Cruise Health And Safety Tips

All big ships are equipped with medical infirmaries to handle minor emergencies. These are not hospitals, and there are no international standards governing medical facilities or personnel aboard cruise ships.

If you have a preexisting medical condition, discuss your upcoming cruise with your doctor. Pack extra supplies of any medicines you might need. Once aboard ship, alert the ship's doctor to your condition, and discuss treatments or emergency procedures before a crisis arises.

If you become seriously ill or injured, you may be taken to a medical facility shoreside. If the ship is not near a suitable medical facility, you may be airlifted from the ship by helicopter and flown either to the nearest American territory or to an airport where you can be taken by charter jet to the United States.

All passengers should review their health insurance policy to determine if they are covered while on a cruise. Most health insurance policies, including Medicare, do not cover medical expenses incurred outside the United States. If your policy does not provide this coverage, you should consider buying supplemental health insurance from your travel agent to cover you while traveling.

Many travelers have found that cruising is the most relaxing and comfortable of vacations. Some people, however, are particularly sensitive to motion sickness. Modern cruise ships are relatively motion-free. They have automatic stabilizers, and the most popular voyages are through comparatively calm waters. If you are concerned about this, select a cabin in mid-section of the ship, its most stable area, and inside cabins have less motion than outside cabins.

If you do feel queasy, you can always get pills aboard ship - many ships distribute them at the front desk. There are also other remedies that you can discuss with your physician before departing on your cruise.

Outbreaks of food poisoning are another concern, and this occasionally happens aboard cruise ships. The outbreaks are random: they happen on ships old and new, big and small, budget and luxury. All ships that sail regularly from U.S. ports are inspected regularly by the Centers for Disease Control to check cruise-ship hygiene and sanitation procedures.

In older ships, look out for raised ledges in all doorways; they are a tripping hazard.

When you first reach your cabin, find the location of your life vests and review the emergency instructions inside the cabin door or near the life vests. If you or a companion has a physical infirmity that might hamper a speedy exit from your cabin, tell the ship's purser. In an emergency, the purser can dispatch a crew member to assist you. If you are traveling with children, be sure child-size life jackets are placed in your cabin.

After boarding your ship, you will be asked to attend a mandatory lifeboat drill. Do so and listen carefully. If you have any questions, ask them. If you are not sure how to use your vest, ask.

In your cabin, close and secure your closet doors to prevent them from swinging. If the lock on your cabin door requires a key from the inside, leave the key in the lock when you are in the cabin; you won't have to hunt for your key or search for the keyhole in the dark. Do not attempt to enter or leave the upper berths without using the ladder.

Never throw smoking materials overboard, even if you think they are extinguished.

Ship stairs are different, and the decks may be damp from sea mist. Walk cautiously and use handrails. Wear rubber-soled (not crepe) shoes for extra traction on decks.

On deck, a cool breeze can mask the effects of the sun. Use plenty of sunscreen or lotion, and don't overexpose yourself to the sun.

The greatest danger facing cruise-ship passengers is fire. All cruise lines must meet certain international standards for fire safety. The rules require all ships to have sprinkler systems, smoke detectors, and other safety features. Most ships have audible smoke alarms in all cabins, staterooms, and cabin corridors on their ships, so check with your line to see if they have been installed.

These rules help, but fire safety begins with you, the passenger.

© American Society of Travel Agent