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Don't be Left Sick at Sea on Your Next Cruise

A cruise can be a dream come true, as long as you don't get hurt or sick. The Centers for Disease Control reports that as many as 11 percent of all medical conditions aboard ship are an emergency. Consumer Reports tells us how to avoid a health care crisis on the high seas.
A cruise can be a dream come true, as long as you don't get hurt or sick. The Centers for Disease Control reports that as many as 11 percent of all medical conditions aboard ship are an emergency. Consumer Reports tells us how to avoid a health care crisis on the high seas.

Glitzy ads of luxury cruises often feature the indulgences. They skip the less glamorous story of being sick at sea, and the limited treatment options available.

When the Norovirus tore through this cruise ship in January, more than 600 passengers were struck, including Jane Upton.

"I just remember leaning against, in the bathroom, and I was like: 'Is this what it is like to die?' It's horrific," said Jane.

Now imagine yourself days from the nearest port, on a ship without diagnostic equipment like an M-R-I machine, a blood bank, or even specialty doctors.

Dr. Orly Avitzur of Consumer Reports explained, "Many people believe they are boarding a 'floating hospital,' but a cruise ship is more like a floating hotel, with a doctor at hand."

Dr. Orly Avitzur of Consumer Reports says, "Think twice about traveling with a chronic medical condition. The Coast Guard can't always launch a rescue, if the seas are rough or the ship is too far from land."

Next, know that most prescription drugs are not available on a cruise ship, so always travel with an extra supply of all medications.

"Also, get ready to pay a premium, out of pocket, for any on board care, even items like Band-Aids or aspirin. Many people aren't aware that most cruise ships don't accept medical insurance," said Dr. Avitzur.

And Consumer Reports says consider travel insurance. It could be invaluable if you end up needing serious medical attention in a foreign port.

Consumer Reports advises when you're buying travel insurance, avoid commission-driven policies that are sold by tour operators, travel agents, and cruise lines. Instead, check out an online broker such as www.insuremytrip.com, which sells coverage from multiple companies.

For more information: www.ConsumerReports.org/cro/cruise0414.htm/

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