Elderly Couple Says Cruise Line Left Them in Turkey to Face Medical Emergency

PHOTO: Jill and Dodge Melkonian were left behind in Turkey after Dodge, pictured in this undated photo, broke his hip while on a cruise offered by Royal Caribbean.
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An elderly couple said they felt abandoned in a foreign country and faced a potentially life-threatening medical situation after a cruise line owned by Royal Caribbean left them at a hospital in Turkey.

Jill and Dodge Melkonian, both 89 of Clearwater, Fla., were passengers on an Azamara cruise through Turkey. Their ordeal began when Jill Melkonian's husband, Dodge, fell and broke his hip early Monday morning.

"Dodge got up and he fell. He basically broke his hip, and I don't know if he would have survived," Jill Melkonian told ABC's Tampa affiliate WFTS.

Melkonian said the ship dropped them at a hospital in Bartin, Turkey, to receive medical attention.

"The hospital was so dirty, and I was worried about infection," said Melkonian, who added that no one at the hospital could speak English, and because of strict cultural customs, no women were allowed inside.

"They just picked them up and put them in an ambulance and said, 'See ya,'" Tammy Levent of Elite Travel Management, who has been assisting the Melkonians, told ABC News.

"The man could be dying. He is 89 years old with a broken hip," Levent told WFTS. "You have insurance, shouldn't it cover you? They drop you in a hospital that's not capable of even doing the surgery."

Melkonian told WFTS that she had bought insurance through the cruise line and tried to get her injured husband transferred to a hospital in Istanbul, but that Royal Caribbean told her to file a claim first. Levent said the transfer to Istanbul, where the couple remains, was possible only after an English-speaking tour guide called the U.S. Embassy on the Melkonians' behalf.

"I think Royal Caribbean needs to be held accountable. They have to revamp policies for international accounts," Melkonian said.

Dodge Melkonian is currently recovering from hip surgery at the American Hospital in Istanbul. The Melkonians would like Royal Caribbean to pay for the medical bills, and refund the cost of the trip, Levent told ABC News.

Jill Melkonian could not be reached for comment.

"It's outrageous that they would leave an elderly couple in a foreign country without adequate support," said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson , D-Fla., whose office has been working on the couple's behalf. "Royal Caribbean has a responsibility to take care of their passengers, even when they have to put them in a foreign hospital."

When reached by ABC News, Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez said in an emailed statement: "We have been working closely with Mr. and Mrs. Melkonian since Mr. Melkonian fell while onboard our ship. We helped arrange transportation via ambulance to the closest area hospital. Once ashore, we worked closely with the travel insurance provider, as they have the expertise to deal with local authorities and medical facilities.

"Even though Mr. and Mrs. Melkonian had to leave the ship, we still provided assistance to them while in Turkey. Actually, one of our care team specialists is still in contact with them today. The health and safety of all our guests is always our top priority. We will continue to do what we can to assist Mr. and Mrs. Melkonian, and we wish him a speedy recovery."

Officials at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara could not immediately be reached for comment.

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