Cruise ships: sick at sea

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- 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 a cruise ship in January, more than 600 passengers were struck. Now imagine yourself days from the nearest port, on a ship without diagnostic equipment like an MRI machine, a blood bank or even specialty doctors.

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

And, Consumer Reports says: Consider travel insurance. It could be invaluable if you end up needing serious medical attention in a foreign port. Avoid commission-driven policies that are sold by tour operators, travel agents and cruise-lines. Instead, check out an online broker such as:, which sells coverage from multiple companies.

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