/ Health, Travel & Leisure

Cruise ship medical bills that leave you feeling seasick

Man on cruise ship

Our research finds that getting medical attention on a cruise ship could cost you hundreds of pounds. From seasickness to forgetting your pills, watch out for costly medical bills that’ll leave you feeling queasy.

I’ve only felt seasick once, on a whale watching trip off New England. It was an unforgettable experience. Excitement about potentially seeing a monster mammal was overtaken by waves of nausea that left me with little interest in anything.

So the idea of being stuck on a cruise ship feeling sick appalls me – and I’d be even more appalled if I got hit by a big bill for some treatment to make me feel better.

But it does happen – Which? members have been telling us about the steep bills they’ve been receiving for medical treatment on board ships.

One member was angry at having to pay £70 for a seasickness injection. Another said they felt ripped off when they had to pay £154 to replace some blood pressure pills that they’d forgotten.

Sickening cruise ship medical bills

The cost of treatment on ships will come as a shock if you’re used to getting NHS treatment at home in the UK. Costs are high because all treatment is charged at private healthcare rates

And although you might think your travel insurance will pick up the bill, medical excess clauses in policies mean you can still face paying hundreds of pounds.

For example, one member’s wife was presented with a bill of £2,500 after having treatment for pneumonia on board a P&O ship. Their insurance policy covered £2,000, but they had to make up the difference, leaving them £500 short.

A lot of travellers are getting hit by these bills. We found that about one in five of the 1,368 Which? members who’d been on a cruise visited the ship’s doctor. The average bill was £233, but 12 of the claims were for £500 or more, and one reported a bill of £6,500!

Check your travel insurance policy

And three in ten had to foot the entire bill themselves, as their travel insurer would not pay up. For instance, the member who had to pay for replacement blood pressure pills had her claim turned down because the insurer won’t pay if the customer forgets to bring their medicine on holiday.

So if you’re heading off on a cruise and you think you might get seasick, make sure to buy your sickness pills before you go. And make sure to check your travel insurance to see what it covers and how much excess you’ll have to pay if you do claim.

Otherwise it could be the medical bill, rather than the ocean waves, that leave you feeling nauseous.

Have you ever needed treatment on a cruise ship at sea? How was it, and how much did it cost? Did you think it was fair, or a rip off?


With the bill for £2500, do we understand that the excess was £500 and the insurer covered the remaining £2000? A £500 excess for medical cover is enormous. Why would anyone take out travel insurance with such a huge excess?


Eh, because of the other two grand!

But excesses on medical insurance are a bit naughty. They will do anything in their power to make each visit a separate course of treatment with a separate excess.


I meant – why choose a policy with such a huge excess rather than why buy a policy at all.


Having once been seasick for three days in an Atlantic storm before the days of effective remedies, I was very grateful to receive an injection and a supply of seasickness pills for £30 from a P&O Cruises medic. Expensive, but given the cost of the cruise was about £150 per person per day, it seemed a reasonable return on invertment to ensure I didn’t spend another day with my head down the toilet and off my food whilst transiting the Bay of Biscay in December.

Paying what seems like extortionate amounts for medical care probably comes as a shock if you have only known the NHS. But that is exactly what happens in the rest of the world – or even it you have a pet in this country. If you want to travel, you need to get used to it.

john lewcock says:
25 October 2013

on a recent voyages of discovery cruise I needed some nurofen tablets, supplied by the Doctor- charge 2 euros.

John Lewcock says:
25 October 2013

Same cruise company as John Lewcock this time sea sick tablets were available from reception at no charge earlier this month of October 2013.

winnats says:
25 October 2013

Check your travel insurance policy – some providers exclude cruises.

Alan says:
25 October 2013

Our daughter sailed with a friend on Ruby Princess in July 2013. Half way through the cruise she was in pain from her lower back, found it difficult to walk and at night difficult to turn over in bed. Visited the doctor on board. Told she had inflammation of the thigh, hip at the top of her leg. She can’t take oral anti-inflammatory tablets so was given an injection in the thigh and some strong painkillers. Treatment cost $204 (Approx £135). Relief for the rest of the cruise. InsureandGo reimbursed her the full amount as she had taken out the policy with an excess waiver.

Treatment costs may seem high but we like the reassurance of a medical team on board. Far better than searching for a hospital in a mainland foreign country. We are so used to free treatment in this country. Highlights the importance of reliable Travel Insurance (with excess waiver if possible).


Well said Alan. I learnt the hard way that it doesn’t pay to skimp on travel insurance [not a medical matter in that case but I feel better for having more comprehensive cover].