Do I need vaccinations on a cruise?

With more cruise ships than ever leaving from Fremantle Port, increasing numbers of West Australians find themselves able to sail to exotic locations without even having to get on a plane. Risk from disease on a cruise ship is generally considered to be low but does vary depending on itinerary (Africa v New Zealand for example).

In most instances cruises involve single day stopovers at a number of ports. The recommendation for vaccination is itinerary and activity based, on cumulative risk. On a 2 week cruise stopping 5 times at ‘higher risk’ destinations for example, the risk is therefore spread over 5 days not 14. Any developing country should be considered higher risk from a health perspective and some developing¬† countries (ie India) ‘high risk’.

Where stopovers occur in a developing country, hepatitis A vaccination is often recommended. A viral disease of the liver, hepatitis A is transmitted through contaminated food and water and even if you stick to 5 star organised tours whilst on land, you may still find yourself at risk.

Respiratory infections can sometimes spread quickly on cruise ships. Older passengers or those with pre-existing respiratory, cardiac or metabolic conditions are advised to be vaccinated with the current flu vaccine. Many people who fall into this group should also be considering the pneumonia vaccine.

A proof of Yellow Fever vaccination certificate may be required on some cruises that visit part of the African or South American continents. Cruise companies and travel agents should advise you on the need for a Yellow Fever vaccination but don’t always, and its a complicated issue, so it’s best to double check.

As always this is broad advice and other vaccinations may be recommended depending on specific itinerary and an individual’s personal medical circumstance, so it’s worth a consultation to ensure you are covered – and don’t forget you should never leave Australia without ensuring you are immune to measles and your tetanus vaccine is up to date (even if going to Europe).


For more information about staying healthy on a cruise (not all diseases are vaccine preventable), read our Cruising the High Seas information guide.