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Cruise Care
First aid for when the unexpected happens

Cruise Travel First Aidby Linda Coffman

Sick Bay
Things happen to even the most careful people and on a cruise vacation and there are a lot of unusual "things" that can land you in the ship's hospital. In unfamiliar surroundings, even a nocturnal trip to the bathroom has its hazards.

Before you leave home there are a few items to consider. First of all, don't forget any prescription medications you regularly take. The ship's pharmacy may not have what you need. If they do, great. Just don't expect the ship's doctor to hand over pills without examining you. I remember an outraged tablemate who forgot his prescription medicine and raged on about how the doctor just "wanted to charge him for an office visit." Stop and think about it... if you were on a land vacation, would a physician unfamiliar with you simply hand over prescription medications because you said you needed them?

If you are examined by the ship's doctor, be prepared to pay for your office visit. Unless you carry very comprehensive medical insurance coverage, you probably are not covered for treatment aboard a cruise ship, or in any foreign country, for that matter. Check before you leave home and be prepared to pay for any treatment you require and file your own claim later. If your medical coverage is through Medicare, you certainly will not be covered outside the United States. It is worth noting that ALL ships of foreign registry are considered to be "outside the United States" by Medicare; however, this point is not explained clearly in the Medicare Manual.

Minor bumps
Suppose you do fall in the night? From personal experience, I can tell you it hurts to scrape your knee on carpeting. That's just what I did when I tripped over a discarded item of clothing on my cabin floor one night. Fortunately, I had a band aid in my purse—but only one. And no antiseptic cream. The next day I reported to the ship's hospital and explained to the nurse what I'd done. On the corner of her desk was a basket containing bandages of various sizes and miniature packets of antiseptic ointment. I was invited to help myself. Oh, and incidentally, I could also help myself to mal de mer remedies in case of seasickness. Those items were gratis.

Who you gonna call?
For a slightly more serious problem, your ship's doctor should be able to treat you as well as any land-locked general practitioner.

On a Caribbean cruise, my husband Mel signed up for the America's Cup Yachting excursion in St. Martin. When he returned, his first stop was the ship's hospital. The doctor took one look at his mashed thumb and said, "Don't tell me. You were a 'grinder,' right?" Seems the grinders on racing yachts have a propensity for mashed thumbs. Mel is very finicky about medical care and pain. He was well pleased with the treatment, including a splint and heavy-duty pain killers.  As an added bonus of sorts, because his injury happened on a shore excursion purchased on the ship, the medical treatment was complimentary.

I had the misfortune to catch my heel in a stair tread and do a swan dive down a flight of steps on a cruise ship.  Other than my damaged pride, my injuries included scraped and bruised shins. The ship's physician cleaned the wounds and dressed them with antiseptic and bandages. His nurse followed up my progress not once but three times! Again, the medical services were complimentary because I'd fallen on the ship due to a loose stair tread. I was very lucky not to have broken an arm or leg, which I attribute to my habit of always using the hand rails. 

To insure or not...
For a really serious problem, such as a heart attack or appendicitis, your ship's medical team will have to evacuate you to the nearest hospital ashore. The expenses involved can rise as fast as the helicopter that whisks you away. To cover those costs, travel insurance is a must. It's an entirely different matter... one I take up in Going Bare.

HINT: Take along a nightlight or leave the bathroom light on before you retire for the night. Even with the door closed, enough light usually shines beneath it to guide your way.

Find the right policy for you from one of these Travel Insurers

Pack a Cruise Travel First Aid Kit and be prepared for small emergencies. Get's list of what to include.

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