Royal Caribbean International’s Jewel of the Seas added an unexpected passenger after an expectant mother went into premature labor and gave birth on board on Tuesday, November 29, 2022. The mother and baby were transferred off the ship to medical facilities as soon as possible, and both are doing well.
Baby on Board
The Radiance-class Jewel of the Seas is currently sailing a 6-night, roundtrip Western Caribbean sailing from Port Canaveral, Florida. The ship departed on Sunday, November 27.
While on board, as the ship was en route to Jamaica, the expectant mother – whose name has not been released to protect the privacy of her and her family – was experiencing discomfort, and as a precaution due to her pregnancy, visited the ship’s medical facility.
The onboard medical team determined that she was in active labor, the stage at which contractions intensify and such discomfort would no longer be able to be walked off or dismissed as general cramps.
The premature baby was safely delivered onboard the cruise ship by Dr. Alif Patilla, a senior physician for Royal Caribbean International, with virtual assistance from Dr. Jorge Perez, a neonatal specialist with KIDZ Medical Services, a partner of Royal Caribbean.
“The people of Royal Caribbean – shoreside and crew – are truly best in class. This week it was proven again with the incredible delivery of this baby at sea,” said Dr. Calvin Johnson, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, Royal Caribbean Group.
When Jewel of the Seas arrived in Ocho Rios, the baby and mother were transferred to St. Ann’s Bay Regional Hospital, which is just 7 miles (11 kilometers) from the cruise ship dock. The baby was admitted to the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.
Both mother and baby are reported as doing well, and are to be transferred to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami on Friday, December 2. There have been no reported delays or changes to Jewel of the Seas‘ itinerary, and the ship is scheduled to return to Port Canaveral on Saturday, December 3.
All cruise lines have strict policies about setting sail when pregnant. For Royal Caribbean International, all boarding guests must fill out a health questionnaire prior to embarkation that confirms they are not more than 23 weeks pregnant and, if pregnant, will not reach the 23-week mark before the cruise ends.
If a mother is uncertain as to the date of conception or the last day of her most recent menstrual cycle, it can be difficult to know precisely how many weeks along a pregnancy may be.
A normal pregnancy length is 40 weeks, but premature babies may be born many weeks before that timeline. A premature baby is generally considered to be one that is born before reaching 37 weeks. Roughly 10% of babies born in the United States are premature.
Cruise lines refuse service to women later in pregnancy due to the risk of complications when the ship may be far from more extensive medical facilities that can provide specialized infant emergency care if necessary.
While cruise ships are equipped with a full medical team for general emergencies, the specialist care necessary for infants, particularly if born premature, means it is better to have shoreside facilities available. There is no indication at all that the new mother took any unnecessary risks or violated Royal Caribbean’s pregnancy rule.
While rare, unexpected births do happen occasionally on cruise ships. In 2015, a baby boy was born aboard Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas, and in 2016, a baby boy was born aboard Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2.
Many experienced travelers may plan a cruise a year or more before setting sail. If a booked guest finds themselves unable to sail because of pregnancy, Royal Caribbean International has Resolution Agents that will help make further plans to accommodate the pregnancy.
Possible options, depending on the timing of the cruise, might include moving the sailing to an earlier date, postponing the trip until after the expected birth, or refunding the cruise altogether. Each case is considered individually on its unique circumstances.
Cruise Hive wishes the new baby a happy birthday and hopes both mother and child have smooth sailings ahead.