I’ve been on something like six cruises at this point in my life, and at least two of them have included what you might call “emergency medical situations.” There was one sailing in which the ship detoured to the nearest port of call to drop off a passenger who needed medical attention that could not be provided on board, for example. There was another sailing, if I recall correctly, that involved a medevac helicopter.
There were also the more predictable bouts of norovirus and/or cruise crud—which can lay you low no matter how often you try to wash your hands (that said, handwashing is still your best defence, so get out the soap and be ready to sing the Happy Birthday song twice in a row).
I have never been in a situation like the recent Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantine, of course, but I know what it’s like to get on a boat knowing that A) you’re going to be stuck there for a week or so and B) you might start feeling unwell at any time.
So it’s important to pack for that kind of thing in advance.
The Points Guy has an excellent guide to “preparing for a travel disaster,” including tips on what to bring in case you get sick and what to bring in case everyone else gets sick and you’re stuck on your cruise ship for longer than you anticipated. (This advice also applies if you get stuck in airports due to flight delays, at hotels due to weather, etc. etc. etc.)
Some of TPG’s advice is fairly obvious. Bring as much extra medication as you can, for example; a week’s worth is good, and three weeks’ worth is better. Other advice is less obvious: TPG suggests loading up your phone or laptop with downloaded media, in case you get stuck in an airport/hotel/stateroom/bus station/etc. with no internet access and nothing to do—and if you’ve got work you can do offline, be prepared to get that done as well.
But let me add my own advice to the list:
Pack extra underwear and pyjamas
Yes, I’ve seen that Twitter joke about how we all pack underwear like we expect to soil ourselves twice a day. Well... guess what might happen if you catch the norovirus? Packing plenty of extra underwear, socks, and pyjamas lets you change into fresh, dry clothes as often as you need to, whether you’ve picked up a stomach bug or consumed a few too many margaritas.
Bring your own comfort food
Even though cruise ships are essentially 24-hour floating buffets, The Points Guy still advises cruise ship travellers to pack their own snacks—and I agree with him. Some days you’ll wake up wanting a granola bar instead of another huge cruise ship breakfast; some days you’ll wake up late and will only have time to grab your granola bar before racing out of your stateroom to go on your dolphin excursion; some days you’ll wake up seasick or hungover and will only want to eat a particular brand of saltines. (Plus, on the off chance that you do find yourself on a cruise ship that has temporarily stopped doing food service due to a quarantine situation, well... having your own food supply can come in handy.)
Carry a small bottle of dish soap
I never travel without a palm-sized bottle of dish soap, these days. There’s so much you can do with it: wash your hands, wash the aluminium water bottle you’re carrying with you, wash the water glasses the hotel provides (they aren’t actually as clean as you think they are), wash any clothes that need washing (I hand-washed an entire dress in the shower with dish soap and it turned out fine), etc. etc. etc.
If you also have cruise ship packing suggestions, or any “in case of emergency” travel packing suggestions, let us know! The last thing any of us wants is to be stuck somewhere without something we might need, from pain relievers to a way to pass the time—and even on something as luxurious as a vacation, sometimes you need both.