Few things are more frightening than becoming sick or getting
injured while far from home, on land or at sea.
Bereft of one's usual support system -- family doctor, local
hospital, friends and family -- a traveler can feel frighteningly
vulnerable when a medical emergency arises and he or she must turn
to strangers for help.
At such times, it is reassuring to know that the attending
doctors are well trained, the diagnostic equipment is appropriate
and an emergency evacuation procedure -- if needed -- is
With that in mind, we think it not unreasonable to take note of
disquieting comments by physicians participating in a recent panel
discussion on travel and cruise ship medicine conducted in Orlando,
While acknowledging that the International Council of Cruise
Lines (ICCL) has set credible but voluntary minimum standards for
its 17 member lines, the assembled doctors complained that medical
facilities on ships remained unregulated and that a ship-by-ship
listing of specific therapeutic and emergency information was
unavailable to medical practitioners and the public alike.
The ICCL, for its part, maintains that its members are fully
compliant with its guidelines -- identical to those adopted by the
prestigious American College of Emergency Physicians -- but that it
does not collect the kind of medical data a travel agent could use,
say, to help determine which ship to recommend to a client with a
Ironically, it probably wouldn't take the same agent more than a
minute to find the name of every bar and restaurant on the newest
We are reminded that in 1995, the American Medical Association
called for the development of standards of medical care for U.S.
citizens aboard cruise ships through legislation or treaty. The
concept of such verifiable and certifiable standards still seems a
good one to us.