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Cruising - What Happens if I Become Ill? - Orlando / Florida Guide

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Nobody wants to consider the possibility of either illness or injury whilst on holiday, but on a cruise ship it is certainly reassuring that there is a medical facility just an elevator away. In fact, Princess is the first cruise line to have achieved accreditation and certification by an internationally recognised health care quality organisation. Princess Cruises has been awarded Caspe HealthCare Knowledge Systems (CHJS) accreditation, plus certification for outstanding quality in health care. This UK organisation works with public and private health care providers worldwide. These awards recognise the excellent standards of medical care provided on board the Princess vessels.

However, it is comforting to know that most cruise liners have equally good facilities on board. Medical Centers on most cruise liners are staffed by full time medical specialists who are available 24 hours a day in case of an emergency. These facilities are equipped to deal with both minor injuries, and most major medical conditions. However, should a situation develop whereby they cannot deal with a specific medical emergency there are procedures in place to cope with such an emergency, and some ships even have helipads to enable the swift transfer of ill passengers to a land based medical facility, where more specialist help is available.

We have seen for ourselves the way that the crew handle a medical emergency which requires a transfer of patient at sea. When on Royal Caribbean’s ‘Splendour of the Seas, ’ a few years ago, we were at dinner when we heard the captain make an announcement that we had a seriously ill passenger on board, and that the ship had been diverted in order to facilitate the transfer of this lady to a hospital on land. Unfortunately, we were in a rather unusual situation that, whilst being near to Cuba, because the ship was American, and therefore banned from docking in that country, this would necessitate the transfer of the lady by boat to the nearby US medical facility at Guantanamo Bay. At a predetermined time the ship slowed down and stopped, a truly eerie experience. All the lights along the Promenade deck were slung over the side and lit, illuminating the whole of the side of the ship. Passengers lined the decks to watch this manoeuvre, and there was an anxious silence on board the ship. The sea had become as still as a millpond and we saw a US Naval Vessel standing off some way away. A small boat pulled up alongside and as we watched, the tender deck was swung out and the lady transferred, on a stretcher, to the awaiting boat. As the tiny boat pulled away with its precious cargo there was a spontaneous round of applause from the waiting passengers, and from the Bridge, the Captain executed three very soft blasts on the ship’s horn as a farewell to this lady. It was highly emotional and all wished her a safe journey and a speedy recovery. Indeed, we later learned that she had suffered a heart attack but was making a good recovery.

Of course there are many things you can do to help ensure that you don’t fall ill or have an accident. Care should always be taken when tendering at island ports, for example. Many accidents occur when people embark or disembark from tenders, particularly during rough seas. Whilst the cruise lines take great care to ensure that passengers remain safe, it is sometimes necessary to cease tendering operations, or to bypass such a port when the weather is inclement. Although that may be inconvenient, the possibility of injuries and ensuring passenger safety has to be the overriding factor.

There are also many things you can do once on board ship to avoid one of the ‘tummy bugs’ such as Norovirus, which can be extremely unpleasant and debilitating, and which may result in you being confined to your stateroom until the doctor gives you the all clear. Hygiene and cleanliness are usually of the highest order on board ship, and far superior to even the top class hotels. But unfortunately, passenger hygiene may not be so good. Always wash your hands carefully with soap (for a minimum of 20 seconds) ensuring that the front and back of hands, plus the area in between fingers and around the wrist are thoroughly cleaned. The hands should then be washed under running water. Use a paper towel to open the door and then dispose of it in the bins which are normally to be found near the toilet doors – specifically for this purpose. On many ships now these doors are left permanently open to avoid transference of germs from passenger to passenger. It’s a simple routine, but one which can save you much misery – don’t forget – YOU may have washed your hands, but the person ahead of you might not have done so before touching that handle!

There are also precautions which can be taken when using the buffet restaurants. Whenever eating from the buffet use a paper napkin to hold any tongs or spoons. You may have been extremely careful to wash your hands but the person who has just used the tongs may not have been so fastidious. Always use the gel which is available at the entrances to buffet areas or restaurants before entering these areas. Many cruise lines have a permanent staff presence at the entrance to these areas, holding gel dispensers to make this as easy as possible for passengers.

Of course I cannot emphasise enough the necessity to take out comprehensive travel insurance so that, should you become ill, or suffer an accident, all your medical costs will be covered. Medical treatment in the USA is extremely expensive so you could find it money well spent. Don’t forget to declare ALL pre-existing conditions, and always inform your insurance company of any changes in your health.

Then you can go off on your holiday with an easy mind.

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Page added on: 2 October 2010
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