Cruising soon? Here's what you need to prep for medical emergency

As many as 11 percent of all medical conditions aboard ship are an emergency. Would you know how to address a health crisis?
April 25, 2014 8:29:01 PM PDT
A cruise can be a vacation dream come true for many. But that dream can quickly turn into a nightmare if you get hurt or sick on your voyage.

The Centers for Disease Control reports that as many as 11 percent of all medical conditions aboard ship are an emergency. So would you know how to address a health care crisis while cruising the high seas?

When the norovirus tore through a cruise ship in January, more than 600 passengers were struck, including Jane Upton.

"I just remember leaning against, in the bathroom, and I was like: 'Is this what it is like to die?' It's horrific," she said.

Now imagine yourself days from the nearest port, on a ship without diagnostic equipment like an MRI machine, a blood bank, or even specialty doctors.

"Many people believe they are boarding a 'floating hospital,' but a cruise ship is more like a floating hotel, with a doctor at hand," said. "Think twice about traveling with a chronic medical condition. The Coast Guard can't always launch a rescue if the seas are rough or the ship is too far from land."

Next, know that most prescription drugs are not available on a cruise ship, so always travel with an extra supply of all medications.

Experts tell us the average out-of-pocket cost for an on-board doctor is about $100. But travel insurance could give you peace of mind.

Ray Schutter with West U Travel says in a worst-case scenario that involve being airlifted off the ship for an extended hospital stay, medical expenses can add up quickly.

"That could run up as high as $70,000 for that. And that's why most people buy the insurances, is for these big expenses," Schutter said.

When it comes to paying out of pocket for the norovirus, Carnival tells us treatment is complimentary, and symptoms generally last between 24-48 hours. Also, their larger ships tend to have more than one doctor on board.

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