Can pregnant women sail on a cruise ship?

Yes, expectant mothers can sail on a cruise ship but normally only until their 24th week of pregnancy.

All cruise lines have a cut-off limit due to a lack of medical facilities onboard to cope with an early labour or neonatal care. Many lines will ask to see a doctor’s note or a ‘Fit to Travel’ letter from your doctor that proves you aren’t further along in pregnancy than you are claiming.

From personal experience, my wife and I enjoyed a cruise while she was pregnant. We needed a doctor’s note to cancel our Celebrity cruise (to prove we were cancelling it due to pregnancy rather than on a whim) and we needed to supply this to Royal Caribbean in advance to sail on our last cruise before the birth.

Cut-Off Dates

This information often hides within the booking terms and conditions for each cruise line. It can be difficult hunting for this information so for ease I have compiled a list of the pregnancy cut-off dates.

Bear in mind cruise lines can, and do, change their terms and conditions without notice. Please use the information below as a guide only and check your cruise line’s booking terms and conditions before you pay your deposit to make sure the rules are still the same.

The cut-off limit applies to the number of weeks through pregnancy you would be at the end of the cruise. If you are expected to pass the cut-off limit during your voyage, you may be denied permission to board.

Cruise LineCut-off limit
Azamara Club Cruises24th week*
Carnival Cruise Lines24th week*
Celebrity Cruises24th week*
Costa Cruises24th week**
Crystal Cruises 23rd week**
Cunard Line24th week*
Disney Cruise Line24th week**
Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines24th week°
Hapag-Lloyd Cruises24th week**
Holland America Line24th week*
Hurtigruten24th week**
MSC Cruises24th week
Norwegian Cruise Lines24th week**
Oceania Cruises24th week
P&O Cruises24th week*°
Princess Cruises24th week*
Regent Seven Seas Cruises24th week**
Royal Caribbean24th week*°
Seabourn24th week**
Silversea24th week**
Thomson Cruises24th week°

Last updated: May 2015

* A letter from your doctor is required by the cruise line in advance stating how far along (in weeks) your pregnancy will be at the beginning of the voyage and confirming that you are in good health and not experiencing a high-risk pregnancy. Some lines ask for the letter to include the estimated date of delivery (EDD) calculated from both Last Menstrual Period (LMP) and ultrasound (if performed).

** As above, only the cruise line’s terms seem to suggest this does not need to be sent to the cruise line in advance (carry it with you at check-in though just-in-case you are asked for proof). It is best to check with your cruise line just-in-case they have changed their policy.

General Trimester Guide

The table above lists specific policies by cruise line. The following table lists a quick-glance summary based on your pregnancy progress.

As a rule of thumb, the first trimester is fine for low-risk pregnancies and the cut-off falls within the second trimester at between five and six months pregnant.

MonthsTrimesterCan you cruise?
1 month pregnantFirst trimesterYes, if low-risk
2 months pregnantFirst trimesterYes, if low-risk
3 months pregnantFirst trimesterYes, if low-risk
4 months pregnantSecond trimesterYes, if low-risk
5 months pregnantSecond trimesterYes, if low-risk and under 23/24 weeks pregnant
6 months pregnantSecond trimesterNo
7 months pregnantThird trimesterNo
8 months pregnantThird trimesterNo
9 months pregnantThird trimesterNo

Doctor’s Notes

The vast majority of cruise lines require some sort of proof of fitness to travel, either beforehand or at check-in.

For peace of mind (and to avoid any unnecessary stress at check-in) I would suggest getting a letter from your doctor proving how many weeks pregnant you are, your expected due date, and that you are in good health to travel.

Bear in mind that for a fly-cruise, you will need to satisfy both the airline’s and cruise line’s rules to travel.

High-Risk Pregnancies

Cruise ships are not able to offer specialised medical help to expectant mothers should they need it.

Pregnant women deemed by their doctor as having a “high-risk pregnancy” are likely to require more regular medical assessment and specialised medical care beyond the care available on a cruise ship. As such, if you are experiencing a high-risk pregnancy, you may not be allowed to travel.

First-Hand Experience

My wife’s pregnancy only had minor effects on our holiday. She went off the taste of coffee and had to veer away from the foods the NHS recommend avoiding during pregnancy. She tired more quickly, so we planned less active shore excursions to counter this, and bathroom breaks understandably increased too.

Don’t expect to race up a rock climbing wall or have a go on a surfing simulator while pregnant either.

The spa therapists offered to tailor some treatments to ensure the baby’s well-being, although warned against some therapies.

She was prescribed pregnancy-specific tablets before the cruise to help with seasickness. If you are suffering from morning sickness, this will likely continue on a ship, just as it would on land.

Emergencies

Cruise ships tend to have a medical team onboard. The doctor is likely to be a general practitioner rather than a pregnancy specialist. Even so, they are the first and best port of call aboard to offer a medical opinion.

If you would prefer to remain close to land for peace of mind, choose a port intensive cruise itinerary. Some cruise lines offer itineraries with no sea days meaning if you need to seek emergency treatment on land it might be easier to do so.

The decision whether to travel should only be made after speaking with your doctor.

Medical bag

If you do decide to sail, make sure you have adequate travel insurance that covers cruise travel and pregnancy. Medical bills both on and off the ship can quickly rack up.

Cancellations due to Pregnancy

Most cruise lines in the UK charge a non-refundable deposit to book a cruise, forfeited on cancellation of the cruise. Some also charge to make changes to a booking.

When we discovered we were expecting a baby, we had to cancel our planned Celebrity Cruises holiday. I expected to lose my deposit (as confirmed by my travel agent). Even so, I contacted Celebrity Cruises directly. To my surprise, they were very helpful and offered to refund the normally non-refundable deposit out of compassion upon receipt of a doctor’s letter proving our claim.

The morale here is to ask your cruise line before cancelling outright. Agents have rules to follow, but you might be lucky and receive some compassionate treatment.

Are you pregnant right now and concerned or confused about cruise line policies regarding pregnancy. Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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