This is something a lot of people never consider, but a surprising number of older people suffer from full or partial renal failure, and depend on either daily or occasional dialysis to maintain their health. There once was a time when this precluded extensive travel of any kind, and a cruise holiday was completely out of the question.
For more than a generation, however, many cruise lines and 3rd-party services have arranged for top of the line dialysis and other medical equipment on board, as well as highly skilled doctors and other medical professionals who can see to their guests’ medical needs oven over extended holidays.

Which Ships Offer Dialysis Care?

There are several ships that have infirmary space set aside to provide haemodialysis and related care. However, the two most prominent lines offering this service are Celebrity Cruises, and Royal Caribbean.

Celebrity Cruises Ships with Haemodialysis Capacity:

  • Eclipse
  • Infinity
  • Millennium
  • Reflection
  • Silhouette
  • Solstice
  • Summit

Royal Caribbean Ships with Haemodialysis Capacity:

  • Adventure
  • Anthem
  • Brilliance
  • Empress
  • Explorer
  • Harmony
  • Independence
  • Liberty
  • Oasis

MSC Cruises Ships with Haemodialysis Capacity:

  • Splendida
  • Fantasia

How Does Shipboard Dialysis Work?

The actual service is almost always performed by a dedicated company such as Dialysis at Sea Cruises. They will arrange to have trained and fully certified nephrologists, nurses and medical technicians travel with you for the full duration of the cruise.

You can also arrange for top of the line rental dialysis equipment to be on board waiting for you, saving you the trouble of bringing your own equipment along. As the equipment is installed only for the duration of the cruise – typically 9 to 18 weeks at a time – it may lack some of the features of a land-based dialysis centre. Specifically, space will be a bit limited, and there may be some exposed cables and lines. However, all of the equipment is checked, installed and maintained by fully certified professional technicians, and is very well suited to purpose.

Whenever possible, of course, your actual dialysis sessions will be scheduled whilst the vessel is at sea rather than in port. This will ensure that you have as much time as possible to enjoy the exotic locations you travelled so far to see. Each on-board dialysis unit will be under the supervision of a medical doctor who has the authority to change or modify the schedule of dialysis sessions as is medically appropriate, so very little is ‘set in stone’.

Would I Be Able to Take Part in Normal Shipboard Activities?

That depends largely on you, and your individual state of health. The fact that you are using dialysis treatment services in no way bars you from any on-board or port activities, and the entire process is arranged in such a way as to ensure that you get as much enjoyment from the experience as possible.

That being said, you may find it difficult or impossible to keep up with your dialysis schedule and still participate in extended (multi-day) excursions whilst in port. In many cases, your schedule can be arranged or modified to allow port activities, and sometimes other arrangements can be made for your treatments off-ship. If you would like to take part in excursions, your best bet is to plan ahead, and discuss the situation with your own doctor before booking the cruise. It is possible that most excursions can be worked into your treatment schedule.

Does Travel Insurance Cover Dialysis Treatment?

That will depend on the exact nature of the insurance you take out. Typically, though, travel insurance will not cover haemodialysis. You might be able to take out insurance that specifically covers pre-existing conditions, but make certain the insurer understands your dialysis needs and the costs involved. In any case, make sure you get an itemised statement of all your dialysis expenses from the provider.

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About Author

Belinda Goodman

Cruise 1st veteran Belinda has a passion for travel, especially cruising. She has worked in the travel industry for over 20 years, including a 3-year stint working on cruise ships as a croupier. Belinda regularly writes for the Cruise 1st blog, with a focus on company news and advice for first-time cruise travellers.

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