Screwed If By Sea

Cruise lines throw workers overboard when it comes to providing urgent medical care.

Royal Caribbean gave Sagara a written warning concerning her disembarkation without leave, and refused to pay for her wages, medical expenses, and transportation. She decided to hire Walker. The attorney exchanged contentious letters with Royal Caribbean for a week before the company agreed to pay a portion of Sagara's medical expenses (perhaps coincidentally, their call to Walker informing him of their newfound beneficence occurred about a week after New Times called Royal Caribbean asking about Sagara's case), though they have yet to do so. Walker filed suit in July, alleging Sagara had been falsely imprisoned.

Calin Ioan, a Romanian citizen, formerly a bartender aboard Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas and also a client of Walker's, is lucky to be alive. Walker filed suit on Ioan's behalf after the 28-year-old repeatedly went to the ship's doctor with complaints of ear pain, starting in the summer of 2002. According to Walker, Ioan was given ibuprofen and sent back to work. The Enchantment docked at Port Everglades every weekend, but Ioan claims that the ship's doctor would only allow him to see a physician in St. Thomas in September 2002. That doctor gave Ioan a nasal spray and some ear drops.

Eventually, the doctor in St. Thomas suspected something more was wrong with Ioan and, in January 2003, recommended a CT scan and biopsy. The ship's doctor wrote an e-mail to David Blackwell and Ioan's medical case manager, Bill Sera, summing up the St. Thomas doctor's suspicions. The doctor also suggested that they wait until Ioan's contract ended on January 20 and arrange for him to see an ear, nose, and throat specialist once he returned to Romania. The shipboard physician, Bernhard Van Staden, ends his e-mail with overdue compassion: "I would like this to be sorted out, as he has been going with his problem for quite some time."

Royal Caribbean International employee Doran McDonald
Jonathan Postal
Royal Caribbean International employee Doran McDonald

By the time Romanian doctors detected the tumor in Ioan's throat (on February 2, 2003), it had reached Stage IV -- the final stage of cancerous growth -- and had spread too far to be removed surgically. Radiation and chemotherapy have beaten the cancer into remission, but they also rendered Ioan unable to work. He has been living with his mother since his return. His medical bills mounted, and he says that Royal Caribbean will only pay for some of his treatment costs. He retained Walker, and is suing for his living bills and all medical expenses from the time of his arrival in Romania. Royal Caribbean officials wouldn't comment on his case.

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