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Guests Are Having Dialysis on Cruise Ships – Here’s How That Works

If you are dialysis dependant, you may be wondering if you can still take a cruise.

Due to many recent advances in medicine and technology, there are many cruise lines that are able to provide daily dialysis treatments, the cost, requirements, and treatment options all vary by cruise line.

Can You Go on a Cruise While Having Dialysis?

It is possible to take a cruise while having dialysis treatments. At-home dialysis treatments such as Peritoneal Dialysis can be completed in the guest’s cabin or medical center. Hemodialysis can also be completed on board and comes at an additional cost.

It’s important that you make sure that the cruise you are booking is able to accommodate dialysis treatments, as not all are. Booking as early as possible is also important as spaces are often limited.

dialysis on a cruise

“For each cruise, there is a dedicated dialysis unit onboard where your dialysis treatments will take place. The onboard dialysis team will care for you during your cruise and can be contacted 24 hours a day.” – source.

How Much Does Dialysis Cost on a Cruise Ship?

As a general rule, the cost of a dialysis session on a cruise ship varies between $300 and $900. The majority of mainstream American cruise lines charge around $800.

There are many companies that organize dialysis treatments onboard cruise ships. These companies work closely with major cruise lines.

Dialysis Cost
Celestyal Cruises$622 (£440)
Celebrity$785 (£556)
Royal Caribbean$785 (£556)

What Are The Types of Dialysis Treatments Are Available on Cruise Ships?

There are mainly two types of dialysis treatment available onboard cruise lines:

  • Hemodialysis
  • Peritoneal Dialysis

For dialysis patients on a cruise, there is usually one nurse per two patients. Each Dialysis treatment usually involves a visit from a Nephrologist.

If you do get sick on a cruise for any reason, there is a highly trained team ready to look after you. To learn more about what would happen, check out this post: What Happens if You Get Sick on a Cruise? – Simple Step by Step Guide.

Having any type of medical treatment on a cruise can get expensive. Make sure that you have travel insurance in place before cruising. Here are my recommendations: USA. UK.

What is Hemodialysis?

Hemodialysis uses an artificial kidney (hemodialyzer) to remove extra chemicals, fluid, and waste from a patient’s blood. To get blood into the hemodialyzer, a doctor uses minor surgery to the patient’s arm or leg to make an entrance into the blood vessels.

Access is often made by joining an artery to a vein, which results in a bigger blood vessel called a fistula. Alternatively, a plastic tube is used to join an artery and vein under the skin called a graft.

Hemodialysis treatments are usually done three times per week, with a single treatment lasting for an average of four hours.

On certain routes, equipment and machinery for this type of treatment are usually carried on board by specialized independent companies like Dialysis at Sea and Cruise Dialysis.

What is Peritoneal Dialysis?

With Peritoneal Dialysis, the blood is cleaned inside the patient’s body. Surgery involves a plastic tube (catheter) that is placed into the patient’s abdomen. Treatment involves the process of the abdomen being slowly filled with dialysate through the catheter.

Continuous Ambulatory Peritoneal Dialysis is done without any machines.

The patient places a dialysate bag into their peritoneal cavity through the catheter four or five times per day. It takes about four or five hours for the dialysate to drain back into the bag, after which the bag is then thrown away.

Automated Peritoneal Dialysis is done by using a machine called a cycler. The process is similar to CAPD. However, with APD, the cycles are done at night while the patient is sleeping, and each cycle lasts one to two hours.

Guests are able to bring on their own machines on the cruise.

Important note: It is often recommended that people on peritoneal dialysis have a year’s experience managing their condition before traveling. Some cruise lines will insist the one year’s experience, especially if they do not have a kidney specialist on board.

How Do Dialysis Treatments Work on Cruise Ships?

Depending on the type of dialysis treatment you will need, you may need to pack your own medical supplies and/or your cycler machine.

Depending on your type of treatment, you have two choices about where the treatment will take place:

  • Treatment can be completed in your cabin
  • Treatment can be completed in the onboard medical center

In an interview with the LifeLines at Home newsletter, Marie (a Hemodialysis patient) encourages everyone dependent on dialysis to fulfill their dreams of going on a cruise.
She states that it is so easy to travel with Hemodialysis Dialysis, and she “enjoys the new sights they see, the new activities, the new friends,” and the “wonderful memories.”

Which Cruise Lines Offer Dialysis?

The following are some of the major ocean liners that offer and can assist with dialysis treatments:

  • Royal Caribbean
  • Celebrity Cruise Lines
  • Holland America Line
  • MSC Cruises
  • CroisiEurope
  • Celestyal Cruises

Always make sure that you check with your travel agent before booking to make sure that your chosen cruise line will be able to accommodate your dialysis treatments.

Just because a cruise line is on the list above, this doesn’t mean that they can accommodate dialysis treatments on all cruises.

dialysis on a cruise

How Do You Book Dialysis on a Cruise Ship?

Once you know where you’re going and on what date, it is a good idea to contact one of the specialized independent companies that organize dialysis on cruises.

On occasion, if you directly phone the cruise line, they will still direct you to one of the independent companies so it’s usually easiest to contact one of these companies first. They work with the cruise lines to provide the treatments.

Here are their contact details:

Company NameTelephoneWebsite
Dialysis at Sea (US)
Cruise Dialysis (UK)

Trained personnel will assist you with all the necessary requirements, procedures, and medical documentation needed and answer all your dialysis-related questions.

These companies will be able to book your cruise for you, as well as flights and anything else that’s needed.

It’s always a good idea to consult your medical team at home before traveling. They will be able to raise any concerns that they have about your health and/or help you to organize what you need for the trip.

Cruise Ship Dialysis Documentation

If having dialysis on a cruise, you may need to bring additional documentation.

For specific requirements, you will need to check with the provider through whom you book, but some examples of documents the company may require for entry onto the ship include:

  • Your last three treatment sheets
  • Current medication sheet
  • EKG tracings

It is essential to book as far in advance as possible. Dialysis appointments and cabins are somewhat limited. Dialysis at Sea, for example, accepts a maximum of twelve patients per cruise.

Flying to The Cruise Port

People with peritoneal dialysis machines are usually able to bring these as a carry-on. According to FAA rules, this does not count against your carry-on limit, and your bags will be priorities over other passengers.

If you are bringing a hemodialysis machine, it must be checked into the hold of the plane. It should not count as extra baggage or come with additional charges. However, your machine must meet the airline’s weight limits.

You are also allowed to transport syringes and dialysis fluids, but you will need to bring proper
documentation. It’s also a good idea to ask for preboarding if possible.

How is Dialysis on a Cruise Ship Charged?

The costs of undergoing dialysis on a cruise ship are billed separately from the rest of your cruise. The cost is determined by the length of your cruise and which type of dialysis treatment you undergo.

In the US Medicare and Medicaid will not cover your treatments but various other medical insurance companies will at least reimburse a percentage of your total dialysis bill.

If you’re in the UK, the NHS may reimburse a percentage of the cost. This can be around £150 – £170 per session. This depends on the countries that your cruise visits. You can find out more about the NHS costs here: Dialysis Away From Home.

To learn more about the medical centres onboard cruise ships, check out this post next:

Free Insiders Cruise Line Guide

Ever wondered how the mainstream cruise lines compare? Cruise lines won’t tell you this, but I will.

This FREE guide shows you everything you need to know to find your perfect cruise line.