us to Freeport where a lear jet medical ambulance was waiting, then the trip by jet to Ft. Lauderdale. I've heard the jet trip alone would be around $15,000! I believe trip insurance covers all the transportation, as well as the medical expenses on board---which happened to be $4000 (payable before leaving) for my dad. There's also the matter of customs---yes, you still have to clear customs in both the Bahamas and USA even in an emergency. Also, if the patient is transported by helicopter, there is no room for a passenger. On the jet, I was able to go, too (along with all our luggage).

All this while, my Dad was on the breathing machine and drugged up heavily---keeping him unconscious and unable to breath on his own.

Once in Ft. Lauderdale, an ambulance took us to North Ridge Medical Center---a very good hospital! Everyone there was very professional and personable. The customer relations volunteer was also extremely helpfull in helping me with accommodations, shuttles, and food from the cafeteria. Disney did try to help with finding a hotel too, but it was a sold out week and they didn't have the connections the hospital did.

My dad was hospitalized for 5 nights (2 in ICU, 1 in CCU, and 2 in a regular room).

Then came the fun of rescheduling the flights back to our homes (him to Oregon, me to St. Louis). Disney tried again, but came back with $200@ to fly us to St. Louis, or over $1000 for my dad to go Oregon. So I called the airlines myself and paid an exchange fee to use our original tickets. But the first available flights were 3 days later and out of Orlando.

So I rented a car for 3 days, kept the Hampton near the hospital for 2 extra nights after my dad was released. Then we made our way back to Orlando for another night.

I also recommend you take a cell phone!!! It'll come in extremely handy in such circumstanses!

It's a LONG TOUGH ordeal!!! THank God my dad recovered!!!!

Hopefully you'll never have to go through any of this! But this was the first cruise for either of us----and quite a memerable one!


02-19-2004, 11:13 AM
Glad to hear your Dad is ok.

02-19-2004, 11:16 AM
Wow....glad your dad is doing better and so sorry this happened to him and you...how scary.

I never used to take trip insurance but after a Magic cruise back in '01 we encountered a medical emergency at Castaway Cay...luckily is did not involve us, but another guest......the sick passenger was pretty much stuck on Castaway Cay until a helicopter could get to us....also they were thinking of taking him to Nassau but the helicopter finally came from Florida to pick up the sick passenger and bring him back to Florida.

This took hours....the incident happened around 3 or 4 in the afternoon and the helicopter did not get to Castaway Cay until 8 or 9 at night. The ship did not depart CC until 10:00 pm and we did not get back to Port Canaveral until about 8 or 9 in the morning which delayed debarktation until the ship was cleared by customs. Many people missed early morning flights.

I bring this up for two reasons...first, insurance is there for just these reasons...no one thinks it will happen to them but IT CAN AND DOES!!!

Secondly, to advise people not to book flights too early the morning we get back to Port Canaveral....there could always be something that delays the ship or a traffic jam on the Beeline that would keep you from making an early flight home.

Thank goodness your dad is recovering!! Please keep us posted. BTW...was this on the Magic or Wonder??


02-19-2004, 11:20 AM
I'm so sorry you and your Dad had to go through that, I know that had to be very frightening for you. I'm glad to hear, though, that he's better.

02-19-2004, 11:55 AM

This was on the Wonder. We were on a 4 night cruise.

We did cast away from Castaway Cay at the scheduled time. At that time they said they would dock at Freeport and transferr my Dad. Later they came up with the tug boat meeting us at sea and "jumping" across from one to the other (of course my dad was in a basket stretcher and on a hand operated breathing apperatus from then until we got to the jet). I was a bit surprised how often they changed the plans for evacuation. I believe the final results were the best way. I guess they're still working out the medical evacuation plans. At any rate---it's a long process. I believe they also have to find a Dr. to accept the patient before they know where to send him.

My dad has the military Tri-care for life insurance as well as Medicare, so we're hoping it's as good as they say it is.


02-19-2004, 02:14 PM
As a doc who is on the receiving end of medical transports (as I am responsible for a high risk center)...a few comments.

While I'm sure that DCL has plans in place for medical evacuations, each one is different. What can be done/needs to be done depends on the nature of the problem, the condition of the patient, the weather, and where the ship is or can be in a reasonable amount of time. It's not that they are still (after 5+ years)working out medical evacuation plans. It is that every situation is different. And, yes, they have to contact an accepting doctor and hospital before they can begin the transport process.

I've been allowed to tour the medical facilities on the Magic. They are IMPRESSIVE. The ship is better equipped than many small hospitals. Granted, they do not have large numbers of beds,(they rarely need even one) but they have a well equipped ICU on the ship and very decent equipment/capabilities. The medical staff is well trained and those I met seemed to know their stuff.

Glad your dad is doing well now...

02-19-2004, 02:20 PM
kcashner, thanks for the report on the medical facility on the Magic. Hopefully, we'll never need it but it is reassuring that it is a great facility.

02-19-2004, 04:03 PM
I hope I didn't sound like I was bashing the cruise Drs.! I agree that the medical care my Dad got on board the ship was top notch. There was a slight problem with the breathing machine once, but they got on it right away and got it fixed. I was also told we were being evacuated several different ways before the final route was told to me. Being able to fly with my Dad was great---if he went by helicopter, I would have been left on Grand Bahama to take a regular flight out. The nurses and Doctors on board were very good and compassionate. I have no complaints about the staff or facilities on board. They did say he had to be evacuated because they didn't have additional medications and such that he would benefit from. A nurse and Doctor even stayed with him until the personel on the jet took over.

The Dr. in Ft. Lauderdale said that the Dr. on the Disney ship saved his life!


02-19-2004, 04:04 PM
I'm glad to know your Dad is OK. What an ordeal. I'm sorry for your experience. Thank you for taking the time to pass on this information. I'm sure many will benefit. I agree that trip medical insurance is a good idea especially when leaving the country.
Thank you again and best to your Dad.:wave2:

02-19-2004, 10:51 PM
Glad to hear your father is doing better. My father (similar age) had a significant new medical problem on a land trip recently & had to deal with many unexpected things but not near as serious and involved as an evacuation. I don not believe Medicare covers anyone outside the US & I am not sure what Tricare offers. Can you fill me in if Tricare covered his expenses? (It is the main insurance I have also. BTW, I usually purchase trip insurance b/c I have known too many people to have problems)

02-19-2004, 11:44 PM
I am very sorry to hear of your first cruise experience. We are about to take ours and it never even crossed my mind to NOT take the insurance.

I'm glad you both made it through the ordeal.:D

02-20-2004, 02:13 AM
Ohmy! You kinda have me scared to death but it's info we all need to remember can happen to anyone and I have almost a year to calm down a little. LOL
I'm soooo glad your father is okay!

02-20-2004, 08:43 AM
It is somewhat surprising how many people need to get evacuated from a cruise. People on this board frequently report people being evacuated. During our 2002 trip a person was evacuated by helicopter immediately after we docked at CC.

My guess is that while the medical facilities are good, they are not setup for any sort of extended care. Thus they probably want to get the sick/injured person off the ship and to a hospital as soon as possible.

BTW, I know you can purchase international travel/health insurance that covers medical evacuations and health care costs outside of the US. Someone posted a while back about a company you pay a membership fee to that covered medical evacuations back to the US no matter where you were injured or got sick. The company's objective is to get you back to the US as soon as medically possible and the membership covered the entire cost. I cannot find a link anymore - maybe someone else can help with a link.

02-20-2004, 01:35 PM
I definately have a new appreciation for travel insurance now! I never even considered it as a medical plan. I thought it was in case of plans changing. I guess I should read all the papers next time--huh?!


02-20-2004, 04:02 PM
Well we have never purchased the insurance, but you have changed my mind! You never know what will happen! I am happy to hear everything turned out okay and that you Dad is doing better. Thanks for sharing...

Doctor P
02-20-2004, 04:09 PM
The only thing we really needed/wanted was insurance for medical evacuation. We ended up paying for lots more insurance than that, but this is a case that insurance is clearly designed for. Risky, high cost, unusual event. The premiums are very small relative to the coverage.

02-20-2004, 06:41 PM
Is this the same as the Travel Protection Plan? My husband booked our cruise (leaving in less than a week) and that's all I could get out of him about it. Does anyone know if the Health part is covered in this plan?

02-20-2004, 09:00 PM
Travel Protection Plan---- I do believe that is also the medical plan. I, too, didn't realize that. I just figured there was no way I'd miss the cruise so didn't bother with it. Upon reading the pamphlet sent with the packet (after my Dad's accident), the travel insurance (protection plan?) does thoroughly describe the medical coverage.

Sue L

02-20-2004, 10:52 PM
Sue, I am also glad to hear your father is doing good. When you find out how Tri Care handled this and what they did or did not cover could you please let us know? We are also Tri Care Prime members and I am courious if I should purchase the medical part of the trip insurance or if I should just pay for the trip cancelation/interuption part. Any info would be greatly appreciated. Thank You very much.

02-21-2004, 12:50 AM
My dad called Medicare today and found out that Medicare doesn't cover the out of country (Disney Ship) treatments, but they didn't know if Tricare covers that. He has to send the paperwork to Medicare and they send it on to Tricare. I'll surely let you know if they cover it. I guess we have to wait and see for now. I think I'll post a new question to see if anyone out there knows.

Sue L

02-21-2004, 01:52 AM

02-21-2004, 02:10 AM
I'm so glad that your Dad is better. We are going on the Magic Sept. 11, 2004. My best friend (mature, my Mom age 79 and me (also mature). We had already decided to get the insurance and now I know that it is definitely the right choice!