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Health at sea is a question I am asked about quite frequently, and having had the unfortunate need to visit the medical centre on board Carnival Splendor on my recent Mexican Riviera cruise, I now have some first-hand experience to share about what can go wrong, and what you can do about it, while vacationing on the high seas.

My problem was an unexpected flare-up of an extremely painful shoulder injury which had me heading to the bowels of the ship to see Splendor’s delightful Mexican doctor. Twenty minutes later, after a chat and a quick examination, I slunk back to my stateroom with 10 pain relief/anti-inflammatory meds, and a bill for over US $120.

The reality is that mishaps can happen on any type of holiday, from a tummy upset to a broken leg. And although the good news is that while most cruise ships have medical staff, and clinics which are reasonably equipped to deal with a variety of ailments, there are still a few things that passengers should consider before leaving home.

Top of the list is having adequate insurance. My problem was resolved with some pills, but in the event of a more serious condition such as a heart attack or a head injury,  a passenger may need to be sent ashore to a hospital for treatment, or repatriated home. That can cost big bucks.

Next is making sure that if you have an existing medical problem, and you take medication for it, you should travel with more than enough for the entire trip. It can be difficult – not to mention costly – to get prescriptions filled away from home, and in certain parts of the world you have to be careful of being duped by fake drugs.

Above all it pays to be sensible with you health at sea as you would on any other type of holiday. In keeping with the lingering Mexican theme, avoid drinking tap water on shore in certain countries to avoid an unwanted bout of Montezuma’s revenge, and even though you are on holiday don’t overdo it with the margaritas.

A hangover might the least of your problems; if you trip up shaking your booty on the dance floor, you might end up spending the rest of your cruise flat on your back – and not in a good way!