Getting injured or becoming ill on a cruise vacation is a lot more common than you might think – cruise ships originate from and travel to and through many countries guaranteeing far greater exposure to global viruses and more. In addition, there are no common standards defining minimal credentials for medical doctors or the equipment available to them. While the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) has developed recommendations for onboard medical facilities, these are adopted voluntarily by the cruise operators.
While spending time in the cruise ship’s medical ward is not on your travel agenda, it’s important to understand what you are facing if this happens.
At a minimum, most ship infirmaries will have:
- one or more doctors and nurses
- equipment for delivering oxygen
- cardiac defibrillators
- external pacemakers
- stretchers and wheelchairs
- immobilization equipment for back and neck injuries
- sutures, medicines, and bandages
In short, a cruise ship’s onboard medical facilities are no substitute for a fully stocked and fully staffed medical hospital. If you have a medical emergency while on your cruise, you could be shelling out a lot of money because, except for minor illnesses and injuries, you will have to be medically airlifted off the boat to the nearest hospital where you can adequately be treated.
Of course, after you are treated, you’ll also have to get back to the ship (if possible) or back home. Having adequate travel medical coverage and evacuation coverage is the only way to protect yourself in this situation.