Travel Blog

What Medical Facilities Are On A Cruise Ship?

As the cruise industry booms, offering an ever-increasing variety of both ocean and river experiences all over the world, it’s little wonder that more travellers than ever are realising that dream of a holiday at sea. Whilst many travellers will be entertaining tempting thoughts of seductive sea views, all-you-can-eat buffets and the diverse range of activities and tours the modern-day cruise offers, there are likely to be some who may harbour some apprehensive notions about life at sea.  

For example, families with children in tow or those that live with a medical condition might wonder what medical facilities are on board a cruise ship as well as what might happen if you fall ill whilst out on the water. It’s a valid concern and one which could lead you to send an enquiry to your cruise line of choice, in order to put your mind to rest. In general, whilst a serious illness or an emergency would involve a referral to a facility on land, the modern cruise ship will offer 24-hour infirmaries with trained medical professionals on standby to provide care and advice.  

Medical staff on board a cruise ship 

Most of the world’s leading cruise lines will ensure there is at least one doctor and two nurses on board at all times. Some of the larger liners, those carrying a great number of passengers, may well invest in an additional doctor and three or four nurses.  

When it comes to credentials, the big-name cruise lines will have some strict vetting procedures in place to ensure they employ consistently well-trained staff. According to Cruise Critic, Carnival Cruise Lines, the world’s largest cruise line, stipulates its physicians must be registered in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, South Africa, a European Union country or any other country approved by the fleet medical director. You can certainly expect that any healthcare professionals on board will be fluent in the main language of the ship. 

Medication and equipment 

Cruise ships will sell some of those first aid essentials such as plasters, painkillers and those all-important seasickness pills for those that might struggle to cope when the waves are up. However, within the infirmary, there will be a range of medication available to treat any infectious conditions such as the norovirus, as well as a range of gastrointestinal or respiratory ailments.  

Many ships will offer sophisticated equipment such as x-ray machines and cardio monitors to diagnose a range of conditions, and infirmaries should be equipped well enough to stabilise patients in sudden emergencies such as heart attacks. However, if a patient needs serious medical attention, they will likely be disembarked as soon as possible or even evacuated by helicopter in order to make sure they have access to a fully equipped medical centre on dry land. 


Although the idea of being placed in quarantine sounds like a frightening procedure, the close proximity of a large number of people in a relatively confined space means that ships need to act fast in the event of a potential infectious outbreak. One of the most common stomach bugs, the norovirus, can spread like wildfire if not contained. You may be asked to remain in your cabin for a specific period of time. If this happens, do take it seriously as cruise ships operate strict policies on this sort of thing, but try not to worry too much. The crew will ensure all your meals, drinks and medication is delivered to your door. 

Cruise travel insurance 

Although it might seem as if your cruise ship is adept at taking care of your every whim, when it comes to medical care, you will find that treatment and medication is billed to your cabin. Ensure that you’re not left out of pocket by booking the right travel insurance policy for your trip and you can relax, safe in the knowledge that should an unfortunate incident occur, your insurer will have your covered. 

Take the hassle out of finding the best travel insurance for your circumstances and use an online comparison tool such as that offered by Medical Travel Compared. We strive to offer travellers a comprehensive selection of policies that fit their requirements. Browse our selection and get your travel insurance quote today.


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