Getting to know Elite Travel business owner Tammy Levent in this week’s “10 questions”
Are you ever curious about the real lives of politicians, celebrities, local newsmakers and athletes?
Each Tuesday, ABC Action News asks 10 questions of a Bay area leader, politician or even national celebrity.
We go beyond the questions that are news of the day. After all sometimes, we want know more about them. What’s their favorite music? Biggest regret? And who do they look up to?
This week a first for this feature-a travel agency owner answers our 10 questions. Tammy Levent with Elite Travel has been in the news quite a bit lately.
After being stranded in Turkey by Royal Caribbean, Clearwater man is recovering thanks to Elite Travel and Tammy Levent
#Elite Travel #TammyLevent #Honeymoongiveaway #EliteDestinationWeddings
Dodge and Jill Melkonian haven’t had the best luck with cruises lately.
On a cruise through southeast Asia last year, the Clearwater couple was on a ship that drifted for 24 hours after being disabled by an engine room fire. In apology, Royal Caribbean cruise lines gave them a free trip. On the free cruise, the company made international news for abandoning the injured 89-year-old man and his wife at a hospital in Turkey.
To make amends, Royal Caribbean is now making another offer — a second free cruise.
“We will do more cruising,” said Jill Melkonian, 65. “But it may be a different cruise line.”
Both disastrous cruises were on the Royal Caribbean subsidiary Azamara. During the most recent one, last month, Dodge Melkonian fell and broke his hip when he rose during the night to use the restroom.
Although the couple bought travel insurance through the Royal Caribbean partner On Call International, the ship’s crew abandoned the couple in a rural hospital with no intensive care unit. They had only guidebook-level Turkish to help them navigate potential hip surgery.
More than 24 hours later, the insurance company sent an ambulance to transport the couple seven hours over rugged roads from Bartin, a small northern province near the Black Sea, to an Istanbul hospital where the man could get surgery.
Help only came after the incident made international news and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson publicly blasted the cruise line and contacted the American embassy in Turkey.
Royal Caribbean did not respond to phone calls and emails from the Tampa Bay Times.
Dodge Melkonian is now in a Pinellas County rehabilitation facility, stretching and exercising so he can put weight back on his left hip. Jill, who is in real estate, says she and her husband have been to 183 countries and hope to reach 200.
Now, six weeks after their crisis, it’s the stories of kindness that make Jill Melkonian’s eyes well up with tears. There were the armed security guards outside of the rural hospital who tried to alleviate her stress by sharing their lunch and black tea. There was a Turkish tour guide who befriended them and donated his blood so Dodge could have his surgery.
The incident isn’t entirely over.
In an interview, Jill was careful not to discuss her negotiations with Royal Caribbean because it’s unclear how much the company will pay to cover medical expenses and transportation costs. At the height of the media coverage, the cruise line sent a letter to the couple saying it would pick up all costs not covered by the travel insurance.
When reached by phone, Dodge said he was trying to be a “patient patient” but is anxious to return home.
Tammy Levent, the couple’s travel agent who promoted their plight to the media and negotiated with Royal Caribbean and the travel insurance company on their behalf, estimated that without insurance the combined cost of the medical care and transport for Dodge would be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
She said she is now working with Nelson’s office with the hope of proposing a law banning cruise lines from abandoning people without help at international ports.
“You shouldn’t be able to just leave somebody behind,” she said.
Brittany Alana Davis can be reached at email@example.com or (850) 323-0353.
After being stranded in Turkey by Royal Caribbean, Clearwater man is recovering 10/01/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 1, 2013 11:39pm]
Travel Agents Are Here To Stay!
Haley Davis, Jim Tedesco, and Tammy Levent: Travel Agents Are Here To Stay!
What does it take to be an Entrepreneur? Join us as Haley, Jim and Tammy share their Entrepreneurial mindset and an inside glance at their journey to becoming successful Entrepreneurs.
Argument for having a good, old fashioned travel agent
Royal Caribbean is coming under fire for allegedly leaving an elderly American man stranded in a hospital in Bartin, Turkey after he fell and broke his hip. Dodge and Jill Melkonian, of Clearwater, Fla., were on an Azamara cruise, which is owned by Royal Caribbean, when Dodge fell and broke his hip requiring medical care that went beyond the capabilities of the ship’s doctors. Tammy Levent, founder of Elite Travel, the couple’s long-time travel agent, told Fox News that the ship’s crew left them at a hospital in Bartin, where little English is spoken and, due to cultural rules, prohibits women inside the facility. Read more…
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