Cruises restrict pregnant travel

Q and A

Q&a

April 16, 2006|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

My niece and her husband lost their 10-year-old son to a rare illness last summer. Because she was expecting another child, I booked our families on a three-night Carnival cruise to celebrate new beginnings. When we got to the dock, however, my niece was denied boarding because she was two days into her 27th week. Seven of us, including my wheelchair-bound mother, were stranded at the cruise terminal with no way home on a rainy night. The reservations agent never mentioned a pregnancy policy. Is this discriminatory?

Your good deed was stymied by a common but controversial cruise line policy: If you're too advanced in your pregnancy, you can't sail.

Carnival won't transport moms-to-be in their 27th week of pregnancy or beyond. Other lines have similar policies with different cutoff dates, some as early as 23 weeks.

These rules are not legally discriminatory because the Americans With Disabilities Act applies only to those with permanent disabilities; pregnancy is not one of them.

Although the rules can seem unfair, cruise lines say they protect against premature births at sea. Most ships are not equipped for neonatal care or may be far from a medical facility.

One in 10 women gives birth prematurely, and 6 percent of those are during the 27th week, according to the American Pregnancy Association. The odds of this happening on a cruise are "very low," says APA Executive Director Brad Imler. "There is no empirical data supporting the safety or risk of taking a cruise" while pregnant.

Cruise lines stick by their policies. But they won't volunteer them.

"It's incumbent upon the consumer to let us know their special needs," says Carnival spokeswoman Jennifer de la Cruz.

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