Apparently, despite the fact that I was cruising through this pregnancy with no complications, getting on a real cruise ship while pregnant is, well… complicated. It had never occurred to me that pregnant women are restricted from various forms of travel as they get closer to their due date. No one mentioned it to me. I had never even thought to research it. Oh yeah, and because we had booked the cruise using a crew member discount, I never received any notice from the cruise line (after this whole ordeal, I searched their entire website and couldn’t find one bit of information on it though, so…)
For those of you who don’t know like I didn’t know, pregnant women are not allowed to cruise after their 24th week. Prior to that time, they must turn in a signed statement from their physician saying what week of their pregnancy they are on. As it was explained to me, it costs something like $31,500 for a woman to give birth on a cruise ship, and since they are unable to assure that the woman will pay them back for their services, cruise lines prefer to restrict all women past the 24th week of their pregnancy from sailing at all. Fair enough. It would be more fair if this information was more readily shared, but whatever. It would be even more fair if there was a second option for someone who does not yet have a physician to sign that form, like maybe a secondary form you could sign taking full responsibility for anything that could happen and the costs it could incur. But hey, I don’t make the rules.
I had opted to drive to Florida because I love a good road trip, so why not? It was a 24-hour drive, but I planned to stay a few nights in Orlando, cutting it off at 20 hours in one go. I did the whole thing with only brief stops for food and gas and frequent bathroom breaks, listening to the audio book of Alexander Hamilton’s life the whole way (I know so much about the American treasury now). By the time my boyfriend Facetimed with me, I had arrived in Florida and, according to him, looked like a zombie. He took a screenshot. He wasn’t wrong.
I enjoyed the drive though, more so once I figured out that I could reduce the pain from my lower abdomen being squished by reclining my seat and driving like some cool dude from an 80’s film. With no knowledge of my impending doom, I drove the last four hours to the port after my short stay in Orlando and reunited with my boyfriend at a Panera. We were kind of overjoyed to see each other, but I’m sure you don’t want all those mushy details.
We then had to part ways so I could get on the ship. I would have hugged him longer if I had known I wasn’t going to be seeing him again in a few minutes. Before you board a cruise ship (even as a crew member), you are given a little form to fill out that asks if you are ill or pregnant. I naively marked “Yes” under the pregnant line, despite the fact that I could have easily claimed I just hadn’t been to the gym in a while. As soon as I handed it in, the lady at the counter asked for my medical form from my physician. I’m sorry, the what form? I had no idea what she was talking about, and I had no form. Luckily, I was smart enough not to tell her that I also had no physician.
Could we call my physician, could we email them the form and get it back in time? The terminal employees tried to be helpful at first. Knowing I had no one who could legally fill out the form, I began plotting how I could fake it. Every loophole I tried to find wasn’t working though, and the doors to the ship would be closing very soon. I even tried explaining to them that my boyfriend was a crew member, and we hadn’t seen each other for five months (I let them assume he was the father of my unborn child). They were unsympathetic. I remember texting my boyfriend, saying there was no way they wouldn’t let me board. I had bought a cruise – they would work something out so I could take the cruise. Right? No?
Nope. In the end, a lady walked up and handed me a paper. It basically said that I accepted that it was my fault that I was unable to board the ship and take my cruise, and I would receive no refund, compensation, or assistance with my travel back home. “I need you to sign that, then we have to escort you out,” she said. At that point, I finally burst into tears. They walked me out like I was a criminal, and I sat crying outside the terminal as I watched the ship sail away. It was probably a very sorry sight to see, but there was no one there to see it. Then I got in my car and drove back to Orlando.
There was something I hadn’t told them though. My ten-day cruise was actually two separate cruises back-to-back. This first one may have been a complete bust, but I was determined that I would be onboard with my boyfriend for the second one. Here’s the thing – at this time, I really didn’t have a due date. I had yet to receive any form of medical care, and since (as I mentioned in Month 1) I couldn’t even remember when my last period had been, I was loosely estimating that I would be due mid-October. I did some math and figured that I was about 20-22 weeks along – well inside their 24-week limit. All I needed was a signature on a piece of paper attesting to that fact. I faked a name, signed the form, made a copy, and sat around for four days waiting for the next cruise… where I was let on board, no questions asked.
Ironically, I received an actual due date when I got my ultrasound done a while later, and if I count back now (since I gave birth on that date, I’m guessing it was pretty right), I was actually 26-27 weeks along during that cruise. Joke’s on them. I had a wonderful time.