Medical facilities vary among different cruise liners

Yes, there is a doctor on board, but not all conditions can be treated on a cruise.

Are there doctors on cruise ships?

Most cruise liners have great medical facilities to help passengers who fall sick at sea, but if you have a health emergency, don’t count on hospital-grade treatment.

Medical help is generally available around the clock from at least one doctor on call.

Nurses are also available, as is a pharmacy. However, if you need specialist medication it is wise to check if the pharmacy stocks it before you travel. Among the drugs that can be dispensed are travel sickness tablets, which are often free, plus pain killers and medicines to treat minor ailments such as gastroenteritis or respiratory ailments.

If you have a chronic illness that requires ongoing treatment, you may not be able to access the level of care you need, depending on how serious your condition is. And when you book your trip, it is advisable to let the cruise company know if you do suffer from a serious pre-existing condition.

Some medical centres will have a limited range of equipment such as defibrillators.

If you become gravely ill, the staff at the medical centre will aim to stabilise your condition until the cruise ship arrives at a port. Then you will likely be transferred to the nearest hospital.

Treatment is not free but may be covered by your travel insurance.

There will be different levels of medical services among the cruise companies, so if you have a chronic illness it is best to check with individual operators to understand if they can take care of you if your health deteriorates at sea.

Princess Cruises claims to have the only sea-going medical facilities with international healthcare accreditation. Its centres are staffed by full-time, British-registered doctors and nurses.

Most liners will allow you to bring medical equipment on board, but they stress that you need to check with the manufacturer or ship company to check the equipment’s compatibility with the ship’s power supply. Possession of the equipment must be reported to staff and the safety of the equipment will be checked once on board.

Have you ever been seriously ill while cruising? What do you think of cruise liner medical centres? Does your medical condition prevent you from cruising?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    19th Feb 2018
    Friends went on a Cruise. A passenger was taken seriously ill so the cruise ship headed back towards Aust and the patient was picked up by medical staff in a helicopter. The ship had to bypass a couple of ports to get back on schedule
    Grey Voter
    19th Feb 2018
    Be VERY careful with disclosures to insurance companies. I was let down twice in this regard and had to learn the hard way. Don't rely on advice from the travel agent but read the policy carefully and contact the insurers direct if you have any doubts. During a recent cruise to NZ I met a long-lost friend who was traveling with his portable kidney dialises machine. When he became too sick he had to be air-lifted to Christchurch. The chopper ride alone cost him $13,000 and he was NOT covered because he started the trip with a pre-existing condition.
    19th Feb 2018
    I suggest you regard cruise ships medical facilities as about the level of an ambulance, better then first aid but lesser than a shore based GP, and definitely nowhere near hospital standard. If on a cruise you fall seriously ill all they can do is try to stabilize your condition and transport you to the nearest medical facility with all dispatch; sometime this means diverting the ship to an unscheduled port
    Old Geezer
    19th Feb 2018
    Princess would need those facilities as the average age on most cruises must be well over 70 with many with walkers and gophers.

    19th Feb 2018
    Might need 'em if you go cruising with an 'Italian' family with Muslim names.... or twenty-three...

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