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Tiny Baby Conquers First Cruise…Plus!

You may have read or heard about a baby born on Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas this month. In case you hadn’t, this is a really nice story with a happy ending, at least so far.

And incidentally, it’s a story about everybody doing the right thing.

The baby’s mother, Emily Morgan, was given permission by her doctor to go on the cruise. She was about five months’ pregnant. On the second day of the cruise, her Haiden Morgan-3maternal instincts — along with her labor pains — told her the little one was soon to arrive. In the middle of the night, as the pains became more intense she and her husband Chase called the ship’s doctor, who said they were 14 hours from the nearest port, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The baby, who would be called Haiden, was born half an hour later.

The Morgans were told it was a miscarriage, and the baby was dead. Two doctors arrived 45 minutes after that to say the baby was alive but wasn’t expected to live long. Mother and doctors fought to keep him alive and when the ship’s captain called with condolences, he heard the baby crying.

“He said we are going as fast as we can and we'll port two hours early in San Juan and we'll get you guys to the hospital,” his mother told TV station KSL in Salt Lake City (the Morgans live nearby, in Ogden), “but he said that's as fast as I can get you there.”

The Independence of the Seas did arrive two hours early. The baby did get to the hospital quickly, and a few days later was transferred to a neonatal unit in Miami. At birth, the Independence of the Seasbaby weighed one and a half pounds…just 24 ounces. His feet were less than three inches long. His lungs fully developed, Haiden Morgan made it through the night, and the next night, and…today, he is 27 days old. He’ll stay in Miami until his due date, December 19.

The expenses that evolved from what was supposed to be a 7-day cruise have been understandably staggering, and a website — Haiden’s Medical Journey — was quickly set up to help with the cost. The target was $37,000. As of last night, contributions totalled $35,711.

Another happy ending-to-be.

- Baby photo courtesy of the Morgan family via KSL

In the news…

• First international ship launches huge summer season in Australia
• One less ship in South America, more in Asia, for MSC in 2016-17

Today at portsandbows.com: All the latest cruise news

Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas
3 nights
November 27, 2015
Miami (return): CocoCay, Nassau
Inside: $173
Cost per day: $57

MSC Medical Innovation First At Sea

As the cost of attending to our aches and pains, and worse, continues to rise t becomes obvious that some sort of online integration makes sense in ways we could never have imagined. How long until the visit to the doctor is online?

Telemedicine, it's called.

Now it is going to sea. For kids. On MSC Cruises.

Here's how it works, on all 12 ships…

Your child is ill, with something more than the sniffles and a cough. The first stop is the ship's medical facility. If the doctor needs help with a diagnosis, he or she can consult pediatric specialists at the Giannina Gaslini Institute, in Genoa. Consultation includes remote imaging and data transmission, by satellite. This is designed to improve responses that have been only available on land.

The ship can be anywhere in the world…the most remote of locations.

It leaves us with only one question:

What about adults?

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: A quick look at the AmaSonata

Carnival Breeze
6 nights
August 24, 2014
Miami (return): Key WestGrand CaymanCozumel
Inside: $299
Cost per day: $49

How 'Accident' Changed Cruise Doctor's Life

Ricardo Mejia's trip to becoming a doctor on a cruise ship started by accident on the beach.

On his way back home to Colombia from Chicago, where he'd spent three years studying emergency care at Northwestern University, Dr. Mejia had a stopover in Miami so he visited a Colombia expat and his family. At that moment, he was heading back to his hometown, Pereira, in the heart of coffee country about halfway between Bogota and the Pacific Ocean, to resume his career in medicine.

The day after he arrived, a Sunday, the family was going to the beach in Fort Lauderdale. Ricardo went with them. The "accident" was meeting a man his friend Dr. Mejiaknew,  but they didn't know he was going to be at the beach that day. The man, coincidentally, was also a doctor. 

On a cruise ship. 

As they exchanged pleasantries, the doctor said the cruise line was looking for a doctor to fill in for him. Would Ricardo be interested?

"I'll do it," he said.

The next day he was interviewed by Celebrity Cruises in Miami. It was a success. He went home to arrange his visa and a week later was on a ship with a two-month contract. That was followed by another fill-in position and now, soon to be 20 years later, he is the doctor who sets up and opens medical centers on new ships for Royal Caribbean, which owns Celebrity.

"The first ship was the Britanis [an ocean liner operated by Chandris, which founded Celebrity]," he says. "I was onboard in March 1995 when she went to Guantanamo Bay, in Cuba to serve as a back-up floating hotel during the rafters crisis. We played hosts to U.S. military personnel unable to find space on the base, members of the press and other dignitaries mediating the situation on the large tents 'camp of refugees' full of Cubans caught at sea while trying to flee the island in rafts. It was quite an experience. After that, I went straight to the Meridian and then, after eight months, I got to go home."

Emergency medical care in Colombia wasn't a specialty in the years leading up to the turn of the century, so Dr. Media was something of a trail blazer. On cruise ships, he also became something of a trail blazer, too, climbing the corporate ladder quickly and by early in the new century opening medical facilities on Royal Caribbean ships, staying for a couple of months and then going back to Colombia.

To "open" a medical facility on a new-build is, basically, to be something of an interior medical designer. He starts with a blank space and makes sure all the medical equipment, from stretchers to electrical outlets, are in the right place. There's a lot of unpacking boxes and testing equipment. Once the ship officially becomes Royal Caribbean's, he becomes the chief doctor and stays on it to make sure the medical facility and the people in it work seamlessly at sea.

Ricardo Mejia is everything that you want to see in a doctor. He is warm, thorough, gentlemanly and gifted. Yet because he does what he does, few passengers have the experience of finding out what he's like when they are not well. Nobody really wants to find out, but when you're sick at sea, he's the kind of doctor you want taking care of you.Dr. Mejia

During his maiden voyage on a cruise ship, in 1995, he met Gwen. 

She was a photography undergraduate from Dublin and was on his ship to complete a six-month photo study. She didn't become ill and see the doctor, although she may have become a little lovesick when they parted, because today they are the parents of two children and live in Pereira.

"My son [Connor, age 8] was basically raised on board," laughs Dr. Mejia, whose wife and children (daughter Catalina is five months old) have traveled with him on most of his assignments…or at least they did until Connor started school and Catalina arrived.

This week, they joined him on Allure of the Seas. He is one of three doctors on the ship, on a fill-in assignment before he heads to Europe in the fall to open the next Royal Caribbean new ship, Quantum of the Seas. The Allure is, of course, a far cry from the Britanis.

"We had 1,200 guests and 700 crew," he says.

On Allure of the Seas, the are 6,300 guests and 2,200 crew.

That day on the beach in Fort Lauderdale, Ricardo Mejia could never have imagined this.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: Viking ocean ship floats out

Norwegian Jewel
7 nights
November 1, 2014
Houston (return): CozumelBelizeTrujillo 
Inside: $429
Cost per day: $61


The Latest on Norovirus Vaccine

It’s not a cure for cancer or heart disease or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, but for people who have suffered from norovirus, there is now a step in the right direction.

A vaccine for the sometimes-deadly disease — it’s always associated with but not restricted to cruise ships — has passed experimental tests at Baylor College of Medicine and been published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.

Because it’s still experimental, it will be years before the vaccine is available to the public. In other words, it’s early in the life of the vaccine. It’s a nasal spray designed to prevent one type of norovirus, and a placebo is also being tested.

For those of us who have sometimes made light of norovirus and compared it to the ‘flu (mea culpa, mea cupla), one little fact in the news of the vaccine caught our attention: More than 200,000 children around the world die of norovirus every year.


While cruise ships often get tarred with the norovirus label, the facts are that it can strike wherever large groups of people gather. Nursing homes. Schools. Hospitals. In fact, according to a study conducted by USA Today, American ports are likely to reach a “multi-year low” in norovirus cases in 2011. In 2001, there were 30…last year 14…this year 11, the 11th one on Oasis of the Seas earlier this month.

There were 65 people affected. The ship was sanitized and, after a delay, the ship left Port Everglades for the Western Caribbean.

One day, hopefully, there will only be a nasal spray to make sure this doesn’t happen to anybody on cruises ships, or anywhere else.

The first step has been taken.

Celebrity Eclipse
7 nights
January 28, 2012
Miami (return):  San Juan, Philipsburg, St. Maarten, Basseterre, St. Kitts
Inside $719

Carnival's Fascinating Medicine Man

We often talk to doctors on cruise ships, fortunately not for the reasons most people talk to doctors. We enjoy meeting them because they bear an enormous responsibility — responding to the potential needs of thousands of people a week with no files charting their medical history — and because doctors are often more interesting than people might think.

Case in point: Peter Greiner.

We met Dr. Greiner on the Carnival Ecstasy (“I like a one-doctor ship”) — he’s now on the Imagination — and he turned out to be nothing short of fascinating.

He lives in Pittsburgh. He was born in Vietnam. Besides his medical degrees, he has one in history — post-medical — and has taught Chinese art history. He moved to the U.S. from France when he was 12. He couldn’t speak English. He has lived in New York, Iowa and Wisconsin. He has also been the chief medical officer on ships owned by Regent, Royal Caribbean and “Mickey Mouse.”

Other than all that, he’s just an ordinary guy.

Dr. Greiner’s family left Vietnam long before war ravaged the country.

“After World War II, the Japanese left,” he says. “We went from Hanoi to Saigon, and then to Toulon and on to Paris. Vietnam was a French protectorate. We were in France for six years. My parents applied for citizenship and it came through but they already had a visa for the U.S. so that’s where we went.”

How does somebody named Greiner emerge from Vietnam?

“My father was a chemical engineer at a paper plant,” he explains. “I went on an Asian cruise with my wife and we went back to Vietnam when I was with Royal, and we went on a tour of where I was born. We were trying to find where the paper plant was. The taxi driver didn’t know but he asked someone and the fellow got in the taxi because he knew exactly where it had been. It turned out his father worked for my father!”

Following a 35-year career as a general surgeon and gynecologist, Dr. Greiner rejoined the workforce because his wife found him a job.

“She was on the computer at two o’clock one morning,” he laughs. “I was retired, and sitting at home. It wasn’t very stimulating. She found a job on a ship [Regent].

Now she says: ‘You’ll never quit.’”

Extraordinary story, isn’t it?

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