Travel Healthy Month: Tips for Safe Cruising
Last week, some close friends embarked on a much-deserved Caribbean cruise. While excited for the trip, they also took the time to make sure they knew what to do to stay healthy on the ship. After all, with reports of cruise ship passengers falling ill frequently in the news, it's smart to be cautious. (Just a few weeks ago, nearly 700 passengers on a Royal Caribbean cruise fell ill with a strain of norovirus.)
While most cruise ship illnesses are not terribly serious, they do have the potential to ruin your trip. Below, MedFlight911 offers a few tips for staying healthy on your next cruise.
- Bring all your prescription medications. Make sure you pack enough of all prescription medications that you take, and if possible, bring extras. If you have allergies, be sure to bring Benadryl or your Epi-Pen.
- Pack over-the-counter meds. Throwing a basic first-aid kit in your luggage is just common sense. Bring bandaids, Neosporin or similar antibacterial treatment for minor scrapes and cuts, painkillers (like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or aspirin), and perhaps anti-nausea medicines like Dramamine.
- Don't forget sunscreen. Slather on the sunscreen before hitting the pool. Even minor sunburns can be painful, while a severe burn could force you to cover up for the rest of your cruise.
Of course, cruise ships have many of over-the-counter medications and basic first-aid items available for purchase on board. But you'll pay a price for convenience. And if you fall ill in the middle of the night, it's certainly easier to find what you need in your own cabin, rather than having to hunt it down on the ship.
You should also take the time to research what kind of medical facilities are available on your ship. According to MedFlight911's medical director, Dr. Charles Finch, who has worked on cruise ships on the past, most cruise ships have a medical staff headed by one or two physicians, as well as several nurses who are usually trained in critical care and emergency medicine. Care is usually available around the clock, but you'll probably pay a fee of between $50 and $100 for your visit (in some cases, your insurance may reimburse you for the expense after the trip ends).
Cruise ship medical centers offer many of the same services you might find in an urgent care center on land. Most cruise ship medical facilities can treat common injuries and illnesses, perform basic diagnostic tests and lab work, and even have X-ray machines. Using technology, on-board physicians can consult with doctors on land for unusual situations or injuries. Standard medications are also usually available (including antibiotics and drugs to treat diabetes and heart disease), though they will likely be generic versions. If you take a common medication and forget it and run out, you may be able to get it on board the ship.
Every cruise line's medical facilities and crew are slightly different. You can check with your cruise line to find out what will be available on your ship, or check out this article from CruiseCritic.com, which offers a helpful rundown of the at-sea medical centers for different cruise lines.
Finally, when it comes to staying healthy on your cruise, sometimes simple precautions are best. Always remember to wash your hands before eating and after using the restroom. Wear sunscreen. Stay hydrated. And take steps to prevent avoidable accidents, like slips and falls. Finally, check to see what, if anything your current health insurance will cover you while you are on the cruise, and consider purchasing travel insurance to fill the gaps (the chances of needing an air ambulance to get off the ship are slim, but those kind of emergencies do happen). With some basic planning, you should be able to enjoy a fabulous cruise!
Check back next week to find out what happens if you do experience a medical emergency while cruising.