Can You Afford to Get Sick On a Cruise Ship? Our Maritime Attorney Reveals the Hidden World of Cruise Ship Medical Quarters

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Cruise ship medical facilitiesSo you’re out and about on the Lido deck, enjoying the warm weather and tropical cocktail. Relaxing and without a care in the world. You know, your typical cruise vacation. But then the unexpected happens. You were too busy contemplating the sparkling ocean that you didn’t notice someone splashed their own little ocean on the deck. So you suffer a nasty tumble and the nice tan you just got is turning all sorts of black and blue shades from the bruises that are now decorating your back, arms, and head. No biggie you think, it’s just a slip and fall…but soon you realize it’s much more than that. When you try to get up, you start to feel dizzy. You’re seeing stars and then before you know it, you’ve blacked out.

Now what?

Are you going to wake up in a hospital? On the ship’s onboard infirmary? What’s going to happen?

Well, you’re unconscious, so you now you’re relying on crew members to make sure you’ll get better. But can you really rely on them? Can you trust that the cruise ship you are on will have the necessary resources to either a) treat your symptoms successfully, or b) rush you to the nearest hospital via medevac? Sadly, there’s no way to know for sure.

You see, cruise ships are known for a lot of things; good food, fancy drinks, and spa services, sure – but top-notch medical facilities is not one of them. Even the best and most innovative ships in the world do not come equipped with superior medical quarters that can offer state-of-the-art medical treatment to guests who are injured or become sick while on board. Sure, many cruise ships have your basic “care” facility, where you can get some aspirin, get treated for cold, and other basic and non-life-threatening conditions. But these are a far cry from sophisticated. There’s no high tech surgical equipment, MRI machines, or even sufficient staff to treat someone who has come down with a serious condition. In fact, sometimes a ship’s “doctor” isn’t even a certified medical practitioner.

If you need superior medical treatment immediately, cruise ships are required by maritime law to notify maritime authorities and request an emergency evacuation so you can be transported to the nearest hospital. Unfortunately, cruise operators don’t always act quickly. And, even if they do, given that you are in the middle of the ocean, it can take quite a while for emergency crews to get dispatched and then more time to actually get where you need to be. All this “time” can mean the difference between life and death.

So what does this mean? Well, for one it means that you should plan on NOT getting injured or sick. But we all know that’s impossible. No one ever plans on getting hurt, but what you should plan is what to do in case of an emergency because chances are the cruise ship you are on will not be able to help you with little more than patching up a small cut or giving you some over the counter meds for a headache.

Take a tip from a maritime attorney, and make sure you come WELL prepared to your cruise vacation. Bring an emergency medical kit with you on board and make a list of all medications you are currently taking and which conditions you suffer from. List all family members and loved ones and have that list handy at all times. Keep in in your pocket and keep a copy in your room. You can even give a copy to the staff on board so that they have the information in your records. Why do this? So that if you do suffer an emergency, you have backup. Not only will you have medication with you and other emergency materials, but the ship will also know what you are taking, what you might be allergic to, etc., and will know who to contact in the event you are rushed off the ship.

Granted, the best scenario case would be for cruise lines to expand their onboard medical facilities, hire adequately trained doctors, and increase their staff, but who knows if that will ever happen. At least you can have a little more peace of mind knowing you had the bases covered from your end by brining your own emergency kit and supplies.