On the Cruise Log, journalist Gene Sloan cites a report of a man getting kicked off a Carnival ship in Roatan, Honduras because he was sick.  The unfortunate passenger was offloaded at the the first port and had to pay thousands of dollars to get himself home in order to get the medical care he needed.

That’s the way all cruise lines handle passengers who are too ill to be treated by the ship’s medical staff:  if they’re ill equipped to take care of you, if you should be hospitalized, they don’t want to be responsible.

It happened to a close friend in Istanbul.  We few to this city to board a Princess ship at the start of a Mediterranean cruise when Sam was suddenly felt the intense pain of kidney stones.  After visiting the ship’s hospital (Princess only employees physicians board certified in the UK), the ship’s doctor called an ambulance to take him to a local hospital.  You do NOT want to get sick in Turkey.  Fortunately the stone passed, he returned to the ship and had a second glass of bubbly  as the ropes were raised and we

He wouldn’t have entered the hospital anyway:  because he had travel insurance he would have been flown by air ambulance to the nearest

If you have travel insurance you’ll be lifted by air ambulance to the nearest U.S. or, if the distance is too great, best hospital in the region.   If you don’t have travel insurance you can either pay $20,000 for an air ambulance or go to a local hospital.

This is why I believe you’re very foolish to travel anywhere outside the U.S.  without purchasing travel insurance.

My father came down with the flu aboard Queen Elizabeth 2, spent days in bed with a nurse checking in on him frequently.  If you come down with a virus like Norwalk, you’ll be confined to your cabin until you’re no longer contagious.  Ships can handle viruses, a scraped knee and sunburn but little else.

Ships aren’t equipped to handle serious illness.  There are no diagnostic tools, surgery or intensive care.  While there is medicine for sea sickness and flu, not much else is available.  Ships do have CPR machines but beyond temporarily stabilizing someone who suffers a heart attack, the staff can do little more.

air-amb.jpgA ship’s physician told me about a passenger whose life was saved because he had travel insurance.   A passenger suffered a stroke and because he had travel insurance, the ship’s doctor was immediately patched through to a neurologist in Houston.  An air ambulance quickly evacuated the passenger, taking him to a Texas hospital where he was successfully treated.  However, if he hadn’t had insurance, the ship’s doctor would have had no choice but to put him ashore in the nearest port, Cartagena, Columbia, where, the doctor believed, he would have died.

I don’t know about you, but to me the thought of getting sick and being forced to go to a Third World hospital is terrifying.

Here’s another insider’s tip: should the ship’s doctor make a misdiagnosis or provide poor treatment, forget trying to sue.  Like the spa and gift shop, doctors and nurses are independent contractors. The cruise line doesn’t hire doctors and nurses; they are employed by outside employment agencies.  Hence, the cruise line has no liability.

I hope I’ve scared you enough to get travel insurance before your next cruise.  Here are several of the larger companies, which you may purchase online or through travel agents:  Travel Guard and Access America.

Do you buy travel insurance?  Have you ever had to use it?