put your doctor in your cruise plans

David Frickman
April 08, 2024

That long-awaited family cruise is right around the corner. You’ve picked the date and the destination, bought all the tickets, and packed your clothes and other essentials (remember your sunscreen!). You're ready to go.

Or are you? Does your list of essentials include medications you’ll need during your vacation? Are you and your family up to date on your immunizations? Have you consulted your family doctor before the trip? If not, you may not be as ready to cruise as you think.

“Sometimes people forget about these things,” says Brian Pien, M.D., Hawaii Pacific Health infectious disease specialist. “It does require a bit of forethought and planning to have an optimal, safe, and enjoyable trip.”

According to the CDC Yellow Book 2024, “Cruise ship travel presents a unique combination of health concerns. Travelers from diverse regions brought together in the often crowded, semi-enclosed shipboard environment can facilitate the spread of person-to-person, foodborne, and waterborne diseases.”

Dr. Pien suggests seeing your doctor 10-14 days before your trip to make sure you have all the vaccinations you need, which can vary depending on your destination. Some vaccinations are recommended no matter where the cruise takes you.

“Being in close proximity to other cruise travelers increases the potential risk of getting exposed to communicable diseases like influenza, COVID-19, or RSV. There are very good vaccinations available for those illnesses,” Dr. Pien says.

Plan ahead if you'll need any medical devices while on the cruise, such as oxygen or dialysis equipment. “The planning is not dissimilar to trips you’d take to land-based locations,” says Dr. Pien. “But being on a cruise ship, you’re obviously more isolated and in more cramped conditions. And they may not have all of the necessary equipment or facilities to support your ongoing health care.”

The cruise ship travel section of the CDC Yellow Book 2024 includes a checklist for travelers preparing for a trip, as well as a checklist for providers on essential topics they should cover with you when you see them.

Dr. Pien says best thing you can do once you’re on the ship is to make sure you and your children are “more vigilant than normal with everyday types of things such as hand washing,” especially children who may touch a lot of things and need reminders to wash their hands.

If you find yourself suddenly having to travel, don't stress! Check out the spring 2024 issue of Island Scene for last-minute travel: healthy tips on the go.


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