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Cruise line turns back high profile, disabled traveller

RCI apologises for incident; will provide compensation

It was supposed to be a chance for some “important family time”, but unfortunately turned into a sad farce. 


A well-known biologist with motor neurone disease (MND) was turned away from a cruise holiday that had been booked months prior after the cruise ship decided he was “too much of a risk” to travel. 


Image ABC/Australian Story


A Professor in Neurodegenerative Disease at the University of Wollongong, Justin Yerbury was boarding Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas in Sydney – for a seven-night South Pacific cruise – when he was told the ship’s doctor didn’t have his medical documents. 


According to the ABC, Mr Yerbury said that this was despite his steps to notify RCI of his condition in November, including booking a disability room and lodging a special needs form. 


"Apparently the special needs department that we were dealing with did not communicate anything to the [ship] itself, so the ship captain and doctor said they weren't equipped to look after us," said Yerbury, who was featured on the ABC’s Australian Story for his work on MND treatment.


"Despite the fact we brought two carers and my wife, who is trained to look after me.


"They decided I was too much of a risk, even though they knew of my condition months ago."


Professor Yerbury added that the cruise company had also failed to properly communicate their stance with he and his wife. 


"When we showed up for the cruise they [staff] did not speak to me at all," he said.


"We had 11 people including nine family members and two carers who had to turn around and go home.


We have had such a difficult 12 months and were looking so forward to this important family time," he said.


In an email to Traveltalk, RCI said it would be conducting a review into its booking procedures in the case of Professor Yerbury.


"Our processes of communicating Professor Yerbury’s medical condition to our on board staff let down Professor Yerbury and his family and friends," RCI's statement said.


"Royal Caribbean takes this issue very seriously and we apologise unreservedly for the distress, disappointment and inconvenience that this has caused.


"In addition to providing a full refund of their cruise fares we will be reimbursing the Yerburys for all out of pocket expenses."


[UPDATED 10.30am, 12 MARCH 2019]


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Written by: Mark Harada
Published: 11 March 2019

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