The Final Frontier

I have now officially stopped writing this blog.

My relationship, if you can call it that, with Norwegian Cruise Line was concluded earlier this month with the settlement of my husband’s medical claim. No, we aren’t rich from the settlement but it will help us to start some business ventures and build our home here in Pearl Lagoon, Nicaragua.

But what this final blog post is about is the process and treatment we endured during the 10-months he was on medical. To quote Jose, “They treated us like animals!” And he isn’t exaggerating!

At the beginning he was in a hotel in Managua getting three meals each day and laundry services. The only real downside to that was the $15 per night cost for me to stay with him…if there was room. He was picked up and taken to doctor appointments and I could go with him…if there was room. The doctors only spoke Spanish and most wouldn’t even acknowledge my presence in the room. And while he was in the hotel, the company didn’t give him any money at all.

So we decided to leave the hotel. He would then receive $450 per month for food and accommodations but the bank would hold his cheques for 30 days because they were from outside the country. We asked for the money to be sent via wire transfer to avoid the delay and they promised they would do it but that never happened.

After 4 ½ months of seeing doctors in Managua and getting no information about his condition Jose asked to be taken to Miami. If he had known that he’d be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire, he would have stayed put!

I don’t know what to say about the hotel in Miami but I’ll try. Jose calls it “a blinky hotel”.

The service was mostly awful save a couple of bartenders and a young man in the business office. Most of the staff didn’t speak enough English to be useful and those that did didn’t choose to be useful.

The menu was very limited and really only had three items that were prepared well enough to eat. Imagine having to choose between the same three food items for five months? That’s what we had to endure. And we only had a $35 daily per diem for food which had to be spent in the hotel. That included gratuity and taxes. So we skipped breakfast and ate our first meal of the day at 12:00 p.m. so that we wouldn’t go to bed hungry each night. By the time we finally left the hotel, the company had agreed to provide us with breakfast so the $35 would serve for lunch and dinner.

Cleanliness at the hotel was an issue as well.  The cleaning ladies didn’t know the meaning of the word! I watched a spot on the bathroom mirror and one on the television screen for the entire 3 months that I was there!  The bathroom was cleaned only cursorily each day. The carpets were vacuumed occasionally and the furniture dusted only when we asked. The refrigerator was never cleaned and the bed linen were never changed…not the sheets and pillows we slept on, but the duvet and decorative pillows. The towels were stained and we often had to ask for washcloths.

Our lawyer was a liar and not a man of his words. He would promise to call, visit or do certain things for us and then just wouldn’t. The worse part of his behavior was that he would act like your friend calling you “buddy” but then would treat you as if you didn’t exist. There were a couple of incidents where Jose asked him for very specific assistance. He agreed then we never heard from him on the issues again. Phone calls went unanswered as did emails. He even went so far as to exclude me from anything related to my husband’s case, unless it was in his best interest. He told Jose that wives didn’t belong in the case which was quite the opposite of what he said to me when we were in Nicaragua. He would encourage me to advocate for Jose especially because I am Canadian. We didn’t believe that he was working on our behalf and instead felt that he was in cahoots with the company.  His invoice on settlement would confirm that suspicion. The lawyer even plucked a settlement amount out of the air and made a request to the company without consulting Jose.

My husband didn’t receive any money from the company while he was in Miami. Not a cent. Not even to buy his toiletries. Now is that any way to treat someone? How do you expect someone to sit in a hotel room for 5 months and not need even deodorant, toothpaste or lotion? Sure the hotel provided soap, shampoo and conditioner but my husband is not a white woman, who those products are designed for. And we were washing our clothes two and three pieces at a time in the bathtub because the company was no longer providing laundry services. If I hadn’t been there how would he have washed his clothes when he only had 5% use of his left arm?

Other crew members were at the hotel and were experiencing similar circumstances. Some were lucky to have lawyers who actually worked on their behalf so they received services that Jose was lobbying for, though some complaints were universal.

The doctors in Miami were better than the ones in Managua in that they spoke English and acknowledged my presence. They weren’t better in that we saw the same type of doctors we had seen in Managua, did the same tests, x-rays and MRIs and got the same result. “We can’t find the source of your pain, Mr. Jimenez” became a refrain.

The company’s expectation while my husband was on medical was that he would sit in his hotel room. He wasn’t to go anywhere just in case…of what exactly we are still waiting to find out. So for months, the farthest he went was downstairs to get food or sit by the pool for a different view. He isn’t a television watcher or a computer user so the 50” flat screen television and the free WIFI were not benefits for him.

Thankfully all of that is now behind us. We are back home and trying to make things happen.

My adventures on the sea started out as a dream come true and it did bring my husband to me, so for that I am grateful. I do wish however that the cruise lines would remember that the people they hire are people and should be treated with respect even if they do come from third world countries. I can’t imagine they would treat an American or Canadian the way they treated my Nicaraguan husband and his fellow countrymen who were also on medical in Miami.

I am thinking of turning this experience into a movie so keep your eyes open for what I’m currently calling “Jose’s story”.

This adventure is over but the next one has already started.

 

 

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