Do you have an upcoming cruise planned, and you recently learned that you’re pregnant? Congrats! You’re probably wondering if you can even go on a cruise while you’re pregnant. Usually you can, as long as you take the cruise early enough in your pregnancy.
Or maybe you’re planning a babymoon, and a romantic cruise sounds like the perfect way to celebrate. It is! Think luxurious spa treatments for two, candlelit dinners, and watching the sunset together from your balcony.
Getting away from it all on a cruise vacation might be just what you need! You’ll just need to be sure that you have your doctor’s OK, and that you time your cruise right so you’ll be allowed to board.
Most cruise lines won’t deny boarding to expectant mothers unless you’ll be at 24 weeks into your pregnancy (or beyond) by the end of the cruise. Here’s what you need to know about cruising while pregnant, including why cruise lines have rules about pregnancy.
Is it safe to cruise when you’re pregnant?
Taking a cruise is such a relaxing way to vacation. Enjoy refreshing ocean breezes, lounging on tropical beaches, and unlimited food options around the clock (yes, you’ll find whatever weird things you’re craving, I promise).
But is it actually safe to cruise if you’re pregnant?
As long as you’re healthy and your pregnancy isn’t high-risk, most medical professionals will sign off on cruise travel up to your 24th week.
Be sure to pack an adequate supply of any medications you take. The general rule of thumb is a month’s worth of prescription and over-the-counter medicines just in case.
If you have a history of motion sickness, or you’re already experiencing morning sickness, ask your doctor for a recommendation on medications that are safe to take when pregnant.
Tip: some natural, non-medicinal seasickness remedies include acupressure bands, eating green apples, bland crackers, or drinking ginger tea.
You might also want to consider avoiding cruises that visit areas known for having substandard healthcare facilities, in the event that you need to disembark to seek advanced medical care.
Ultimately, the decision to cruise or travel at all during your pregnancy is a personal decision that you need to make in partnership with your doctor, midwife, or other medical professional.
Read more: How to Avoid Getting Sick on a Cruise
Cruise line rules for cruising while pregnant
The vast majority of cruise lines have an official cutoff date of 24 weeks gestation for pregnant mothers to be allowed to board their ships. This means that if you’re going to reach your 24th week or beyond at any time during the cruise, you’ll be denied boarding.
A notable outlier to this convention is small-ship expedition cruise line UnCruise Adventures with a cutoff date of 30 weeks.
Some river cruise operators also have different cutoff dates for cruising while pregnant. River cruises usually operate in a smaller area close to shore, making it easier to reach a hospital if labor starts or any complications occur.
Most cruise lines require pregnant women to present a “fit to travel” letter from your physician at boarding. Some also require you to send the cruise line a copy of that letter prior to embarkation day. Check with your cruise line well before you sail to find out their specific policy, and what your doctor will need to include in the letter.
Even if a cruise line doesn’t require a letter, it’s a good idea to bring one along anyway to avoid any surprises at embarkation!
Why do cruise lines have rules about when pregnant women can travel?
It’s not only cruise lines that deny boarding for later-term expectant moms. Most airlines only allow pregnant women to fly domestically until their 36th week. For international travel, the cutoff date is usually around 28 weeks.
But cruise ships move much slower than airplanes. Although a plane can usually quickly divert to a nearby city during a medical emergency, even at full speed, a cruise ship might take hours to get to the nearest port.
Larger cruise ships do have basic medical facilities, but they don’t have hospitals on board equipped for labor and delivery, or to care for a newborn. So, if someone goes into labor on a cruise ship, the ship needs to either head to the nearest port to access a hospital, or find a way to get you there (at your expense).
With the health and safety of moms and newborns in mind, cruise lines have implemented strict policies to avoid risking both patients’ lives in case of a premature delivery.
What are medical facilities like on a cruise ship?
Ocean-going cruise ships have medical staff on board, available 24/7 for emergencies. Most ships have a doctor and at least a couple of nurses as part of their medical team.
Larger ships have a small medical facility with patient rooms, basic medical equipment, and a supply of various medications. They’ll also have lifesaving equipment, like defibrillators and external pacemakers. Some even have more advanced equipment such as EKG machines.
What you won’t find are typical pre-natal care devices like ultrasound machines, or post-natal equipment like incubators. Cruise ships just aren’t set up for giving birth.
In my experience as a patient in a cruise ship medical facility (I once had a severe allergic reaction during a cruise and spent about eight hours in the medical bay), the setup reminded me of the privately-owned walk-in clinics we have here in the US.
Although a cruise ship medical clinic isn’t the ideal place to give birth to a baby, you’ll have the peace of mind that there’s medical staff available if something doesn’t feel quite right and you want to be checked.
What happens if you go into labor on a cruise ship?
We all know babies are unpredictable! But because of cruise lines’ strict policies on not allowing women in their third trimester to board, babies born on cruise ships are extremely rare.
But in 2015, a baby was born four months early on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship between Florida and Puerto Rico. The ship’s captain rushed to port to get the baby to a hospital to receive treatment that saved his life.
If someone goes into labor on a cruise ship, the doctor notifies the ship’s captain (and potentially a rescue agency if necessary). The doctor and captain confer on the best course of action based on the mom and baby’s condition, and how far the ship is from the closest hospital. This could include changing course to the nearest port, or evacuation via boat or helicopter.
Why buying travel insurance before your cruise is especially important
It’s always a smart idea to buy travel insurance for any cruise. But if you’re planning to cruise during pregnancy, making sure you have medical coverage for everywhere you’re traveling is a must.
In the event that you have any medical complications during your cruise, your regular health insurance likely won’t cover any care you receive on board the ship or in foreign ports.
The right travel insurance policy covers your investment in your entire vacation, from the cruise fare to your airline tickets to any pre-booked shore excursions. It should also include medical evacuation coverage in case you need to be airlifted or need a medically-equipped flight.
A good policy also covers pre-cruise cancellations. Some will cover cancellation due to medical issues that arise after you book. Often, you can pay more for “cancel for any reason” insurance that covers most of your investment if something comes up or you change your mind on taking that vacation.
Always read the fine print on any travel insurance policy you’re considering, and reach out to the insurance agency with questions. I recommend using email as opposed to phone calls or chat just so you have a paper trail.
Read more: Do You Really Need Cruise Travel Insurance?
What if you already booked a cruise?
Did you already book a cruise, and you just found out you’re pregnant? If your cruise is coming up soon, consult your doctor to make sure you’re medically cleared for cruise travel. Then reach out to the cruise line to find out any specific policies they may have to make sure you have a hassle-free embarkation day.
If your cruise travel falls after the cruise line’s cutoff point (or soon after you’re due to give birth), ask your travel agent or the cruise line if you can cancel or reschedule your cruise.
Tips for planning a cruise if you’re also trying to become pregnant
- Pick a cruise that sails somewhat close to home
- Choose a shorter cruise
- Consider a river cruise
- Avoid routes that take you far from land (like transatlantic or transpacific crossings)
- Buy a comprehensive travel insurance policy
- Book a refundable fare
- Don’t pay your final deposit early if your fare isn’t refundable
Have you cruised during a pregnancy? Or did you have to cancel or reschedule a cruise because you were pregnant? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below!