Cruising has become a very popular holiday choice for travellers of all ages from families to solo and senior travellers. It enables travel to a variety of countries in an easy and accessible way without the stresses of independent travel, such as having to navigate airports, transfers, plan itineraries and book accommodation.

With on board dining, entertainment and activities for all ages, this luxury hotel on the sea allows for relaxation knowing you are safely looked after. However, there is no holiday without risk so travel health preparation is key before boarding your ship.

Cruise ships are getting bigger, they are like small cities on the sea. With cruise itineraries lasting from weeks to several months, it is not uncommon for outbreaks to occur and for infections to quickly and easily spread from one passenger to another. The most common infections are respiratory and gastrointestinal.


Due to the close proximity of passengers outbreaks of Covid are still experienced on cruise ships despite increased infection control measures.  Passengers confirmed positive to Covid -19 can still be isolated or moved to other cabins to reduce the spread of infection.

It is important to check the current guidance and what to consider ahead of booking a cruise. Some ships no longer require pre-cruising testing; however, it is highly recommended that all travellers are up to date with Covid-19 vaccinations and boosters where eligible and available.

The Covid vaccine by Pfizer is now available at Nomad clinics.

Coughs, Colds & Flu

Flu is worldwide. Mixing closely with people on a ship from all over the world means there is potential risk anytime of the year. To reduce the risk of respiratory infections, wash hands thoroughly, avoid close contact with those with symptoms and consider the flu vaccine. It is advised that all travellers over 65 or with pre-existing health issues are vaccinated against Influenza as well as pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine.

The Flu vaccine is available at Nomad clinics.

Travellers Diarrhoea and Vomiting Illness

Traveller’s Diarrhoea and vomiting illnesses such as Norovirus outbreaks are not uncommon on cruise ships. Although generally a mild infection lasting 1 -2 days, it may be more serious in those with underlying health conditions. The close proximity of passengers means that these infections can spread quite easily. It is extremely important to wash hands thoroughly before eating and after using the toilet. Make use of alcohol hand stations on board and carry a small bottle of alcohol hand gel around the ship and when on land.  Take care with food and water consumed in country. It is important to have medicines with you to manage symptoms and reduce such as rehydration sachets (Diorolyte) and loperamide when required.

Travel Vaccinations

Depending where in the world your ship is sailing you may require some travel vaccinations. These will depend on the length of time you are disembarked in-country and your planned activities ashore. It is important to see a Travel health specialist to discuss your itinerary as they will be able to advise whether these are required.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

It is important to check your cruise itinerary before travel and establish if you are visiting countries that pose a Yellow Fever risk. These are countries in Africa, Central and South America.  It may be the case that you are not at risk, but the country requires proof that you have had a yellow fever vaccination. It is not uncommon for cruise ships to have differing recommendations from the countries being visited and advice can get rather confusing.  Our advice is to check with your cruise company, find out yourself if the countries you are visiting have a yellow fever risk ( then come and speak with one of our Travel health specialists and we can advise if vaccination or an exemption certificate is required. Nomad can provide medical exemption certificates for those who are unable to receive the yellow fever vaccine due to medical contraindications.

Mosquito Bites and Infection Risk

Malaria, Dengue, Chikungunya, Zika and Japanese encephalitis are all viruses spread by mosquitoes. Some of these may be a risk on land, particularly in tropical locations. To reduce mosquito bites, it is important to use a good insect repellent such as DEET on exposed skin and to wear long loose clothing where possible.

Malaria may also be a risk. If your itinerary includes overnight stays in a country with a risk of malaria, you may require antimalarials. It is really important to speak to a travel health specialist with your itinerary for advice.

Environmental Risks

Sun Exposure

Travel heath advice for cruise ship passengers also extends to environmental risks. Outside, up on deck and around the pool sun exposure may be high. Always ensure that you protect your skin to reduce risks of sunburn and skin cancer. Wear a hat and long loose clothing where possible. Use a high factor sunscreen and avoid the midday sun between 11am and 3pm.

Some cruises travel to countries with cold climates. It is important to ensure that thermal clothes are packed for the trip.

Sea Sickness

Many cruises cross the North Sea and the Bay of Biscay, these and any Atlantic crossings are notorious for rough seas which may cause sea sickness. Different signals from the inner ear and eyes whilst at motion cause confusing messages to the brain causing nausea. Focusing on the horizon and getting fresh air can help alleviate symptoms. Medicine for both adults and children can be purchased over the counter to treat and manage this. All travellers are advised to speak with a pharmacist before travel.

Trips, Slips and Falls

Sensible footwear is important for walking around the ships decks and using the stairs. Take particular care if the sea is really choppy. Trips, slips and falls can happen both on board the ship and on land. Always carry a personal medical kit so that you can manage any minor injuries or illnesses yourself.

The Nomad Core medical kit is a great choice for cruise travel and contains a variety of wound dressings, pain relief and medicines to manage Traveller’s diarrhoea.

Medical clinics on cruise ships can deal with a wide variety of injuries and illnesses and most run like an urgent care centre, however it is important to remember that care is not free. There are private medical costs to see a doctor or nurse as well as for additional services including x-rays, dressings and blood tests. Seriously ill or injured passengers have to be evacuated to healthcare services available on land.

Tips before travel:

  • If you have any long-term chronic health problems, see your specialist before travel to ensure you are fit for travel. Obtain a health summery and any important documentation. This may include copies of prescriptions, blood tests or ECG reports.
  • If you have any relevant medical history, take a letter from your GP.
  • Make sure you have had a recent dental check-up and resolve any dental complaints before you travel.

Travel Insurance

It is extremely important to take out relevant travel insurance for cruise travel. This should include:

  • Medical cover in case medical assistance on board and on land.
  • Cabin confinement cover if you’re instructed by the medical officer on board to stay in your room if you fall ill for example with Covid-19.
  • Personal belongings, baggage, and money cover
  • Cover if you have to cancel your trip in an emergency, for cancellations for pre-paid travel, accommodation, and unused excursions
  • Delayed departure or having to abandon your trip

Failure to have adequate travel insurance could put you at risk of losing your cruise fare, large medical bills and in the event of an emergency, difficulties getting home if required.