Medical issues while traveling are a primary concern for cruise ship passengers, cruise crew members and the cruise lines traveling the high seas. As cruise lines and ferries begin to prepare for transporting people to Cuba by sea in record numbers, the issue of health care in Cuba needs to take front stage.
What people may know about Cuba and their health care in modern times, was mostly learned from news articles after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, Louisiana in 2005. Cuba was one of the first countries in the world to offer aid to the United States with the offer to send 1,586 doctors and 26 tons of medicine. The United States declined the offer.
How could Cuba offer to send so many doctors to the United States? According to Wikipedia, in 2005, Cuba had 627 physicians and 94 dentists per 100,000 population. To put the number into perspective, that year the United States had 225 physicians and 54 dentists per 100,000 population.
There is a long history of medical excellence in Cuba and Cuban medical internationalism, which is recognized by many nations around the world. Venezuela and Cuba have an agreement known as the "oil for doctors" program, Cuba provides Venezuela with 31,000 Cuban doctors and dentists and provides training for 40,000 Venezuelan medical personnel. In exchange, Venezuela provides Cuba with oil.
The medical community in Cuba is proud of their accomplishments. The World Health Organization announced in 2015 that Cuba had become the "first country to eliminate the transmission of HIV and syphilis from mother to baby."
Cuba's medical excellence was further demonstrated, when it was announced they were the first nation to develop a vaccine for lung cancer, Cimavax. Cuba’s Center for Molecular Immunology developed Cimavax, which is an innovative vaccine developed to help treat lung cancer patients in Cuba, where lung cancer is one of the leading causes of death due to heavy cigar smoking.
For the cruise industry, calling at Cuban cruise ports is a bonus with their history of excellent health care. One of the issues with cruise ship medical care is being disembarked in a foreign port when illness or injury takes place during the cruise. Health care in Caribbean nations is frequently unsatisfactory compared to industrialized nations, with cruise ship passengers and crew getting care from doctors ashore, who are poorly qualified. This is not the case in Cuba.
That said, there is no free ride for health care in Cuba, if you're a tourist. To enter Cuba you are required to have Travel Medical Insurance, it's not an option. The travel insurance covers Medical Expenses Due to Illness or Accident, Repatriation or Transport for Ill, Injured, or Deceased Person, Accidental
Death or Permanent Disability and other associated costs.
As of 2015, the Cuba Required Medical Insurance Fee was $46.00 per passenger. In addition, there is the mandatory United States’ Passenger Fee of $58.90 per passenger. Purchasing travel insurance for the entire voyage is always advised no matter which ports are visited. Given the mandatory travel insurance cost for just Cuban cruise ship ports in a Caribbean itinerary, travel insurance for the entire voyage is strongly advised.
Cruise ship passengers severely injured may find being repatriated back to the United States for continued care, a down-grade in treatment quality, if they can get the care at all. Barbara Jimenez, a law school student at the University of South Florida ended up staying in Cuba in August 2015, after the taxi she was riding in was hit head-on by a truck, killing the taxi driver. All the taxi passengers inside were critically injured, including Barbara. A student, with no health insurance back home, she ended up with no choice but to stay in Cuba for further treatment after she came out of a coma.
The taxi, which was a 1952 Chevrolet classic car is one of the more common car types driven in Havana, Cuba. Traveling to see the sights in a vintage taxi is an incredible tourist, throw back in time experience. However, the vehicles are vintage cars in every sense of the term, no seatbelts, no air bags and side impact protection, though they were built like tanks back in the day and can survive many impacts with smaller vehicles.
The benefits to cruise ship passengers arriving in Cuba are also shared by the cruse line and far outweigh the benefits compared to many other Caribbean cruise ship ports, which have mostly "third world" or more proper designation as a "developing country" or "undeveloped country" designation and health care. With Cuba it's clear, If you want the benefits of a high quality Caribbean experience, you have to pay for it. There are no cheap cruises to Cuba, but you get what you pay for.
For more information visit Cruise Ships to Cuba
to learn more about the 12 cruise ship ports in Cuba. Use Cuba Cruise Ship Tracker
for real time ship tracking in Cuba and the Eastern Caribbean.
More Cuba Cruise Ship Travel Resources:
Primary Health Care In Cuba
Cuba: What Everyone Needs to Know
Cuba Medical Internationalism: Origin, Evolution
Revolutionary Doctors: How Venezuela and Cuba Are Changing The World's Conception of Health Care
Cuba Revelations: Behind The Scenes In Havana