Cough It Up: A Chest Cold On A Cruise Can Cost Coin

Dave Heron, Pace Setter Travel & Tours

$21,500 is a significant amount of pocket change.

In some areas it's enough to purchase an entire village.

In Vancouver it's enough to pay for three tanks of gas for the family chariot.

But hold on to that figure while we spin the tale.

Earlier this year, our clients Mr. & Mrs. L. headed out on a bucket list South Pacific cruise.

On or about day three of the adventure, Mrs. L. felt the onset of a chest cold and headed to Dr. Feelgood's infirmary in search of perhaps a cough drop or two.

Over the course of the next seven days the treatments escalated from simple decongestants to an array of tests and subsequent medications, the names of which mostly exceeded 34 letters from an ancient language spoken only by Roman lawyers.

On day 11, after verifying that Mrs. L had no underlying heart issues, the cruise line handed her the final bill.

This is where we reintroduce the $21,500 figure which became somewhat non-negotiable given that it had already been charged to their onboard account and subsequently to their credit card.

Her husband, who up until that point had remained healthy, clutched his chest and in between gasps for air is alleged to have said to the ship's doctor, "My bank account has a ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ order should anything happen to me from this moment on."   

In answer to the unasked question -- yes they had sufficient travel insurance which eventually reimbursed them -- six months after the apocalyptic chest cold.

The fact they still had room on their card to cover an unexpected $20K hit was fortuitous to say the least.

And all's well that ends well.

Or perhaps not.

Knowing full well that not all of our clients carry cards that come with the kind of limit that allows them to purchase the equivalent  of a new vehicle while on vacation, we started digging into medical costs at sea.

It's the Cadbury Secret folks.

Not a single cruise line we asked, nor ACTA, nor CLIA were able to shed any light on medical fee schedules.

"It's up to the doctor, who operates independently" we kept hearing. "The medical team has nothing to do with our cruise line."

That’s interesting given that the charges are billed out against the cruise line onboard account and Dr. Feelgood is listed as a crewmember when the manifest is reported to Immigration authorities.

At our agency we now not only stress the importance of out of country medical coverage, but also advise folks to seriously load up the amount of available funds.

Just in case.

As for me, I may have found a village in a remote part Africa that's available for $21,500.

It comes with its own doctor and an ambulance with a full tank of gas.

Now if only I could get a couple of cruise ships to stop in.

Adios until next time.

Dave Heron hands out free herbal cough drops at Pace Setter Travel & Tours in Okotoks, Alberta.

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