I’m a conscious spender on cruises. I always strive to get a good value and bring all the supplies I’ll need so I don’t have to buy anything on board. Typically, the general shop provisions charge double for medications, toiletries, and snacks.

But this time, they got me for $90 I didn’t expect to pay.

In the Middle of the Ocean, You Don’t Have a Lot of Medical Options

I was on Royal Caribbean Jewel of the Seas, and three days into my cruise, I came back to my room after lunch to relax and write in my paper journal. I’ve kept one for decades, and it’s a wonderful artifact to remember past travels.

I took a cruise three months ago and got behind in my logs, so I’ve made time during this cruise to catch up. I made brief notes in the back of the journal and matched them to photos on my phone to recall the trip.

After working for about an hour, I noticed it was difficult to see my phone. It was hard to read the text, and things were out of focus. That’s very odd and frustrating.

When I went to the bathroom, there it was. My right pupil was blown. I suddenly felt dread because I didn’t know what was happening.

First, I went to the medical office on board and knocked on the door. Nobody answered. Ok, this is not good. So I used their phone to call the office. The nurse who answered the phone informed me I had to make an appointment, and it would cost $150 to see the doctor, plus the cost of any medications.

Holy crap! That’s a lot of money for a doctor’s visit.

They asked me if I wanted to make an appointment, and I declined. Instead, I would see if it went away in a few hours.

sign on door reading medical facility

I left Medical and went searching for answers

Since glasses and eye things were new to me, I stopped by a friend’s cabin who I met onboard. She wears contacts, so I figured she’d have more experience with these things than I do. While on that deck, I bumped into two women I’d had dinner with on Day 1 and mentioned my eye thing.

They looked and exclaimed, “wow, that’s not normal.” Yep, and I can’t see very well.

Immediately, her first question was, “Do you use the seasick patches?”

“Yes…”

“Well,” she began, “my friend used them on a past cruise, had blurry vision for a week afterward, and couldn’t drive.”

I pulled out my phone and immediately searched for the side effects of the drug.

There it was in black and white: the patch can cause blurry vision and dilated pupils.

And then it occurred to me. I’d taken off the patch earlier because it was irritating my skin. I must not have washed my hands well enough and touched my eye.

“Oh my god, I think you’re right,” I said. “I bet that’s what it was. I took off the patch a little while ago.”

Triage

Now that the dots connected, I returned to my room. After hopping in the shower to remove the drug from my skin, I flushed my eye with artificial tears.

Fortunately, this situation wasn’t associated with pain or discomfort beyond blurry vision.

I had dinner plans that I didn’t want to cancel, nor did I feel unwell enough to cancel. So, I went and felt awkward and squinty.

By the time dinner concluded, Medical had closed, so I went to bed, hoping it would be better in the morning. It was not. Eyes being a rather vital organ, I figured it was better to be safe than sorry to check in with the doctor.

Sign on cruise ship medical office door stating hours and restricted personnel

I Had to Wait for a Medical Appointment

I sought medical treatment at 9:15am, and after taking my vitals, he sat me down to examine my eyes. I explained what had happened, and he asked if I had used the seasick patch. He checked both eyes with a light and said, “Stop using it. You’ll be fine in 8 hours. Stay out of bright light, and don’t go outside.”

This situation is so common that they get 60 cases of eye conditions related to the patch on every cruise, and appointments barely last 5 minutes.

Sadly, those couple of minutes cost me $90. Fortunately, it was not for the $150 they quoted.

I made the stupid mistake of not washing my hands thoroughly, and now here I am, $90 poorer for it.

Fortunately, it wasn’t something more severe. But, of course, it didn’t resolve in 8 hours as the doc said. In reality, it took more than 3 days for the pupil to return to normal, but the important thing is that it did.

Travel Insurance

If you’re wondering if I had travel insurance, yes, I did. I started a claim while on the cruise. As soon as guest services gave me the invoice, I started the claim on line using my phone.

Insurance should pay for this because it’s an unforeseen injury occurring during the trip. Still, we all know how insurance companies tend to deny valid claims initially. So, I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Update: A check arrived about week after I returned home. No questions asked.

Final Thoughts: Sea Sickness Patches

The patches are by prescription, so you can’t just buy them in a pharmacy. However, my primary care physician has prescribed them to me for years, and I’ve never had a reaction before.

If I use them again in the future, I’ll be sure to wash my hands vigorously with soap after touching them.

And always buy travel medical insurance!

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