Going on a Cruise while Diabetic

Lots of good advice above…I have been on several cruises and always have to adjust my basal/bolus because of the amount of walking involved. We always walk miles more than normal daily life and that has made a significant impact on my insulin requirements.

Take lots of extra supplies, always carried on, and notify the cruise line before the cruise. A CGM REALLY helps in these situations for me.

Have FUN!!

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It’s no different than any other vacation - just bring a backup set of all your “hardware” (pump supplies, needles, CGM, test strips, etc.) and “software” (insulin). Store the extra insulin in your stateroom fridge.

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Thank you Dorie! I’m not on a pump, I use the Humalog KwikPen. I also have the Freestyle Libre.

Sweet! Have a marvelous time on your cruise!

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Hi, Emily.

I’ve been on a number of cruises and haven’t had any issues. I make sure to bring snacks for potential overnight lows, and our room stewards have been pretty good refilling the ice bucket morning & night to keep my insulin cold when I didn’t have a refrigerator in the stateroom. Usually lots of low carb options on the buffet menu, and you can tell your dinner wait staff to hold the carbs - on Royal Caribbean, we were paired with another couple for dinner, and she had celiac disease (severe gluten intolerance), so the head waiter made sure we could look at the next night’s dinner menu to prepare accordingly. They are usually very accommodating for people with food restrictions, just be sure to ask.

The only issue you may run into is taking snacks/food ashore in foreign countries. I’ve personally never had an issue (and have never been searched for food), but I usually bring a tube of glucose tablets along.

Security getting on the ship is looking for weapons & smuggled alcohol, not insulin or medical equipment. And the x-ray machine doesn’t detect my pump or CGM sensor, so no “additional screening” like at the airport.

In light of the recent quarantines on ships, I’d also recommend bringing enough insulin & supplies in case there is a delay getting off the ship.

Hope this helps! Have fun on your cruise & hope to see you on board someday!

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Make sure you watch your food. High blood sugars makes us thirsty, nervous and tired. I would eat predicable food. Bring food and protein snacks with you.

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You might want to mention where you will be traveling. I haven’t been to Europe myself (for instance) but I do recall hearing that restaurants are pretty much all closed on Sundays in some countries. It may not be true but since it stuck in my mind from a diabetes standing I just Googled it. Didn’t find anything about that specifically but there were sure articles on dining customs in some countries, so you may want to check them out so you can be prepared from both a cultural and medical standpoint, and get some tips here from people who have gone there before.

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A very good point, Dorie @wadawabbit, when traveling ANYPLACE, always check ahead of time local customs - and I’m not restricting this to “foreign” travel.

Several years ago, late 1960’s my wife and I were on a second honey moon [not the so called diabetes honeymoon] and on our Sunday drive homeward through Vermont, USA, found that all restaurants are closed on Sunday. What “saved” me was the operator of a fillin-station, also postmaster, made me a sandwich.

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Thank you so much everyone for your thoughts, tips and personal experiences!! We’re going to Mexico, not too far from home :wink:

I did A Mexican Riviera cruise years ago. Check out Ixtapa Zihuatanejo if you’re in the area (I may have misspelled that!) - it was gorgeous!

Hi Emily,
Here’s hoping you have fun and a great time on your upcoming cruise!
I’ve traveled extensively with my family over the last thirty+ years worldwide and have been fortunate to have been on multiple cruises.
Here are some tips I’ve learned as a Type I Diabetic traveling abroad (cruise ship or not):

  1. Let your travel agent, cruise ship, and/or airline know that you are an Insulin Dependent Diabetic (Type I) well in advance of your trip. (that way, if you start acting strange from low blood sugar, it will be in your file, and they can IMMEDIATELY help you). Plus, the cruise ship can provide diabetic meals for you during the entire cruise. I also have food allergies and the cruise ships we have been on have all accommodated both meal preferences and diabetic choices.
  2. Ask that they provide a small refrigerator for your insulin in your stateroom. If one is not available, ask that you be able to keep your unopened extra insulin in the ship’s pharmacy until you need it. (Take extra large and small baggies, so you can label them with your NAME, ROOM # and CONTENTS, and REFRIGERATOR).
    You can ask that your frozen container to keep your insulin vials or pen in during the day be frozen in one of the ship’s restaurant freezers each night. Again, place these in a properly labeled baggie. You will only need this if the weather is going to be over 86 degrees F during the day.
  3. Always travel with written prescriptions for all of your medications. This way, should anything ever happen to your insulin or other medications, you have written prescriptions from your physician so that you can immediately get replacement medication as needed.
    Also, have your physician write a letter stating that you are his/her patient, that you take certain medications (list them) and that as a Type I Diabetic you will be traveling with the usual supplies needed to treat your chronic disease. (Blood Glucose Monitor and Strips, Insulin Pens, Pen Needles, Glucose Tabs, etc…). Make sure the letter lists everything you will be traveling with. Make sure you travel with one month of extra insulin and other medications when you travel. Keep the letter and prescriptions in an envelope and with you at all times. This letter & prescriptions for your medications are good for TSA agents, police inspectors, anyone in authority who may want to know about any of your medications/supplies. Carry a copy of this letter with you any time you leave the ship.
    Always hand carry all of your medications. Never check any of your medications.
  4. If you will be taking longer walking excursions on a trip than you are normally used to, particularly in warmer climates, you may want to start now to get your body in better preparation so that your trip will be more fun. Try walking 15 minutes daily for a couple of weeks then gradually increase to 30, then 45 minutes per day. Finally, 60 minutes per day. You don’t have to walk all at once, you can split it up into several segments during the day. The point is, the more you walk each day, the better in shape you will be for your trip. And when you return, who knows, maybe you’ll keep it up?
  5. Snacks: I have found that traveling with a small jar of peanut butter and 1 box of graham crackers (take extra baggies) has gotten my family through thick and thin wherever we have traveled. Sometimes, peanut butter on a cracker with a banana has been dinner when we just were too tired of anything else. You may find this strange now, but by day 8 in one country, with so much fish to eat, I was SO glad I had my peanut butter! Haha! Otherwise, 1 large container of Glucose Tablets should suffice for lows. Take a smaller container to refill for carrying with you for day excursions.
  6. Extra Medical Insurance may give you peace of mind for your trip. I’ve always taken it out but have never had to use it! :slight_smile: But I always buy it.

The Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa region of Mexico is beautiful. If you go there, try to have dinner at Amuleto. It’s a great little hotel that overlooks the bay…high up the mountain.
Great place to stay if you’re not on a cruise, but the dinners there are great and the views spectacular! Worth a once in a lifetime experience.
Have a GREAT trip and plan on many, many more!
Happy trails!

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Hi Emily
I’ve been on many cruises and have not had any problems. Carb counting is usually pretty straight forward but I also allow myself to try new dishes and just watch the blood sugar after. (I have a dexcom) and a pump

I too bring granola bars for the just in case lows.
At the breakfast buffets I usually take a few yogurts back to the room too

Most of the bigger cruise ships have small fridges in the rooms. I don’t keep my insulin refrigerated. I have a small thermal cooler pack that I take off ship on excursions and it protects it from heat and sunlight.
Have fun

Anne

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Hey Emily,

I went on a cruise to Alaska and it was really fun. It’s really no different than any other traveling experience. You just gotta be on top of your game due to food and exercise different than what you normally do. You can handle this.

Main thing, have fun.

Here’s a video of what I did. I won the talent contest!

Have fun and pay attention.

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Not on the main topic, but just a note to jason26tm. Your mileage may vary, but my Medtronic pump and CGM sensors can be destroyed by xray or millimeter-wave scanning. I suggest you check on this. I have to hand carry them through security everywhere specifically to avoid such scanning. In order to do this, I carry a letter from my endocrinologist specifically stating that the devices, listed by name, must not be exposed to such scanning, and I’ve actually had to dig out this documentation once (somewhere in South America, but I don’t remember which country).

Rudy

True. Before I got TSA Pre-check, I’d always have my pump hand checked by security. The millimeter wave scanner always detected my transmitter & infusion site, so I’d be subjected to additional screening (hand swab for the explosives detector). But with Pre-check, I just walk through a metal detector, which has never detected the pump (and I carry my extra insulin in my pocket). There have been a couple instances in the past when my pump and/or insulin went through the X-ray machine - thankfully no issues & everything still worked properly. My spare sensors always go through the X-ray machine at the airport, but I’ve never had any problems with them afterwards. Frankly, the only issue I’ve ever had while travelling was returning to the U.S. from the U.K. last June - I was using a FRIO cooler wallet for my insulin, and security in Heathrow didn’t want to clear it. I had accidentally put my prescription info in my checked luggage, so I had no “evidence” that I was allowed to have it. No issues at all with the insulin or the hypodermic needles I was carrying - just the cooler pouch! The supervisor finally let me through once he realized it was for insulin.

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Over the years I have been on around 9 or 10 cruises, and food was never an issue. I generally like to try a lot of new things so I wind up bolusing for all the extra carbs… Lots of good advice above, One thing that I’ve always done has been to bring a totally extra set of supplies, and leave it buried in my suitcase under the bed or in the room safe if available. I would have my usual set of supplies that I carry with me and enough refills to get through the time( rounding up on amounts) handy and use them for the trip. Many times I just put the full extra set away when I got home, but one time I lost my insulin pouch while on an excursion (lost few days worth of supplies including insulin vials and pens) This actually happened during the first of 2 weeks on my honeymoon…

Wow thank you so much for the detailed list Jane, it is very much appreciated!! We are only going to Baja California this time, I am hoping to check out the “east coast” cities like Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Cozumel, etc. on our next trip :wink:

Mike, oh my goodness, that is a scary thought to lose my supplies!! Eek! Hopefully you had enough to last the two weeks during your honeymoon :slight_smile: That is one of my concerns so I’m bringing at least an extra months’ worth (even though we’ll only be gone a week). Especially after these coronavirus cases/ships being detained, you can never be too prepared!

Thanks for sharing, that is awesome!!! I would LOVE to go to Alaska one day, it’s on my bucket list :slight_smile:

Dorie, we are only going to Baja California this time but I would LOVE to travel to the Eastern side of Mexico one day, Playa del Carmen looks so beautiful!!