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Sunday, June 29, 2008

New Pregnancy Policies Affect Expectant Mothers

If you are expecting a baby -- and also expecting to cruise -- take note: Several cruise lines have revised their pregnancy policies, which dictate at what point a woman is considered too far along to safely set sail. Until recently, the general rule of thumb was that women could sail until their third trimester, which spans from week 28 until birth (week 27 was the official cutoff for most cruise lines). Now, Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Princess, among other lines, have lowered that threshold to 24 weeks, citing risk of premature labor.

The changes have been going into effect over the past few months without much fuss, reminiscent of Royal Caribbean's quiet tweaks to its infant policy last month. In fact, a woman was turned away at the dock for being "too pregnant." Huey Tsao of Washington D.C., who is 26 weeks pregnant, told an Orlando TV station, that at the time she booked her cruise, Carnival's published cutoff was 27 weeks -- and that the threshold was changed unbeknownst to her.

Industry wide, 24 does seem to be the new 27. We did some digging and found, for example, that Norwegian Cruise Line will not permit a woman to board if she is entering her 24th week of pregnancy before the cruise ends. Meanwhile, Disney will refuse passage to women who have entered their 24th week as of their embarkation date. To date we've found one holdout; MSC Cruises still references the 27-week mark on its Web site.

The moral of the story? Read the fine print and double check your cruise line's specific policy before you plunk down a deposit. And if you do intend to sail during the earliest stages of pregnancy, know that you may need to show a physician's note -- confirming that you are in good health and not experiencing a high-risk pregnancy -- even if you aren't yet showing.

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