July 24, 2014 7:13 pm

Customer compensated after being denied access to cruise line while pregnant

WATCH ABOVE: Michelle Ligori answered an unusual question honestly before boarding a cruise ship. As Sean O’Shea reports her early pregnancy made her unable to get on the ship.

TORONTO – Five months after Michelle Ligori and her family took a cruise aboard the ‘Oasis of the Seas’,  she still can’t believe the question asked by a Royal Caribbean representative when she tried to board.

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“She said, ‘are you pregnant?’ And I said ‘well, actually, yes,'” Ligori told Global News.

The question – and Ligori’s admission – turned the family’s cruise plans upside down. Although she had paid in full for the cruise, Ligori was told she could not board.

The cruise line company insisted Ligori provide medical proof of fitness to travel, something required of all pregnant travellers.

She did not have such a letter. The company’s website states that no woman more than 24 weeks along in her term may board the ship. But Ligori was only five weeks pregnant.

She had taken a home pregnancy test just before leaving home in Hamilton, Ont. She had not yet been to her doctor to confirm she was expecting a third child.

In Osoyoos, British Columbia, Marnie Boers said the same thing happened to her earlier this year when she tried to board the ‘Oasis of the Seas’.

“The pit boss of customer service said: ‘any chance you’re pregnant?” and I said “yes,” after which Boers says the Royal Caribbean representative demanded a letter. Boers, who was 17 weeks pregnant at the time (less than half of a full-term pregnancy) was able to telephone her midwife at home who faxed the letter to the ship and she was allowed to board.

Royal Caribbean is among the few carriers to demand medical evidence of fitness to travel for every pregnant woman. A Royal Caribbean representative told Global News the purpose of the policy is to ensure the safety of the unborn child. .

“I can’t understand why they would have that policy,” said Dr. Jon Barrett, Chief of Maternal Fetal Medicine at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto.

“There’s no increased risk of travel, no matter what week you are,” said Barrett, an obstetrician and professor.

Many woman say it’s offensive for a company to inquire about pregnancy, especially in public.

“I think it’s a breach of privacy; it’s sensitive, it’s a personal thing,” said Karen Judd, who owns Moms to be and More, a Toronto store catering to new mothers.

Ali Johnson, who’s 38 weeks pregnant, agrees.”If you choose to share (the news of pregnancy) with family and friends you can but it shouldn’t be anyone’s business.”

Lauren Bull, clutching her newborn daughter Verity inside the store, says a cruise ship isn’t owed that information.

“We didn’t tell anyone until three months because you never know,” Bull said.

Royal Caribbean excludes pregnant women from traveling on ships entirely after their 24th week of pregnancy, but the company doesn’t limit travel for other passengers.

“Are they going to ask people  – are you going to have a stroke, a heart attack? How far do you go?” said Judd.

Boers says it’s wrong to single out pregnant women.

“I’m healthy, I’m young and pregnant – it’s not an illness at all,” she said.

A day after our first story on Michelle Ligori, who paid more than $1,200 for additional hotels, taxi fares and a flight for her family to catch the cruise in the Bahamas two days late, Royal Caribbean contacted her to offer an apology.

“They would like to refund us two days of our trip (for all four of us) as well as our additional expenses incurred. (They) also indicated they would look into revising the wording of their policy and training their customer service representatives,” said Ligori.

“My husband and I are satisfied with this outcome. Thank you for hearing and airing our story. Because of you we were able to get a response that was otherwise going unheard,” she said.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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