Do cruise ships have doctors onboard?

Last updated on September 17th, 2023 at 04:00 pm

Yes, most large cruise ships have doctors on board at all times, working 4 or 6 month contracts with the cruise line. In addition to doctors, the ship is also staffed with other medical personnel who can assist during an emergency.

Major cruise lines staff their ships with doctors trained in emergency room medicine, making them ideal candidates to work on cruise ships where emergency situations occur frequently.

The medical clinic on a cruise ship is open during specific daytime hours for visits from passengers. In addition to the regular office hours, staff are available 24 hours per day for emergencies.

The medical clinic looks quite similar to a walk-in clinic or urgent care clinic on land and is surprisingly well-equipped with modern medical equipment.

The ship also has a pharmacy that can provide access to common over-the-counter medications that may be needed during a cruise.

Pain killers, anti-inflammatory drugs, drugs for seasickness and many others are available, for a cost.

If you forget your regular prescription medications at home, don’t assume the ship will have what you need.


The ship is equipped for emergency situations and while they may have your forgotten medications in their inventory, don’t count on it.

Use of the medical clinic is NOT free.

There are fees to see the doctor and fees for any medications that may be prescribed. These fees are charged to your room/ship account and must be paid before you can leave the ship.

Cruise ship medical services can be reimbursed by most travel insurance providers. Check with your insurance provider before you leave.

In the event that you suffer a major medical issue during your cruise, like a heart attack for example, the medical staff will coordinate your evacuation from the ship.

Depending on the ship’s location, you may be evacuated by a helicopter by the Coast Guard, or transportation to a local hospital will be arranged if the ship is docked or close to land.

*NOTE – If you experience an unusual case of fever, symptoms of a cold, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain or nausea, it’s important that you visit the ship’s doctor immediately to determine if this could be a widespread issue like COVID-19 or Norovirus that could affect many others.


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