Cruise ship travel

Advice for travellers who are planning a cruise ship holiday
Cruise ship travel

Cruises are a popular holiday choice for all age groups. They bring together people from all over the world, in crowded, semi-enclosed environments. As international travel by UK residents continues to increase [1], more travellers are likely to choose to cruise.

Cruise ships occasionally report outbreaks of infections such as flu, COVID-19 or food / water-borne illnesses; and while most passengers have a safe and enjoyable holiday, pre-travel preparation is important to reduce the risk of health problems.

Advice for travellers

Before travel

Operators have taken steps to improve infection control, but cruise ships may still experience COVID-19 outbreaks [2]. The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provide guidance of what to consider ahead of booking an international cruise; you should also check the protocols of the cruise operator you are booking with.

If your ship is affected by an outbreak of COVID-19 you may be required to quarantine on board or at a designated facility. If you do not follow the cruise operator protocols, you may be asked to disembark the ship [2].

You can contact NaTHNaC by email with COVID-19 related enquiries.

Medical care
Access to healthcare may be limited on-board. Research the medical facilities on the ship before booking your holiday.

Comprehensive travel insurance is essential for all cruise passengers. A full declaration of health conditions, all destinations, equipment, and planned activities should be made. Ensure that you are aware of what is and what is not included in your policy [2].

Pack enough supplies of all regular medications to last for the whole trip as well as possible travel delays. Advise the cruise company in plenty of time if you need any additional assistance or equipment. Seasickness is a common complaint; your pharmacist can advise you about anti-sickness medication before travel.

Check our country information pages for current vaccine and health advice. See your GP, practice nurse, pharmacist or travel clinic (ideally four to six weeks before you go) to check your travel and routine vaccines are in date.

Ensure that you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines and consider having a flu vaccine, particularly if you are in a risk group.

If your cruise is visiting yellow fever risk areas, you will ned to get advice from a specialist yellow fever vaccination centre (YFVC).

You can e-mail NaTHNaC with vaccination certificate enquiries.

If the cruise itinerary indicates overnight stops in areas with malaria, or you are ashore overnight in risk regions, antimalarials may be recommended [3]. You should take any recommended tablets as directed, finish the course, be meticulous about insect bite avoidance and get urgent medical attention for any symptoms.

While travelling

Insect bites
Insect bites can cause irritation and spread infections like dengue, Zika virus and yellow fever. Reduce your risk by following insect and tick bite avoidance advice including regularly applying insect repellents.

Weather extremes
Cruises can involve extremes of weather and temperature, and many underestimate the risk of sun damage, especially in colder destinations. Follow sun protection advice including regular application of a high factor sunscreen and limiting time in the sun.

Illness/injury on-board
Infections, such as coughs and colds, can spread quickly on cruises [4]. Follow good personal hygiene rules and avoid close contact with other passengers who are unwell.

Outbreaks of gastrointestinal infections have been reported on cruise ships [5]. You can reduce your risk by carefully following food, water, and personal hygiene precautions.

Falls, slips and trips are a hazard on cruises and can cause serious injury. Beware of wet, slippery decks and take extra care in rough and stormy weather. Excessive alcohol intake should be avoided.

Report any illnesses, particularly vomiting and diarrhoea, promptly to the ship’s medical team.

If you become unwell on return home, for example with a fever, flu-like illness, or persistent cough, seek prompt medical advice and tell your doctor where you have travelled.

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