What to Do When Sick on Cruise Ship
We love cruises! There is so much to do packed into a small area and you can visit so many places. Crowds of people in close quarters, riding the same elevators, holding the same rails, pushing the same buttons for several days at a time, though, makes the spread of germs inevitable.
On our last cruise aboard the Disney Wonder, I became ill with Acute Gastroenteritis (AGE) with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramping. AGE can be caused by a virus or by food poisoning. The symptoms can take from one to seven days to resolve. Massive outbreaks occur sporadically on cruise ships. The outbreak on the Disney Wonder was rather small and contained.
If caused by a virus, AGE is very contagious and is spread by hand to mouth route. A person with the virus rubs their mouth then holds the rail in the elevator. You come along, hold the same rail, then eat something before washing your hands. Whammo!
Cruise ships keep a physician on board. A visit to the doctor on the Disney wonder costs $149 minimum, unless the fee is waved. If you are diagnosed with AGE (Acute Gastroenteritis), then your fee will be waved. For most other things, you will be charged. They do not accept insurance, but you can file it with your insurance yourself later.
I awoke at 1 a.m. with all of the symptoms and had a miserable night. We were to go on a snorkeling expedition in Barbados that morning at 7 a.m. My wife told the Disney excursion host who called me and told me to report to the clinic on 1 Forward at 9:30 a.m. If the physician diagnosed me with AGE, then my fee for the excursion would be refunded. Otherwise, it was nonrefundable.
I arrived on time and was the second of five people in line to see the doctor; four of us had the same symptoms. Before being seen I had to complete a detailed medical history, symptom log, and dining log. It was about 20 minutes before I was seen. The physician was a young, pleasant South African man who was thorough. AGE is a diagnosis based on symptoms, so I was obviously diagnosed. He gave me a medicine to help with nausea, as well as a note for the excursion refund, and waved the charge.
Per CDC (Center for Disease Control) guidelines, if you are diagnosed with AGE on a cruise ship, then you are placed on quarantine in you cabin until you have had no vomiting or diarrhea for a full 24 hours. Disney Cruise Line, at least, courteously enforces this. Everyone on the ship acquainted with you will be notified and check up on you: your server, your cleaning person, everyone. The nurse called me in my room later that day and the next morning. A cast member from guest services, Sonny, checked in on me later in the day and the next morning; as did a port excursion rep.
My quarantine was to expire at 9 a.m. the next morning, but our tour of Martinique was to leave at 8:45 a.m. Fortunately, the bus was held for the extra minutes for me, because my name was entered in the ships computer system, and I was not allowed to leave the ship even a minute early.
Disney Cruise Line offered several things to make the day of quarantine more tolerable.
- Free room service, including bottles of Powerade. My families server personally delivered chicken noodle soup.
- Free laundry service for any clothes soiled from the illness (yuck!)
- Free DVD player with a huge selection of movies.
- It can be caused by food poisoning, but more commonly will be a very contagious virus.
Here are some important points to remember about being sick on a cruise ship with acute gastroenteritis.
- AGE can be caused by food poisoning, but more commonly, it is caused by a contagious virus.
- If you get AGE, then you should consider yourself VERY CONTAGIOUS.
- The symptoms are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps.
- The best prevention is frequent and thorough washing of the hands, especially before eating or drinking anything.
- If diagnosed by the ship physician, then your office fee will be waived.
- If diagnosed, you will receive a voucher for a refund for any port excursion booked through Disney. Most excursions not booked through Disney will likely not be refunded. Other cruise lines may have different policies.
- You will be quarantined to your room for 24 hours after your last episode of vomiting or diarrhea. It is enforced, too.
I hope that you never contract gastroenteritis when you are cruising. If you do, then hopefully this will help.