Cruise holiday passengers who are taken ill on board ships are being hit by expensive medical bills, a new report has revealed.
Holidaymakers used to getting free NHS treatment at home are complaining of the sky-high medical costs that are charged at private healthcare rates, according to a Which? Travel investigation.
The report, published by the Daily Mail, found that the average medical bill is £233, while some passengers have paid £500 or more and one holidaymaker was even charged £6,500 for treatment.
One in five of 1,368 Which? subscribers who have been on a cruise ship said they had visited a doctor on board.
According to the Daily Telegraph, Which? asked some of the UK's biggest cruise liners for their basic medical costs but most lines, including Cunard, Fred Olsen, Princess Cruises and P&O, declined.
Travel medicine expert Dr Richard Dawood told the newspaper: "Many of the bigger cruise lines are US-owned and land-based care in the US, even for minor problems, can be very expensive and considerably more costly than the average UK passenger would ever expect."
With cruise holidays attracting older travellers, often with existing medical conditions, cruise lines ensure they have state-of-the-art medical facilities on board, Dr Dawood adds.
Which? Travel said that one passenger who forgot enough blood pressure pills on a P&O Cruise had to pay £154 for them.
Another was charged £2,500 after being admitted to the medical centre with pneumonia.
In many cases, although insurance policies cover medical costs passengers have to pay the excess, which can be hundreds of pounds if treatment costs are over £2,000.
Ten things not to do on a cruise
Cruise passengers warned of expensive on board medical treatment
This is really frowned upon – and some cruise lines have banned 'chair hogging' completely.
You may happy exploring a destination on your own – particularly if it's somewhere you've visited before. But there are usually some amazing experiences on offer, from jeep safaris in Jamaica to dolphin exploration in Dominica and a classical concert in St Petersburg, so it's definitely worth checking them out.
Unless you can afford to book an extra cabin for your luggage (and we have heard of some very rich passengers doing this), average staterooms don't have masses of storage space. So just pack a capsule wardrobe – although it's always worth taking a couple of swimsuits so one can dry while you wear the other one.
Some passengers decide that because they've already been to a place they don't need to get off at a port – but there is always something new to discover, particularly if your ship offers 'destination immersion' shore experiences, or even just to get a change of scene. Many cruises have one (maybe more) days at sea on a cruise, so plenty of time to hang around the ship then.
OK, if you have really strong willpower, you *may* be able to avoid all the gourmet food (and there are usually lots of salads and healthy options available). But with so much excellent cuisine on offer it would be a shame to miss out on more the more indulgent creations from the likes of Marco Pierre White and patissier Eric Lanlard.
Of course holidaying with your family is a fantastic opportunity to spend quality time together – but cruise ships have amazing kids' clubs, with every possible whim catered for. Not only does it give your children a chance to make new friends and try different experiences, but it will give you a little alone time too. For example, on Oriana, Aurora and Azura, the kids' clubs are open until late – ideal if you want to give the kids an early supper and then enjoy dinner a deux knowing they're in safe hands.
It's compulsory. Plus, you'll also discover how to put on a life jacket (not as easy as it looks) and what a muster station is.
Joining the other passengers on deck as your ship pulls away from the dock is something very special and adds to that 'golden age of cruise' feel. There will usually be cocktails on offer so you can toast the start of your holiday, too (although check before you take one, as some cruise lines do charge for these).
The cabin staff work incredibly hard, and are often away from their families for months on end – so show your appreciation. Some cruise packages include tips – check what's included in yours and if you want to leave a little extra in an envelope, it will be gratefully received.
You can do this up to a point – it is your holiday, after all. But if you want to make sure your restaurant seating is at the right time or you can have that fabulous spa treatment (alfresco massage, anyone?), you'll need to do a little planning. Don't feel you have to do everything though – if you overschedule you'll just feel pressured.