A year ago we booked a Caribbean cruise at fairly late notice. We flew on 17th January 2018 Gatwick to the Dominican Republic where we boarded the Marella Celebration for a 2 week cruise around the Eastern Caribbean. After 10 days my husband had a ‘funny turn’. He thought it was too much rum/sun and brushed it off, but decided not to take the snorkelling trip he had booked for the following day. Over the next 2 days he had a few more small ‘turns’, then he had a major syncope event. We were in the lighter about to take a tour of Bequia (St Vincent and the Grenadines), when he appeared to freeze. I called for the doctor who appeared within 2 minutes, together with two other ship’s nursing staff. He was quickly stretchered to the ship’s medical facility where he received first class treatment. The ship’s doctor was puzzled at his condition and contacted cardiologists in Europe for advice. He was constantly monitored, the one nurse having had only 2 hours sleep in 24 hours. I sat with my husband to allow her time to catch up on sleep for another 2 hours.
Bequia had a small hospital, but with no cardiac specialist. We were given the choice of leaving the ship and taking a ferry to St Vincent, or staying on the ship and being hospitalised on return to the Dominican Republic in 2 days time. We chose the latter. After wonderful care on board the Marella Celebration, we were first off the ship and into an ambulance upon arrival at port. We were accompanied by a Social Hostess who knew the staff and the ropes at the Centro Medico at La Romana. She made contact with our insurance in the UK, and introduced us to all the people she knew we would need during our stay in the hospital. My husband received immediate medical diagnostic tests and was quickly diagnosed with a severe aortic stenosis – a bad heart valve condition. He was given a private room which had en suite facilities, wifi, TV, medical monitors, plus a put-you-up bed for me. I received ‘full board’ with no questions asked. Over 2 days his condition was stabilised and we made arrangements to fly back to the UK, having been given a ‘Fit-to-Fly’ certificate from the cardiologist.
The medical treatment was excellent both on board the Tui ship and in the hospital in the Dominican Republic. I would have no hesitation in travelling again to the Caribbean given the quality of the treatment received. We were told that the excellent Cuban national health service provided training for doctors and nurses throughout the Caribbean. We believe that this keeps the medical treatment to a high standard – and of course – it is private medical treatment rather than the NHS type of medical system which faces severe pressures constantly.
After many months back in the UK my husband is now fully fit again following a double bypass and aortic valve replacement.
The biggest difficulties for me were:
Having a pay-as-you-go phone, and not a contract
Organising the trip back to the UK
The Marella Social Hostess had indeed given us all the right contacts, but she obviously had to leave when the ship departed port again the following day. My phone used up all the credit plus two top-ups in just a few minutes. But I had to spend hours on the phone trying to arrange flights. We eventually found a flight back using Tui again, as it was the only direct flight within the subsequent few days. As a result, I now have a phone contract – for the just-in-case event in the future.
Because of the phone difficulties, my son booked and paid for our return flights from the UK. The Insurance was also very good once we were home, and within 2 months we had all our expenses reimbursed.
Reassured about the quality of medical service abroad and on board, we have just booked our next cruise – this time sailing through the Western Caribbean.
Don’t let your medical condition put you off taking a holiday…..but do make sure you are properly insured!