Cruise Lines International Association, which represents 95% of the cruise industry, introduced mandatory requirements to be able to set sail again.


When Aimee and Luke Moon boarded Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas in February with their 9-month-old, Phoebe, for her first vacation, they couldn’t have imagined the fate that awaited them: a near-death experience and triple amputation for their daughter.

“It was just like a nightmare, you just think it’s not real,” Luke Moon told USA TODAY. “Because nothing was wrong the day before.”

A sick infant daughter later found to have meningococcal meningitis. Five futile infirmary visits. Sixteen hours of agonizing worry. The Moons’ harrowing ordeal shortly after boarding a cruise ship has changed their lives forever and sparked a lawsuit.

“Our thoughts are with the family during this challenging time,” Jonathon Fishman, spokesperson for Royal Caribbean, told USA TODAY. “We do not comment on pending litigation.”

Phoebe Moon eating an ice cream cone. (Photo: The Moon Family)

What happened, according to the family

“Everything was normal, and we did two days on board the ship and … Phoebe became unwell,” Aimee Moon said. “She started vomiting in the middle of the night, and then when we woke up in the morning, she had vomited again, and we can tell she just wasn’t herself.”

They decided to take her to the ship’s infirmary and made several subsequent visits thereafter, but they couldn’t get the help Phoebe needed. Eventually, they had to take their daughter off the ship to a shoreside hospital. 

In a complaint brought by the family against Royal Caribbean alleging various counts of negligence and emotional distress, attorney Thomas Scolaro paints a hellish timeline. Here’s what happened, according to the the family and the lawsuit:

Feb. 22: The ship departed from Miami.

Feb 24, 8:30 a.m.:  Phoebe became ill, presenting with signs of meningococcal meningitis: she was pale, lethargic, dehydrated, feverish and had been vomiting. Her family took her to the infirmary, where she was seen by a doctor who diagnosed her with acute gastroenteritis. The doctor gave the Moons pain medication for their daughter and sent them to quarantine in their cabin.

Feb. 24, 2:18 p.m.: After struggling to keep their daughter conscious, the Moons defied their quarantine order and returned to the infirmary. Phoebe had a temperature of 103.8°. A nurse contacted a different doctor on call, who told the nurse to give the family ibuprofen and to tell them to return to their room.

Feb. 24, 2:30 p.m.: On their way back to their stateroom, Phoebe began “violently vomiting,” and the Moon family returned to the infirmary. They pleaded with the nurse, who called the on-call doctor back. The doctor reiterated that it was a stomach bug and sent them back to quarantine in their room.

Feb. 24, 5 p.m.: Phoebe developed a rash. The Moons went back to the infirmary. The doctor they saw originally