Every cruise ship, regardless of size, contains a medical infirmary for minor injuries and illness. These facilities vary greatly between cruise lines and even among ships of the same cruise line. Prior to making reservations, people with chronic illnesses or documented health conditions should find out the level of care that their prospective ship has to offer in its infirmary. Overall, the larger and more modern the ship, the more accommodating the facilities due to the fact that there are so many passengers onboard.
Cruise lines always hire its medical staff as independent contractors in order to limit liability. Presently, international parameters to regulate infirmaries and their staff are nonexistent. However, individual cruise lines have developed their own sets of healthcare guidelines with the best interest of their customers in mind.
Locating a ship's infirmary can be difficult; since a cruise is meant to be a lighthearted atmosphere, any signs of the infirmary are subtle to keep passengers in high spirits. You should find an emergency number by the telephone or listed in the ship's directory found inside your cabin. Infirmaries are typically located on the lower levels of the ship so that they are readily accessible to the crew and situated in areas of low turbulence.
Passengers should realize that infirmaries are more concerned with convenience and less about quality. People can visit a cruise ship's infirmary to treat sunburns, motion sickness, or cuts and bruises, but more critical situations probably will not be able to be dealt with out at sea. Infirmaries have the capabilities to stabilize patients under urgent circumstances, but to be properly treated, they have to be transferred to a hospital inland. Standard and emergency care is available round the clock, but visits requiring a consultation with an off-duty physician may be more costly than a typical visit.
When an emergency is so serious that it becomes life-threatening until the patient can be treated at a more proficient facility, the staff needs to decide on the most efficient way of accomplishing this. If a port is nearby, this is always the first option. But if the trip is deemed too long, a helicopter may be called in to evacuate, or if another vessel with more capable medical resources is nearby, the patient will be passed on to that ship.
Cost of care
Medical fees at sea are similar to costs on land. The major discrepancy is that health insurance providers will not cover any healthcare costs at sea because the doctor is not the patient's primary caregiver, and the visit was likely not conducted within the boundaries of US territory. All-inclusive insurance plans may cover some of these costs, or if you purchased travel insurance before embarking on your trip, that may include special medical coverage.
Medical service fees, which are set by the medical practitioner are wide-ranging. You will be billed about as much for a routine checkup on the ship as you would for a general office visit on land. Any prescription medication, tests, or additional therapy will be supplementary costs. As a courtesy to passengers, many infirmaries will hand out small bandages, aspirin, or pills to curb seasickness for nothing or very minimal cost.
Taking care of yourself
Take the necessary steps so that the only medical care you may require during your cruise can be administered by you. Prepare yourself for any minor accidents by packing a first-aid kit with common bandages, antibacterial ointments, and over-the-counter medication that can be used to treat scrapes, headaches, and any other minor aches and pains.
People with more severe health problems should ensure that they have packed more than enough prescription medication for their expedition because you never know when the onboard pharmacy may come up short. Passengers who carry equipment like oxygen tanks should be able to make special accommodations that will allow them to use it on the ship. You should always notify the cruise line in advance of any unique requests (e.g., restrictive diet) in order for them to make arrangements for your needs.
Before booking a cruise, people with health risks should discuss such a trip with their doctor to verify that they are not putting themselves in any type of danger. In case of an emergency, anyone with ongoing health problems should bring a printout of their entire medical history and any current treatments on the trip. This could be the difference in a life or death situation.
Preventing a visit to the infirmary
To make your vacation as enjoyable as possible, plan ahead and make wise choices to avoid the need for medical care during your stay. For instance, a diabetic should know which items on the dessert menu are low in sugar, and they should limit their intake to avoid insulin complications. Also, it might be sensible for passengers with weak hearts to stay away from strenuous journeys during port excursions or overly exerting themselves during activities on the ship. Use common sense when it comes to drinking alcohol or exposure to the sun.