Ill Aboard! Dangers of Getting Sick at Sea

The Bryce family believes dehydration triggered Don's heart attack, questioning why he was never given IV fluids — especially since he had a history of heart trouble.

Dr. Mark Gibson couldn't be reached for comment, but in a written statement, Holland America said the medical staff was in frequent contact with the Bryce's and did nothing wrong. "We have determined the medical staff acted in a proper and professional manner," it stated.

While Marlene disputes Holland America's claims, she said she is determined to move forward — and make sure no one else experiences a similar agony.

"This should not have happened," she said, "And I don't want it to happen to anyone else."

Under maritime law, cruise lines aren't responsible for the actions of the doctors they hire, since the doctors are independent contractors.

Fellow passenger Soiseth said she thought "this couldn't possibly happen, especially when we were told there is good medical care on the ship."

There are precautions that passengers can take when traveling on cruise ships.

Before you leave, see if your insurance or credit card covers emergency evacuations. If you become sick in a foreign land or on the high seas, some may help you evacuate. Most, however, do not.

Travel with complete medical information — including the names and doses of all your medications — and your personal doctor's phone number.

Pack all prescription drugs and medicines in adequate amounts for the trip in a carry-on bag, with a list of their names and the dosage of each drug.

Consider buying travel insurance — and make sure it has medical evacuation and emergency treatment in foreign facilities.

Ask about medical staff and facilities aboard your vessel. A crucial question is: does the doctor speak English?

Those with a chronic condition should notify the ship's doctors and carry medical records, including a recent E.K.G. if pertinent.

If you do get sick while on a cruise ship, consider disembarking at the nearest port for medical treatment, but realize that once you do, you risk assuming the expense of getting yourself home … and not getting reimbursed for the remainder of your vacation.

Click here to read a full statement by Holland America regarding Don Bryce's death.

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