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Man's wheelchair lost on cruise ship
A wheelchair is missing; the cruise line says it has 90 days to find it. The cruise line tells him it has 90 days to look for the missing chair. He says he parked it outside his cabin the night before he got off.
By JODIE TILLMAN, Times Staff Writer
Published February 8, 2008
Michael Karagiannakis, 75, said he parked it outside his cabin the night before he disembarked as instructed. It could be 90 days before he gets it back.
[Stephen J. Coddington | Times]
HUDSON - What he lost on the cruise ship was not a wallet. Or a watch. Or a camera.
Technically, what he lost wasn't even his.
"It was the VA's," Michael Karagiannakis, a 75-year-old Hudson resident, said glumly this week. "I don't know if they're going to ask for it back."
The wheelchair wasn't the fanciest. Just a simple nonmotorized design, sort of dark in color.
He had been using it since early December after suffering colon surgery complications that left his legs swollen and sore. The chair went everywhere with him on that Caribbean cruise: the pool, the ports, anywhere he had to walk more than 10 or 15 feet.
Until the evening before the return to Tampa. The crew told him to leave the chair outside his room, along with his luggage, which would be waiting for him when he disembarked on Jan. 6.
The next morning it was gone.
At first, Karagiannakis didn't panic. He figured Carnival Cruise Lines would find his chair, or at least replace it.
Then he got a response from the world's largest cruise line.
He was told he would have to wait 90 days, he says.
Carnival's policy gives the company 90 days to search for missing items. If it finds the items, the cruise line mails them back to the customers. It isn't clear what happens if it doesn't.
Karagiannakis says he can't wait.
He feels like a prisoner in his home. He can walk to the car if it's parked close enough to the house and drive to his medical appointments, including his chemotherapy treatment. That's about it.
"If it was a suitcase, I could wait. I have other clothes I can wear," he said. "But I can go nowhere.
"It's like they say, 'Go to hell. And stay there for 90 days.'"
Karagiannakis went on the cruise with his wife Maria, and his five adult children.
The morning his wheelchair disappeared, he said, a crew member told them it was probably downstairs.
"I say, 'But I can go nowhere without it,'" he said. So, he said, a crew member brought him a temporary wheelchair to use until they found it.
The family ended up at the luggage area. They found their suitcases. But no wheelchair.
Who steals a wheelchair? Who can say?
Karagiannakis says crew members told him to call a customer relations number. They let him use the cruise line's chair to get to his son's car in the parking lot, he says. Then they took it back.
He called the customer relations people the next day, on Jan. 7.
In a written statement to the Times, Carnival acknowledged that it has not found his wheelchair. However, the company said it has no record of providing Karagiannakis with a temporary wheelchair while he disembarked.
"Our records indicate that Mr. Karagiannakis contacted Carnival's guest relations on Jan. 7, 2008, the day after his return to report his wheelchair missing, and a case was opened at that time. According to guest relations, at no time before, during or after debarkation did Mr. Karagiannakis report his wheelchair missing."
This statement did not sit well with Karagiannakis, a Greece native who came to the United States at 18, joined the Army three years later and owned a restaurant in Holiday before his retirement.
"I tell them somebody take my chair!" he said. "What the heck they want to shift story for?"
He says he's not destitute. He might be able to afford another wheelchair. Basic models can be found for about $150. But he doesn't see why he should have to.
"I'm not going to buy the chair, they lost it," he said. "They have to pay me back."