Family claims they were forced off Disney Wonder cruise ship over child's illness, age

NAPLES, Florida - A family's Disney cruise to the Bahamas was going great, until they say four members of their group were asked to pack up their things and disembark the ship in Nassau.

North Naples resident Dave Berg boarded the Disney Wonder cruise ship out of Miami on Dec. 30 with 31 family members. Berg said his mother-in-law is sick with cancer and the 5-night cruise was part of her bucket list.

Everything was going well, Berg said, until Thursday morning, when his 4-month-old granddaughter began spitting up. Berg's daughter, Jennifer Moak, brought the infant to the ship's doctor, who gave her some medicine for seasickness. But just hours later, someone from the doctor's office phoned Moak's husband, saying they wanted to do another checkup on the baby.

Instead of a checkup, the doctor then told the couple they would have to disembark, according to the family.

"He said because of her age, she wasn't supposed to be on the ship and that they would be -- I think the word that he used was 'terminating' our stay on the ship," Moak said Monday.

The family said the medical staff cited the baby's age and need for safety as reasons they could not keep her onboard.

Disney Cruise Line changed its policy on infant travel last summer. Previously, babies younger than 12 weeks were not permitted onboard, but starting Jan. 1, the cruise line increased the age requirement to 6 months old. A representative from the company said all parents who had existing reservations, like the Moaks, would not be affected.

At the doctor's request, Berg, Moak and her husband said they packed up and got ready to leave, expecting that Disney would take care of the accommodations. But they say their experience was unsafe and not up to the standards of the $1,000 nightly rate they had paid to go on the cruise.

"I know that they thought that it was safer for her to be off the ship, and it could have been, if the situation was dealt with in the right way," Moak said. "Her safety is my No. 1 priority, and they were saying her safety was their No. 1 priority, so we should have all been on the same page."

Moak said she had to plead for a child car seat for the taxi ride to the hotel, which her father described as a "fleabag motel." At the hotel, Moak said there was nowhere for her daughter to sleep except in the bed with her parents, which Moak realizes can be dangerous.

The family said Disney only offered to pay for the hotel and flights home after much back-and-forth. A port agent who was supposed to help with arrangements failed to connect with the family, Berg said, and after they returned home, he realized they'd been charged gratuities for three nights they were not on the ship.

Moak said her daughter was checked out at a Bahamian hospital, where staff said the baby just had gas. The bill was $1,200, Berg said.

"No one would care if they took us off the ship and we were in complete safety in comparable accommodations and brought home," he said. "They were deceitful about it. No one can believe that Disney would send a 4-month-old baby off into the dark in a foreign country that they say in their brochures is dangerous."

A Disney Cruise Line representative said the company could not comment specifically on the family's case because of medical privacy reasons. In cases where guests are asked to disembark, the company's policy is to have an agent help them through the process of getting home.

When the decision is made for medical reasons, a guest's age and overall condition might play a factor if medical personnel on board do not feel they are equipped to handle the guest, the representative said.

Berg and his daughter say they just want the company to apologize and possibly find some way to make it up to them.

"I'm happy that nothing happened that's going to permanently affect my family, but unhappy that Disney feels that they owe us nothing," Moak said. "I will never be able to have the experience that I should have had with my family. My grandma and grandpa are both very ill and this was our only trip together, and that makes me very sad."

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