Cruising is statistically the safest form of transport in the travel industry and takes place under strict security conditions. But there are a few things you should be aware of.
This advice has been prepared in association with the Passenger Shipping Association (PSA). As with all information provided by third parties, the FCO is not responsible for its accuracy.
Cruise lines, ships and the ports they visit are required by law to have appropriate security plans.
The deployment of security staff is usually discreet so you may never notice them but there should be trained security personnel on board at all times.
You should report it to a crew or staff member. Security personnel should then inform the appropriate authorities. Who these are will depend on where the ship is, when the crime is committed and the nationality of those involved.
Significant crimes against British nationals on any ship can in certain circumstances be reported to UK police and may be investigated even though they occurred outside the territory of the UK.
A crime may also be reported to the authorities in the port/country in which the ship was docked (or was headed) when the crime was committed with the result that local law enforcement agencies may also be involved in the investigation.
If your passport is lost or stolen during the course of a cruise you may need to obtain a replacement passport from the nearest British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate before you can continue your cruise. You may not be able to continue your cruise if a replacement passport is not available before the ship sails. Clarify this situation with your cruise company before travelling, especially about the arrangements they have in place for you to re-join the ship at a later stage.
Cruise lines may be able to organise group visas for those going on organised tours in certain countries. Sometimes, the ship can acquire visas for you as it proceeds towards the port, and this cost is typically added to your shipboard account. For other destinations, you might have to obtain your own individual visas even if you don’t intend going ashore - check this at the time of booking with either the travel agent or the cruise line.
Make sure you have the necessary documentation in place if the country where you start the cruise requires you to have a visa – there’s more information on entry requirements in our travel advice by country.
If you’re refused entry to the country and miss your cruise the cruise line will not ordinarily be required to pay you compensation.
Medical care is not free on cruise ships, even on British flag ships.
It’s essential that you take out adequate insurance cover, including cover for the cost of medical treatment or medical evacuation – in an emergency you may have to be airlifted to port if the ship is at sea.
If you’re cruising within Europe ensure you have an EHIC card – but you’ll still need comprehensive travel insurance as well! Your EHIC will only cover necessary treatment required during a visit, for example to see relatives, to an EEA member state where the obtaining of treatment was not the reason for your being in that country.
All cruise ships should have a qualified doctor and medical facilities on board. Although the range of facilities varies from ship to ship and line to line, the minimum standard is designed to provide emergency medical care and the capability to stabilise patients.
Discuss any concerns you may have about your medical needs and the level of care available on board with your cruise company.
If you require emergency medical treatment that means that you need to be treated on land you should be aware that it may not be possible for you to return to the cruise later. In these circumstances the cruise ship (or their representative in-country) should:
Ensure that you have all your documents, including your passport and insurance policy, with you and a contact list for unforeseen events. You should also remember to take with you, if possible, any items that you or your companion may need when ashore, especially if you are not able to rejoin the cruise at a later date. In an emergency you can contact the nearest British Consul.
If you are on prescription medicine bring enough to last the duration of the cruise, as it may be difficult as well as costly to purchase these on board.
Given your close proximity to other passengers, and the fact that you are in a confined area, outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness do occur from time to time although incidents on cruise ships are less common than on land. Many ships are likely to ask if you have recently experienced any typical symptoms before embarkation and you may be denied entry if there are genuine concerns.
If you are diagnosed with a gastrointestinal illness on board, you may be asked to remain in your cabin until cleared by the medical staff, so as to help reduce the potential that the infection will spread further amongst passengers and crew.
Cruise ships undergo regular, unannounced inspections by UK port health authorities to help ensure they meet the statutory food safety and hygiene requirements, and if they operate in the US they also have to meet the CDC Vessel Sanitation Program standards.
Crew members should be trained to follow routine hygiene and sanitation procedures to help prevent outbreaks and deal with any that do occur.
See our travel health page for information on vaccinations and other general health precautions.