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Cruise ship vacations are relaxing and care-free…until someone gets sick or hurt. Doctors and nurses will be on board to help you recover, but your experience at sea might not go as planned. If you are preparing to go on a cruise soon, know what to expect when you see a cruise ship doctor.

Who Is the Doctor on Board?

Depending on the number of passengers, cruise ships will have 1-2 doctors and 2-4 nurses on call 24 hours a day.

Here is the good news about going to a medical facility on a cruise ship. Many cruise lines that sail internationally require that doctors are registered throughout a handful of English-speaking countries, including Canada and Australia. They have the skills to perform a variety of skills to treat minor conditions or prepare patients for evacuation to land in an emergency.

That’s right. If you become seriously ill or injured during your vacation, you might have to leave the cruise ship and head to a local hospital on land.

What Conditions Can Cruise Ship Doctors Treat?

Medical facilities on cruise ships will not have the necessary equipment or prescriptions to treat every single thing that could go wrong on board, but they do have the basics covered. The beds in the medical facilities are set up to help people facing common conditions like the flu or norovirus. If a patient is feeling nauseous from rough sailing or catches an infection, doctors will have medications on board to help them.

Defibrillators and oxygen will also be on board; each medical professional will be trained in CPR. Patients that have a heart attack may have a better chance at receiving cardiac care from a doctor that is minutes away rather than someone on land who is a ten-minute drive – or longer.

Cruise doctors can cover the most common issues that passengers face on board, and are even prepared to conduct minor surgeries if needed. However, if a passenger breaks a bone, gets appendicitis, or goes into serious cardiac arrest, they may have to be evacuated. Cruise ship doctors are trained to stabilize the patient and prepare them for transfer.

Let’s Talk About Health Insurance on Cruise Ships

When a passenger is evacuated to a local hospital, they may find themselves paying higher prices for international care. Unfortunately, this also applies on board.

Before passengers see a cruise ship doctor, they should also know that their prescriptions may not be covered by their health insurance while at sea. Pills may be charged to your room, and they could be full-price. Evacuations will also be added to your bill.

How to Medically Prepare for Your Next Cruise

Knowing all that, what are some things that you can do to make sure you are as medically prepared as possible before stepping onto the cruise ship?

Get travel insurance. Travel insurance can save you hundreds if you have to cancel your trip due to illness or if you need to receive medical treatment abroad. Shop around before you pick an insurance and know what your plan covers before you go.

Visit your doctor. If you experienced illness or injury close to your departure date, visit your doctor and get their recommendations. Passengers who are recovering from an illness are more likely to get hit with additional issues once they get on board.

Document your experience and get receipts. If you do visit a medical professional on board, get a record of the prescriptions and care you received. Medical malpractice on cruise ships can cost passengers thousands of dollars, and thorough documentation of your experience can help you get compensation.

Fort Lauderdale Cruise Ship INdustry

Ultimately, there are pros and cons to cruise ship doctors – just as there are with doctors on land. The best thing you can do is be prepared, know what you’re in for, and pay close attention in case anything seems odd or wrong so that you can put together a malpractice case if necessary.


About the Author:

Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Winston Law. For over 20 years, he has successfully represented cruise victims who have suffered all kinds of injuries and illnesses due to negligence. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Preeminent Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, enjoys a 10.0 rating by AVVO as a Top Personal Injury Attorney, has been selected as a Florida “SuperLawyer” from 2011-2017 – an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – and was voted to Florida Trend’s ”Legal Elite” and as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015, 2016, and 2017.