People often ask “Do I really need to get that traveler’s medical insurance when I go cruising”? My answer is a definite yes. I was reminded of this when saw this article today at NBC San Diego
Unfortunately, though the facilities have greatly improved over the last 25 years, cruise ships medical facilities are not equipped to handle all medical conditions. Many cruise lines have added more advanced diagnostic equipment like digital X-rays and medicines for treatments of cardiac emergencies. However broken bones, very serious heart problems, and other problems that require specialized diagnostic equipment will probably require treatment back on land.
When we were on our cruise to Hawaii in 2005, the ship stopped in the middle of the ocean the day before our scheduled arrival in Hawaii so that a Coast Guard helicopter could land on the ship and pick up a passenger who was reported to have been having pacemaker problems. These evacuations are not a free service, and the Coast Guard will charge passengers for this service which can be in the tens of thousands of dollars. According to Sally van Boheemen, Registered Nurse and Fleet Medical Operations manager for Holland American Line and Windstar, the cost can vary from $5000 to $80000 depending on the location.
She also states in her report “Meeting the Challenge – Cruise Ship Medicine” that in most cases surgery on board a ship is not possible. Still, medical helicopter evacuations are the exception. For example, in the year 2003 Holland American Line medical department treated 35000 passengers and 46000 crew members. By comparison, in the year 2000 the entire line had just 22 helicopter evacuations.
Just remember that you could be one of those 22 people a year who need the medical evacuation! Go ahead and purchase the medical insurance. Often it is combined with a policy that also includes trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance, so you are covered for most any kind of emergency such as a death in the family or sudden illness before or during your trip. Often, your travel agent will include the insurance for free.