Once past the dreaded morning sickness stage, a cruise sounds like a blissful holiday when pregnant.
Lots of rest, swimming, food prepared for you, afternoon naps in the cabin.
But as a Mumsnet poster found out this week: “I’ve just discovered that many cruise liners don’t let you sail if you are over 24 weeks (pregnant).
“I’m going on a cruise in 11 days’ time (cost a fortune), will be 24 weeks the day before disembarkation, have checked their T&Cs and sure enough it’s a no no.”
So is a cruise a fabulous, relaxing holiday while pregnant or a danger to mother and baby and what are the rules? The Family Holiday Guide investigates.
The pregnancy policy of cruise lines
Cruise ships have strict pregnancy policies.
Women having a healthy pregnancy, in the first or second trimester are usually allowed to sail.
They must inform the cruise line before, or risk being turned away.
The cruise line usually wants to see (sometimes two months before), a doctor or midwife’s letter confirming the mother and baby are in good health, fit to travel and the pregnancy is not high risk, plus the estimated due date.
Most cruise lines will not let passengers sail who will be in or past the 24th week of pregnancy at any stage during the journey. These include P&O, TUI, Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean.
It may sound strict but when you think about it, this makes sense. Ships do not have the specialist facilities to deal with pregnancy complications or a new premature baby out at sea.
There are some ships which sail close to land or river cruises, which may allow women in later pregnancy, with a doctor’s approval.
But make sure you check and follow the rules – you may be asked to sign a health form when booking or boarding to agree that you are aware of the pregnancy policy.
You find out you are pregnant after you have booked a cruise and no longer want to go?
If you no longer want to go and have only paid a deposit, you can normally cancel the cruise and get a refund.
If you have paid in full, you will need to check the company’s cancellation policies and you may not get a full refund.
If you have travel insurance in place then you should be able to cancel or reschedule sailing.
You will be in the first or second trimester but aren’t sure whether to go?
Check with your doctor. If you have had any complications, are expecting more than one baby or have had preterm deliveries before, it may be safer to stay on land where medical facilities are close by.
Also, fully research and consider the health risks at all the destinations you will be visiting as well as the health care available at them.
There will normally be doctor-led medical facilities on the ship which can handle minor emergencies. If there is an emergency, patients are transferred to hospital (often for a fee – have insurance), but this could take a long time.
If you do sail while pregnant
*You must have travel insurance – make sure you disclose your pregnancy and check it covers you in the event of an emergency. Also make sure it covers your unborn baby.
*Always travel with your maternity notes and doctor’s letter and carry copies of prescriptions and the emergency contact number for your doctor with you too.
*Be wary of drinking the ship’s water.
*Always use hand sanitizer regularly as viruses can spread quickly on cruise ships. Take care to avoid food and water-borne conditions like stomach upsets and remember some medicines for treating things like diarrhoea aren’t suitable when pregnant.
*Don’t feel you have to do all shore excursions, stay safe and listen to your body. Sometimes pregnant passengers are not allowed on some excursions for their own safety.
*Remember, seasickness may be worse when pregnant.
*Many cruise ships have launderettes so you don’t have to splash out on lots of maternity holiday clothes.
*Be careful in the sun, keep cool and check your sun cream is suitable for pregnant women.
*You can enjoy the swimming pools but avoid hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms.
*Take a list of what you can and can’t eat as you may not be able to ‘Google it’. And be wary of buffet food which has been out a while.
*If you are flying to the cruise port, check the airline’s policy too.
Thoroughly consider all the issues before deciding whether to sail and choose a cruise which isn’t at sea for days on end.
If you go, pack a maternity swimsuit, enjoy the restful side of cruising including afternoon naps in your cabin, don’t overdo it and have a great time!
What about ferries?
Ferry companies have their own restrictions and usually won’t take pregnant women past 32 weeks. Check the company’s policy before booking as restrictions vary.
Brittany Ferries, for example, accept pregnant passengers under 32 weeks except on their high-speed sailings when they must be less than 28 weeks.
It also depends on the route and in some cases, the weather – if the sea is very rough, a pregnant traveller may not be allowed on board.