My mother got severely sick and went into a coma
on a cruise and then subsequently died. The cruise
ship charged her $30,000 in medical fees and put
it on her credit card account. However, her insurance
DID pay the $30,000 and the credit card bill for
the medical expense only, but it took a few months
and the credit card company hit her account, even
though they knew she was in a coma and subsequently
died, with over-limit fees, finance charges, etc.
She has no estate that needed to
go through probate. Am I, as her daughter, liable
What a horrible story! I'm an avid cruiser myself.
Although nothing can lessen your pain, I hope
your e-mail to me may at least help
others avoid adding financial concerns to health
worries. Losing a loved one is never easy, especially
when it is under circumstances such as you describe.
The answer to your question regarding liability
is fairly straightforward. If you were not a joint
cardholder on the account and your mother left
no estate, you are not liable for the unpaid balance
on the credit card.
To bring something positive to the
table regarding your experience, I'd like to use
the circumstances of your letter to inform readers
about a couple of points concerning cruises and
Much like providing a credit card
for a stay in a hotel to cover incidentals such
as phone calls, room service, etc., cruise lines
generally require a credit card to be on file
for any purchases made on the ship. As was the
case with Nina's mom, that includes any medical
care that you may require while aboard. Like most
people, I have always thought that the decision
to use a ship's medical facilities or not would
be my own.
Expenses can add up in a hurry when
you are talking about medical care. My recommendation
is to use a credit card that supplies travel
medical insurance and to secure additional
travel insurance before taking the trip. The insurance
would cover things such as trip interruption,
emergency travel and health services, medical
coverage, etc. Specific coverage would depend
on the type of policy purchased. Do some research
and find the right product for your specific needs
and be careful of exclusions such as for pre-existing
illnesses that may surface during a trip.
Before I received your e-mail and
did some research on this topic, I almost never
purchased travel insurance, believing that if
my plans changed, I could save money by self-insuring
the cost of a change or unlikely cancellation.
I never fully considered involuntary medical treatment,
which I know is very, very expensive anywhere,
including on a ship. The cruise line medical facility
and staff has a "duty to care," like
any land-based hospital, to provide care in an
emergency. Like a hospital, they will want to
get paid before you leave. In effect, the credit
card on file with the ship represents a carte
blanche up to your limit and perhaps beyond, depending
on how aggressive the bank that issued your card
is for charges and fees, even if you are incapacitated
and can't sign on the bottom line.
Also, travelers should be aware
that many hotels, car rental agencies and cruise
lines use a practice known as "credit card
blocking." The cruise line will estimate
the total amount of your bill and contact your
card issuer to "block" that amount of
credit on your card. Depending on the credit limit
on your card, you may not have much left for purchases
after the block. To avoid an embarrassing situation
when using credit in a port of call, you may want
to consider choosing a different credit card for
use ashore than the one you have on file with
the cruise line.
Nina, my condolences on your loss and I hope
you are able to move on from this tragic experience
and enjoy traveling once again.