When You Get Really Sick on a Cruise Ship

Sick on a Cruise ShipAny time you board a cruise ship, you are asked to fill out a public health questionnaire. When putting this many bodies together for a week, it only makes sense to make sure the bodies you’re putting together are healthy. The main questions are if you or anyone traveling with you have experienced or are experiencing fever, vomiting, or diarrhea. On Friday, I came down with a fever, nothing major, no other real symptoms. Ibuprofen helped, and I was evaluated by the ship’s doctor and found healthy enough to board. I made my way straight to my stateroom and slept off whatever was lurking in my head.

Sunday night, however, something went terribly wrong. My fever spiked, and my lungs had a really hard time functioning. I was officially really sick on a cruise and far away from my doctor, Walgreen’s, and my own bed. I had read about the medical center on ships before, but how great could they really be aside from a few band-aids and some motion sickness pills? Well, I was about to find out.

Royal Caribbean’s medical center is run like any other medical facility. There are at least two nurses and two doctors that rotate 24-hour shifts. Once they confirmed my fever, they did full bloodwork and started me on antibiotics and nebulizer treatments. The great part was I was one of the only patients, so I got very personalized and prompt service.

Other guests came in and out for things ranging from dialysis, an ear infection in a small baby, a sprained ankle, a sore throat, a migraine, and plenty of sea sickness. In my half dozen nebulizer treatments, I’ve seen the ship’s operating rooms, their ICU, regular recovery rooms, and even the morgue. Not only is the medical center here to serve the guests who may fall ill on their vacation, it’s also the primary care facility for the 1,800 crew members on board for 6 months at a time. Of course they would be fully prepared for anything.

Prices are similar to those on land, and while the ship won’t bill insurance, you can submit your expenses for reimbursement once on land. It’s certainly not a side of cruising I was ever expecting to see, but it’s oddly comforting to know that in this floating city, there really is great medical care available if you do find yourself in need. (If I were traveling in a foreign country, who knows where or what medical care I would have access to?)

The best part is as soon as I come out from the medical center, I’m right back on vacation.

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