Crew Stories: Being Sick on a Cruise Ship - Personal Experience

Oct 11, 2019

The first time I got sick was during the fifth month of my contract. I got the infamous Norovirus which spreads so easily and if you don’t report symptoms right away you get a formal penalty. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pain. 

I’ve heard horror stories about how you can’t control your body and how you would have diarrhea and vomit at the same time. I apologize for such details but this is a very serious virus. It’s transferred by touch and good hygiene is crucial, you should wash your hand frequently and for at least 20 seconds. 

After such a long time working you get very exhausted, your immune system weakens and you can get sick very easily. I’ve noticed the first symptoms early in the morning before my shift. I called the Medical department and reported the issue using my Crew ID number. They tell you to pack a few essentials (pajamas, personal hygiene kit) because ship protocol states that you have to be isolated for 48 hours and given specific medications. I was given a shoot of Ibuprofen right away because I had a horrible headache. 

I was alone in the room which looked like a proper hospital room, with all the machines and equipment. But the best part was the big TV which had movies on. I fell asleep right away because of the injection and I slept like a baby. 

When I woke up I had no idea what time of day it was and I was sure that I slept for about 24 hours. Turns out I slept for 10 hours. I got up, showered and washed my hair and ordered some food. 

You call room service for food and you can only have diet food – chicken soup, rice, vegetables, and my favorite smoked salmon. I enjoyed that meal more than any other in the past five months.

The second time I got very sick on the ship was with other Cruise Line, but the treatment was different. I ended up in the Medical department because of exhaustion. I was throwing up a lot so they had to isolate me for 48 hours, but this time they put two of us in a free cabin, which was even smaller in that moment of mine. We couldn’t even reach room service, when we call, they would say: "Call us Back in 30 minutes we are very busy!" So we didn’t really recover either of us, or had proper rest. And to thing be even more worst they mix some medications I listen to how to take them and at what time but I felt even worse. I’m usually not allergic to any kind of medicine but these people were able to mess up my blood pressure with a cocktail of drugs. I spent one entire day sleeping and another day completely numb. I saw white spots when I opened my eyes and I was pale as a vampire. Doctors didn’t care much, after 48 hours I just got my schedule to work, nobody asked me can I? Or do I feel all right? It felt like my entire body just shut down. 

I started working on the Open deck and I couldn’t see or hear anything in the first hour. I was like a zombie. 

I drank water with lemon, sparkly water, anything so I could just get my body to wake up. I barely made it through my shift and I just fell asleep when I got to my cabin. 

My heart was pounding like it was going to jump out of my chest. I couldn’t wait to finish my shift and lay down in my bad, but after all just wishing to go home and sleep in my bad.

Some cruise ship doctors usually follow diagrams of arrows in relation to your symptoms. Before prescribing therapy on some ships, it happens that the doctor asks you a wide range of questions, keeping you in pain for 30 minutes so that he will eventually only give you Ibuprofen. You always get this medicine as if it would raise you from the dead, treating all diseases. I saw this diagram with a doctor, he followed it so blindly that in some way he did not use his personal experience and the feeling that when I was in terrible pain he would react quickly and help. I have to admit when your immunity goes down from a lot of work and if you don't eat right, you can easily get the flu and get sick. On board it is very important that you take extra vitamins, omega 3 pills and even protein powders are a great thing for maintaining your health, it is from personal experience. Enough of fluid, rest, but also if nothing helps and you get temperatures, a great recipe as a quick cure, cognac or whiskey, and lemon tea or the so-called “Hot toddy” is one of the solutions.

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