Huey Tsao, an expectant mother, was looking forward to a family reunion aboard the Carnival Glory. Along with her boarding pass, she received a document entitled “Welcome Aboard: Things to know before you sail” which stated that guests who are 27 weeks into their pregnancy are not permitted to sail because of the risk of premature labor. Huey was not concerned because she was only 26 weeks and had a note from her physician stating that she was fit to travel. She and her family arrived at the dock only to find out some very bad news. Unbeknownst to Huey, Carnival had changed their no-sail pregnancy policy from 27 weeks to 24 weeks. Despite her doctor’s note and attempts at escalating the issue, she was denied passage onto the boat. Her letter, inside…
In preparation for our family reunion
On June 21, 2008, the Tsao family was ready to board on the Carnival Glory at Port Canaveral, FL for our family reunion. The traveling party included: Fred Tsao (Grandfather), Alex Tsao(father), Huey Tsao (mother, 26 weeks pregnant at the time of voyage), and two very enthusiastic daughters (Elise 5 yrs. old, Natalie 3 yrs. old) We were ready to meet up with Byron Tsao (brother in law) and Tetsuko (sister in law) who were flying in from Nicaragua to meet us at the next port. All members of the Tsao party flew in from out of town: Virginia, California, and Nicaruaga.
Mommy Tsao (aka Huey Tsao) was prepared with the doctor’s note declaring it was safe to travel and to confirm the gestational period of 26 weeks. According to the pregnancy policy from their “Welcome Aboard: Things to Know Before You Sail” document (which was sent along with their boarding passes) “Guests who are 27 weeks or more into their pregnancy at the time of the voyage will not be permitted to sail because of the risk of premature labor,” (page 10.) Since we were at 26 weeks at the time of sailing, we thought we were within the Carnival pregnancy policy.
Denied at the terminal (misinformed by Carnival Cruise)
It was not until after we were given our boarding cards (Ship & Sail room card) that another Carnival agent, Patricia Lyons approached us to ask about my pregnancy. She asked how far along I was. I responded that I was within the “safe” 26 week travel period and handed her my doctor’s note stating that I was at “26 weeks gestation without any complications permitted to go on cruise to leave on 6/21/08”
Ms. Lyons said that according to the Carnival website, their NEW policy was revised from 27 weeks to 24 since January 1 2008. She proceeded to talk with her supervisor, Kathy Bianchi, who reiterated to us that their policies have changed.
When we asked for written proof of this new policy, they were unable to show us any documentation of the new policy. When we asked to speak to the manager at the port, Ms. Lyons said that Ms. Bianchi was the highest authority—the supervisor at the terminal.
Ms. Bianchi claimed to have made a call to their corporate office in Miami to clarify their new policy. According to Ms Bianchi, “You have an obligation to check our website in case we change our policy. We cannot let you board the ship.”
Carnival Unwilling to accommodate our requests (to document their decision)
We again asked for Carnival to show us this new policy in writing. However, Ms Bianchi they said they did not have the new policy in written form available, and that we should check online. Obviously, we thought that was unreasonable given that we were at the check-in counter and did not have any access to the Internet.
We asked to speak with the authority in Miami that Ms Bianchi allegedly spoke to. Again, that reasonable request was denied.
We asked for Carnival to document this incident so we can refer it to their corporate office. Again we were denied: Ms. Lyons said “I am not allowed to do that.” Ms. Lyons only handed me a card with the Carnival Reservations Administration Research Department contact information and stated that she will be writing up an internal report regarding this decision.
I asked if I could have a copy of this internal report, and Ms. Lyons said “I am not able to do that.”
I finally asked for a refund, they said that I needed to call the Miami office to settle that with their corporate office.
In short, Carnival changed their policy on pregnancy, but neglected to state the change in the Welcome Aboard document. If Carnival even sent an addendum to notify of this change policy, we would have made alternative arrangements such as booking an earlier cruise comply with the new policy.
Instead, they tell us we should have checked their website, a typically arrogant corporate remark. Then they refuse to show us the new policy in writing. They would not allow us to talk to their corporate office (to whom they allegedly talked to) to confirm the policy. Any they would not document this incident in any way for us. We cannot even prove they denied boarding.
When it became clear they would not let me board, I insisted that the family go on without me because I was concerned that the entire family would lose the tickets if they did not board. I stayed with Mike and Alison Lee, who were our good friends in Orlando.
Two days later, I was interviewed by Mary Nguyen of WFTV (ABC affiliate in Orlando) regarding this experience. CNN picked up the story, and we suspect the resulting bad publicity caused Carnival’s PR department to issue a cruise credit to me.
It was Carnival’s negligence in sending the incorrect outdated policy that lead to me getting literally stranded at the dock. I felt the cruise credit was the least they could do. (Also, they did not even include the fuel surcharge and the port taxes in the cruise credit, which we already paid but never used.) Considering their extremely unhelpful attitudes and the fact that the family reunion was ruined for everyone in the group, I believe it would be more appropriate for Carnival to issue cash refunds for everyone in the group.
We agree that Carnival should have done more to inform you of their policy change. Since you had a clean bill of health from you doctor, it would have been nice if they had made an exception for you, but they are not required to do so. Considering the rest of your family already took their cruise, we think that asking for a cash refund for the entire family is unrealistic. However, if you focus on trying to get a cash refund for just yourself, you may get better results.