Consumer Reports: What you need to know before going on a cruise

Don't Waste Your Money

A cruise can be a dream come true, as long as you don't get hurt or sick.

But because there are more and more problems on the high seas these days, our partners at Consumer Reports Magazine have some tips to help you protect yourself.

When the norovirus tore through a cruise ship sailing the Caribbean in January, more than 600 passengers were struck, including Jane Upton.

"I just remember leaning… in the bathroom, and I was like, ‘Is this what it is like to die?’” Upton said. “It's horrific."

Now imagine yourself days from the nearest port, on a ship without diagnostic equipment like an MRI machine, a blood bank or even specialty doctors.

"Many people believe they are boarding a 'floating hospital,' but a cruise ship is more like a floating hotel, with a doctor at hand," Consumer Reports expert Dr. Orly Avitzur said.

Avitzur said you should think twice about traveling with a chronic medical condition.

The coast guard can't always launch a rescue, if the seas are rough or the ship is too far from land.

Next, Avitzur said you should know most prescription drugs are not available on a cruise ship, so always travel with an extra supply of all medications.

"Also, get ready to pay a premium, out of pocket, for any onboard care – even items like Band-Aids or aspirin,” he said. “Many people aren't aware that most cruise ships don't accept medical insurance."

Avitzur said you should also consider travel insurance. It could be invaluable if you end up needing serious medical attention in a foreign country.

For more tips, go to Consumerreports.org .

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