Are River Cruises Able to Handle an Onboard Emergency?

Are crewmembers on your river cruise ready for an emergency?

Are crewmembers on your river cruise ready for an emergency?

Would officers and staff on your river cruise know what to do if suddenly there were a medical emergency onboard? After a passenger became sick on a recent river cruise on the Rhone, I asked myself that very question. Our hotel manager Thomas graciously provided me with an opportunity to ask questions about the level of first aid training crew members are required to take.

What First Aid training do crewmembers have?
Crewmembers take a two-day first aid course that includes topics like CPR, use of an AED, choking, breathing and circulatory emergencies (like anaphylaxis, stroke and heart attack), wound care and head/spinal injuries. They recertify their skills and knowledge annually to keep their skills fresh.

Their first aid training is based on a blended learning approach where crewmembers learn lifesaving theories first online and then apply that knowledge in the classroom. They do role playing exercises and scenarios which are filmed and then reviewed by participants. Instructors use these videos to provide feedback and to make any corrections where needed which helps participants develop sound decision-making or soft skills.
Scenario based-learning is an excellent strategy that helps students to bridge the gap between classroom learning and a real-life emergency. This very visual and tactile learning approach provides students with opportunities to better understand, learn and apply lifesaving skills and knowledge. At SOS First Aid, instructors use scenarios and interactive scenario-based videos in first aid classes. A greater level of engagement is obtained, enabling students to grasp how and when, through trial and error, to apply first aid treatments. If students are better engaged, they will retain knowledge better and remember what to do in a real emergency.

What resources are available on board?
Ships are equipped with an AED (automated external defibrillator) located at the reception desk. When staff assess that someone is in cardiac arrest, the protocol is to contact the local Emergency Medical Services, initiate CPR and to call for the AED to be brought to the emergency scene. Several officer and staff, including the concierge, are trained to respond in this consistent manner to emergencies.
For less serious emergencies, cruise ships have a stretcher and several fully-stocked first aid kits on board.
For non-life-threatening situations, passengers and staff have around the clock access to “River Doctors” who can be contacted for advice, medication or to come on board at any given time. Unlike an ocean cruise, river cruises are able to dock at many points along the river to access paramedical or medical assistance.
Should you get travel medical insurance?
Absolutely, medical insurance is a must when you travel! Accidents and medical emergencies can happen to anyone at any time, even to the most careful people. On a river cruise vacation, it is reassuring to know that crewmembers are trained to respond to an emergency and to evacuate you to the nearest hospital ashore. However, expenses can quickly rise and you are liable for any medical costs so make sure to purchase travel insurance before you leave home.
Emergencies can also happen off the ship. You too should be prepared to handle an unexpected emergency by learning first aid before you leave on your cruise. Studies show that you are more likely to provide first aid to a loved one, friend or perhaps a fellow travel companion.