Cruise Ship Doctors and Medical Facilities Onboard (2023)

Cruise Ship Doctors and Medical Facilities Onboard (1)

Cruise Ship Doctors and Medical Facilities Onboard (Photo: Billion Photos/Shutterstock.com)

Cruise Ship Doctors and Medical Facilities Onboard (2)

(Video) Royal Caribbean Shipboard Medical Facilities - CruiseGuy.com

Cruise Ship Doctors and Medical Facilities Onboard (Photo: Billion Photos/Shutterstock.com)

When we plan our next cruise, we have blissful thoughts of diving into calm blue waters and endless plates full of delicious food. Being stuck in our cabins with an upper respiratory infection or the dreaded norovirus, or sent to a hospital with a broken leg or heart attack? Umm, not so much.

Because cruise ships are essentially floating cities, major lines contain infirmaries with staff available 24 hours a day to care for passengers. These facilities are typically equipped to treat only minor nonemergency conditions. If your illness is serious or you find yourself needing emergency treatment, you'll be referred to a facility on land and disembarked to get care.

Here's a look at what to expect regarding cruise ship doctors and medical facilities, procedures and policies if you get sick on a cruise. If you're trying to stay as healthy as possible on your vacation, read our advice on how not to get sick on a cruise.

Cruise Ship Doctors

Ships from the main cruise lines all will have at least one doctor and two nurses onboard. Many larger ships sail with two doctors and three or four nurses. According to American College of Emergency Physician guidelines, ships must have medical staff on call 24 hours. Medical personnel (both physicians and registered nurses) must have at least three years of postgraduate experience in general and emergency medicine or board certification in emergency medicine, family medicine or internal medicine.

To get an idea of the staff's credentials, consider that Carnival Cruise Lines requires that its physicians be registered in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, South Africa, a European Union country or any other country approved by the fleet medical director. Medical personnel also must have completed the required number of years of training in a recognized school of medicine.

The staff must be able to perform advanced life support practices, emergency cardiovascular care and minor surgical procedures. They are expected to stabilize seriously ill patients, perform reasonable diagnostic and therapeutic interventions, and help evacuate seriously sick or injured patients. Doctors and nurses also are required to be fluent in the predominant language of the ship.

Cruise Ship Medical Facilities

If you're injured or become ill, you might need to visit the cruise ship's medical facilities. The infirmary is usually located on a lower deck. While it generally will have regular hours, shown in the ship's daily program, staff are on call 24 hours for emergencies.

Related: If You Get Sick on a Cruise: What to Expect

The ship's medical center contains several beds and is set up to treat minor nonemergency conditions or to stabilize passengers facing life-threatening conditions. Ship doctors and nurses are most likely to deal with passengers suffering from respiratory (influenza) or gastrointestinal (norovirus) illnesses, motion sickness or injuries, the World Health Organization says, adding that it is important to view the ship's medical facility as an infirmary and not as a hospital.

Cruise ship medical facilities must adhere to the standards set by the American College of Emergency Physicians.The ACEP guidelines dictate that the infirmary must contain the proper equipment to handle a range of treatments and diagnostics. Among its equipment, the facility should have wheelchairs, a stretcher, back board for spine immobilization, lab capabilities for tests, oxygen, EKG capability, two defibrillators, cardiac monitors and other equipment to gauge vital signs.

(Video) Medical facilities on board a cruise ship

The Cruise Line International Association, the world's largest cruise industry trade organization, also sets standards of care for its member cruise lines.

Related: Is the CDC Canceling Cruises? We Answer This and Other Omicron Cruising Myths

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says ship infirmary capabilities vary depending on size, length of sailing and passenger demographics. The CDC compares shipboard facilities to ambulatory care centers.

Onboard Pharmacies

Pharmacy stocks are available onboard, which means you will be able to get basic medicines. The size of the inventory varies by ship, but staff will be able to provide you with antibiotics, seasickness pills (often complimentary), aspirin and other common medicines. The pharmacy stocks typically will include medications for gastrointestinal and cardiovascular issues; respiratory problems; infectious diseases; eyes; ears, noses and throats; and urinary tract, as well as vaccines.

The cost of these meds will be more than if you shopped at your home pharmacy but about the same as getting off the ship and buying them in port.

Related: Duty-Free Shopping on Cruises

Quarantine Procedures

Cruise ship policies dictate that if you feel like you might be getting sick or have signs of a serious ailment, such as vomiting or diarrhea, you must tell the ship's medical staff immediately. Passengers can be restricted to their staterooms if the ship's physician decides their illness poses a risk of outbreak. Cruise lines are especially wary of influenza or the highly contagious norovirus, which can quickly spread.

If norovirus is suspected, crew will enact measures to isolate you from other passengers. You will be told that you must remain in your cabin, and your key card will be deactivated to discourage you from attempting to leave. The quarantine is not just a suggestion; the lines take this seriously. Cruise lines' guest conduct policies outline consequences for not adhering to the conditions -- security staff or law enforcement may intervene, or you could be banned from cruising with the line in the future.

When under quarantine, you typically will be required to remain in your room and take all your meals there until you are symptom free for 72 hours. Crew will bring you meals, drinks and anti-nausea medication, but you are not to leave, even if you're feeling better.

Related: If You Get Sick on a Cruise: What to Expect

Medical Emergencies

If a life-threatening injury or illness, such as a serious fall or heart attack, occurs, cruise ship doctors are unlikely to fully treat a patient onboard, choosing instead to send the passenger to a land-based medical facility. Make sure you have up-to-date insurance and any contact information for your carrier and primary care physician available, in case you're faced with an emergency.

Cruise line policies outline conditions under which passengers should be medically disembarked. The ship's medical staff has the right to determine whether a passenger is unfit to continue on a sailing. Cruisers will be disembarked if they are in a condition "likely to endanger health or safety," according to MSC Cruises' conditions of travel, for example. Cruise doctors can make arrangements to have passengers transferred to a health facility at any port, at the passengers' expense.

In dire cases, a patient might need urgent care that can't be administered onboard. Sometimes the only option is to evacuate a passenger by helicopter for transportation to a shoreside medical facility. (This is often carried out by the Coast Guard in the U.S. and sometimes a foreign military when you're overseas.) Evacuation by air is typically reserved for only the most critical cases because the procedure can put the patient under added physical and emotional stress. The medevac units are staffed by medics who are expertly trained in emergency treatment.

Related: If You Get Sick on a Cruise: What to Expect

(Video) A Visit to the Doctor's: Touring Oasis' Medical Facility

Some cruise lines also utilize telemedicine to assist patients. The technology allows physicians to connect to shore to access specialists and data that can help treat patients onboard.

Paying for Medical Care While Cruising

When you get sick or worse and need treatment or emergency services, you will pay for it, typically out of pocket. If you receive treatment or medicine from ship physicians, the cost will be charged to your cabin folio. If you are medically disembarked and sent to a shoreside hospital, you will likely need to pay in cash.

Travel insurance can help mitigate the costs and alleviate any worries you have before starting your cruise.You would start by filing a claim with your personal insurance carrier to recoup what's covered by your health policy. Travel insurance, which usually costs between 5 and 8 percent of the total cost of the trip, would cover the rest. In addition to medical costs, you can buy trip insurance policies that cover a wide range of trip interruption and cancellation situations, as well as evacuation and repatriation of remains should the unthinkable occur.

Related: When Bad Things Happen to Good Cruisers: Will Insurance Protect You?

Robust travel insurance policies can be a financial lifesaver if an expensive emergency procedure, such as evacuation from the ship and a hospital stay in a foreign port, is necessary. Also consider that transportation to a full-service hospital from a remote cruise location like Greenland or Antarctica can be extremely costly.

Updated January 08, 2020

How was this article?

Top 15 deals today

(Video) Cruise ship accommodation for doctors

FAQs

What medical facilities do cruise ships have? ›

Our medical facilities are stocked with a variety of equipment, including cardiac monitors, automated external defibrillators, ventilators, x-ray machines and processors, laboratory equipment, a formulary of acute care medications and a variety of minor surgical and orthopedic supplies.

How many doctors does a cruise ship have? ›

Typically, a cruise ship will have two doctors on board, or at least one doctor and one nurse. A senior doctor will be primarily responsible for the passengers, while a junior doctor or nurse will care for the staff, and cover the senior doctor when needed. Larger ships may have more doctors.

Does every cruise ship have a doctor? ›

Yes, they do. Nurses, too. All oceangoing cruise vessels have at least one doctor and two nurses who live onboard and are on call 24/7. Larger ships might have a second doctor and additional nursing staff.

What happens in a cruise ship medical? ›

The medical examination includes:

A full physical examination including eye test and, depending on the kind of work the patient will be doing or the particular cruise line's requirements, typically involve blood tests (fasting blood tests for blood sugar and cholesterol) Sexual Health Screening. Chest X-ray. Hearing ...

What is a ship's doctor called? ›

A naval surgeon, or less commonly ship's doctor, is the person responsible for the health of the ship's company aboard a warship.

How much do doctors on cruise ships make? ›

Standard Salaries For Cruise Doctors

The industrial standard of salaries for junior doctors working on cruisers can be anything from $9,000 to $12,000 per month. For senior physicians, it can start at $12,000 and can go as high as $14,000 per month.

What is it like being a cruise ship doctor? ›

The working hours are pretty good with this gig. Each ship has two doctors and at least two nurses. The doctors take turns carrying the beeper for 24 hours at a time. The senior ranking doctor is in charge of the passengers and the junior ranking doctor cares for the crew.

Do cruise ship doctors have antibiotics? ›

The location makes it easier to transport patients off the ship quietly and privately if it becomes necessary. The doctors on board can diagnose your illness and prescribe basic medications, including antibiotics. They carry a plentiful supply of motion-sickness remedies as well as mild pain medication and antacids.

What type of doctors are on cruise ships? ›

All medical staff are both certified and experienced. Under the ACEP standaards, physicians must have three years of post-graduate/post-registration experience in general and emergency medicine or be board certified in emergency medicine, family medicine or internal medicine.

Do cruise ships hire doctors? ›

The size of a ship's medical staff depends on the size of the ship itself, but it's standard to have at least one physician and a nurse or two onboard, says Dr. Dees. On larger ships, you might have multiple medical centers on board, both of which are staffed by a doctor and a nurse or nurses.

What happens if you get sick on a cruise ship? ›

Typically, a member of the cruise line's Care Team will accompany the ill passenger and a companion or family member to the hospital. You will not be reimbursed for any unused portion of your cruise. You will be charged for medical services onboard and in the port of call where you are disembarked.

How do I pass the medical exam for seafarers? ›

Do not drink coffee or alcohol in the hours prior the exam, as they cause hypertension. Drink more water in the days prior PEME, to help your body get rid of the toxins you have consumed. Take care of your mouth hygiene before the exam. Go to a dentist for a provisional check and teeth cleaning.

Why there is a need to consult medical and dental care providers before a cruise travel? ›

ILLNESSES AND INJURY ABOARD CRUISE SHIPS

Approximately 95% of illnesses are treated or managed onboard, and 5% require evacuation and shoreside consultation for medical, surgical, or dental problems. Roughly half of passengers who seek medical care are older than 65 years of age.

What medical tests are done for cruise ship jobs? ›

The PEME includes a battery of tests including blood test, urine test, chest x-ray, Mantoux skin test, immunological tests, liver function test, blood pressure test, pregnancy test (women) and possibly an EKG.

Do cargo ships have doctors? ›

Most cargo ships have no doctors

Unfortunately, the general rule is that cargo ships and other sorts of vessels that are being operated in this manner do not have doctors on them. Instead, members of the crew will be trained in basic sorts of first aid. They can offer care as the ship moves toward its port.

How many doctors are on a Navy ship? ›

The sick bay team on a frigate, for example, can comprise up to five people: a ship's doctor, an assistant ship's doctor, two medical NCOs, and an enlisted medical orderly. On a task force support ship, there are eight more crew members, including two medical technicians.

Who is the highest paid person on a cruise ship? ›

It comes as no surprise that the ship's captain has the biggest salary from working on a cruise ship. The master of the vessel has a huge responsibility for ship safety for crew and passengers along with navigation. The captain can earn almost $100,000 manually depending on the cruise line and experience.

What is the highest position in cruise ship? ›

Captain / Master

The Captain is the highest ranking officer and the Master of the cruise ship.

Can you make good money working on a cruise ship? ›

In positions like these, cruise ship employees can make as much as $4,500 a month. Keep in mind though, that these positions are very competitive. One of the top-earning positions onboard is that of a cruise director, a position that can command as much as $80,000 per year!

Whats it like to work on a cruise ship? ›

Cruise ship crew life can be intense: long hours, no days off for months, lots of rules, demanding guests, small living quarters and little to no privacy. But working on ships also allows you to travel to places some only dream of while making some amazing connections with fellow seafarers from all over the world.

Why would you like to work on a cruise ship? ›

One of the main reasons people choose to work on cruise ships is the chance to travel to many places they might not otherwise have the opportunity to see. Since they live on the ship, they receive room and board as part of their compensation. They travel the world without paying for expensive hotels and food.

Can you take medicine on a cruise? ›

The rules around medication on board a cruise ship tend to be more lenient than those for air travel, since your journey takes place over a longer period. All gels, liquids, tablets and aerosols are permitted, and you are generally advised to bring as much as you need for the duration of your time aboard.

Do cruise ships carry blood? ›

Because of the very nature of blood, the many blood types, and strict storage and testing requirements, cruise ships are not capable of storing blood to support a transfusion program.

Is there a hospital on a cruise ship? ›

Cruise Ship Medical Facilities

While it generally will have regular hours, shown in the ship's daily program, staff are on call 24 hours for emergencies. The ship's medical center contains several beds and is set up to treat minor nonemergency conditions or to stabilize passengers facing life-threatening conditions.

Do cruise ships have dentists on board? ›

All cruise lines need medical staff on board and ready to provide emergency care. This includes dentists, as dental care emergencies can happen unexpectedly.

How much do cruise line nurses make? ›

The average salary of those working as a cruise ship nurse is $36.67 an hour which is $76,283 a year. Keep in mind your experience level will affect your salary. As an entry-level employee, you can expect to be earning $18.99 an hour which would give you an annual salary of $39,500 per year.

How much does a Royal Caribbean doctor make? ›

Average Royal Caribbean group Physician yearly pay in the United States is approximately $128,497, which is 38% below the national average.

What is the best room on a cruise ship for motion sickness? ›

To reduce motion sickness, choose a stateroom in the middle of the ship on a lower deck. You will feel any sway of the ship less in this section. Although it may seem counterintuitive, if you're worried about seasickness on a cruise, book a stateroom with a window or a veranda.

Why do so many people get sick on cruises? ›

The industrial-size servings of food on a cruise ship with hundreds of passengers can be particularly worrisome, since once the virus enters the food it can spread rapidly. Food can also get more easily contaminated with the virus if it sits out for several hours, as is often the case with buffet-style meals.

What kind of sickness can you get on a cruise ship? ›

4 Common Health Problems on Cruise Ships (and How to Prevent 'Em)
  • Food poisoning. Norovirus—a common cause of foodborne illness—is a regular passenger on cruise ships. ...
  • The flu. If you thought the flu spread quickly in your office, wait and see how quickly it spreads on a cruise ship. ...
  • Seasickness. ...
  • Regional infections.
27 Jan 2022

Do cruise ship doctors have antibiotics? ›

The location makes it easier to transport patients off the ship quietly and privately if it becomes necessary. The doctors on board can diagnose your illness and prescribe basic medications, including antibiotics. They carry a plentiful supply of motion-sickness remedies as well as mild pain medication and antacids.

What happens if you get sick on a cruise ship? ›

Typically, a member of the cruise line's Care Team will accompany the ill passenger and a companion or family member to the hospital. You will not be reimbursed for any unused portion of your cruise. You will be charged for medical services onboard and in the port of call where you are disembarked.

Do cruise ships have dentists on board? ›

All cruise lines need medical staff on board and ready to provide emergency care. This includes dentists, as dental care emergencies can happen unexpectedly.

Are there Pharmacy on cruise ships? ›

Do Cruise Ships Have Pharmacies? Cruise ships do not have full pharmacies onboard but will usually have a section of an onboard shop dedicated to medicine. Here you can find treatments for common problems such as headaches or colds.

What is it like to be a cruise ship doctor? ›

The working hours are pretty good with this gig. Each ship has two doctors and at least two nurses. The doctors take turns carrying the beeper for 24 hours at a time. The senior ranking doctor is in charge of the passengers and the junior ranking doctor cares for the crew.

What type of doctors are on cruise ships? ›

All medical staff are both certified and experienced. Under the ACEP standaards, physicians must have three years of post-graduate/post-registration experience in general and emergency medicine or be board certified in emergency medicine, family medicine or internal medicine.

Which Cruise Line has the best medical care? ›

Royal Caribbean cruise ships provide an advanced level of health care options that you might not be aware of. Royal Caribbean provided a look at the medical facilities onboard, that can handle minor issues like sunburn or sea sickness, but also heart attacks, severe hemorrhages, heart attacks and respiratory failure.

What is the best room on a cruise ship for motion sickness? ›

To reduce motion sickness, choose a stateroom in the middle of the ship on a lower deck. You will feel any sway of the ship less in this section. Although it may seem counterintuitive, if you're worried about seasickness on a cruise, book a stateroom with a window or a veranda.

Can I go on a cruise with a cough? ›

You should NOT travel on a cruise ship:

If you have tested positive for COVID-19 before your trip (you may be infectious for up to 10 days). If you have symptoms of COVID-19 such as sore throat, runny nose, cough or shortness of breath.

Why do so many people get sick on cruises? ›

The industrial-size servings of food on a cruise ship with hundreds of passengers can be particularly worrisome, since once the virus enters the food it can spread rapidly. Food can also get more easily contaminated with the virus if it sits out for several hours, as is often the case with buffet-style meals.

Is there a dentist on Carnival cruise ships? ›

What If You Have Dental Problems On A Cruise? - YouTube

Is there a dentist on Royal Caribbean cruise? ›

While dentistry is not provided onboard, our medical team can assist you with in-port locations for services.

Do you pay for doctor on cruise ship? ›

Paying for Medical Care While Cruising

When you get sick or worse and need treatment or emergency services, you will pay for it, typically out of pocket. If you receive treatment or medicine from ship physicians, the cost will be charged to your cabin folio.

Can you take medicine on cruise? ›

The rules around medication on board a cruise ship tend to be more lenient than those for air travel, since your journey takes place over a longer period. All gels, liquids, tablets and aerosols are permitted, and you are generally advised to bring as much as you need for the duration of your time aboard.

Videos

1. Cat Greenleaf's First Cruise: The Doctor Is In | Princess Cruises
(Princess Cruises)
2. A Visit to the Doctor's Touring Oasis' Medical Facility
(Crew & Cruise)
3. Cruise ship doctors accommodations
(Better Than Yesterday)
4. Cruise ship accommodation for doctors
(Better Than Yesterday)
5. Hospital of a Cargo Ship | Medical Facility onboard | Ship’s Medical Officer | Life at Sea
(Ojji & Shippi)
6. GOING TO A CRUISE SHIP HOSPITAL
(2 Again)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Terence Hammes MD

Last Updated: 02/10/2023

Views: 6592

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (49 voted)

Reviews: 80% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Terence Hammes MD

Birthday: 1992-04-11

Address: Suite 408 9446 Mercy Mews, West Roxie, CT 04904

Phone: +50312511349175

Job: Product Consulting Liaison

Hobby: Jogging, Motor sports, Nordic skating, Jigsaw puzzles, Bird watching, Nordic skating, Sculpting

Introduction: My name is Terence Hammes MD, I am a inexpensive, energetic, jolly, faithful, cheerful, proud, rich person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.