Tender from the Viking Sun approaching the Chilean General Service Boat Talcahuano.
I was recently on a Viking Sun Cruise around Cape Horn, going from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Santiago, Chile. While walking the 1/4 mile walking track on Deck 2, I noticed a Chilean Navy Ship, the General Service Boat Talcahuano, in the distance beginning to circle the ship. Part of the deck path was closed and a tender had been launched. I, like about half of the 900 passengers, watched for the next hour, or so.
While we watched, the tender made several attempts to hook up with the Chilean Navy Ship, but couldn’t get close because of the waves. The Navy vessel continued to circle the ship and tried to reposition itself.
The tender returned to the cruise ship and waited while the Navy ship circled again. I was right above the tender on deck 2 next to the blocked deck area.
Through an open hatch in the top of the tender, I saw the Captain of the Viking Sun, whom I think had just taken command of the tender. He headed straight for the Navy Ship, and without apparent incident, went along side and transferred the passenger on a stretcher, her husband and the ship’s doctor to the Chilean Navy Ship which took off for a land-based hospital.
I was totally impressed with the way Viking handled the situation.
I did not hear of any report of the event on the Viking Sun; however, the next day Newsweek reported that the passenger had fallen, had injured herself, and had been evacuated to Coronel Bay, Chile for emergency treatment. Look at the Google Map of Coronel Bay; not quite the “End of the World” around Cape Horn, but close.
This raised a number of questions in my mind. Questions to ask about your travel insurance on a cruise; or any international trip, especially, if you are old; and, maybe even if you are not.
- No way was Medicare going to cover the evacuation, or anything else, outside the US. What are you prepared for?
- Does the fact that the rescue happened in international waters make any difference?
- Will the Chilean Navy want to be reimbursed?
- Does your travel insurance cover rescues at Sea?
- What about costs for husband, doctor and costs after transfer to the hospital in Coronel Bay?
- What if the passenger does not have insurance?
- Just what does your travel policy cover?
- Will your regular insurance cover any of this?
- Is there insurance coverage for the ship’s medical care or for the ship’s doctor going with the injured person to a foreign hospital?
- What unknown costs are there to a difficult rescue at sea?
The bottom line is that this lady was injured, transferred on the high seas, in a stretcher, from a cruise ship to a tender to a Chilean Navel Vessel, in international waters. She was then taken to a foreign hospital. She and her husband probably had no idea where they were going except that it was near “the end of the world.” We had just come around Cape Horn.
The real question is: What next? Did she come back to the ship? How? Where? When? Did she go home? How? Who paid?
Interesting questions, ask your insurance carrier.
I have in the past few years had two friends who have gotten sick while traveling, both in China. One spent over a month in a Chinese hospital, was transferred back to the US with medical support; and, then died. No insurance – wiped out an inheritance. The other had a stroke, spent several weeks in a Chinese hospital and was flown back to the US with a medical professional accompanying her. She had great insurance which covered all the costs and she is doing fine.
Travel insurance is expensive if you are old; but, consider the alternatives.
You might even want one of your kids to review your travel policy, if you have one, and advise you. None of us ever reads the policy, we just pay and board the ship.
Old people are afraid of dying while on an international trip. Most are afraid of dying period; however, 99% of people die at some point, and once you reach 75 you are more aware of the probability that you will die; especially if you are going overseas.
Basically to make things easier, you need a 3 x 5 card:
- Embassy telephone number
- Insurance policy – Company and policy number.
- Airline and confirmation number.
- Emergency contact number.
- Home town physician and number.
- Hotel name and number.
- Family telephone numbers.
- Home town funeral home number.
- Tour operator number.
- Simple statement as to wishes. Cremate, ship home, bury abroad…etc.
- Travel insurance name, telephone and policy number.
- US Embassy number.
- The simple solution for your representative or next of kin:
- Travel insurance to pay for shipment of body, cremains.
- Contact the American Embassy where you are. They have a 24 hour number.
- Contact Funeral home in your home town.
- Carry on cremains in a sealed, TSA approved, container.
- Have foreign mortuary ship body to your home-town mortuary.
- Collect belongings
- Get copies of all paperwork – Embassy, police, doctors, hospitals, funeral homes, airlines, autopsy report, etc
- Notify: Embassy, family, police, funeral home,
Remember that what is a unique and terrible experience for you is a common event for the embassy, the funeral homes and the airlines.
Some useful web pages: