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Cruising With Sleep Apnea

How to plan and care for a cruise companion with sleep apnea (Photo: mozakim/Stutterstock)
How to plan and care for a cruise companion with sleep apnea (Photo: mozakim/Stutterstock)

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For travelers with sleep apnea, a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine has changed their lives, allowing them to sleep comfortably and safely through the night, even on vacation. It's quite feasible to bring your machine on a cruise, but it does take planning. Here's what you need to know about cruise travel with a CPAP machine when you have sleep apnea.

Updated August 2, 2018

The Prep

First, ask your cruise line about the ship's electrical system, and whether you need to use a converter or adapter, or if U.S. appliances will work. Many CPAP machines have built-in converters or adapters, but each one is different, so you'll want to make sure you know how it works. Some machines may require you to make an adjustment when you change voltage. It probably won't be an issue on most cruises, which run on standard U.S. current, but if you're taking a river cruise in Europe or elsewhere, it might.

In addition, pack an extension cord. Although cruise lines normally don't allow them, they make an exception for medical devices.

"Never assume the cruise line has one, and make it about 15 feet long or so," says Cathy Udovch of the Travelstore, an online company that sells travel accessories. "Very few plugs exist in most cruise line staterooms, and those that do are near the desk and not the bed."

If your ship uses non-U.S. plugs or voltage, buy an appropriate extension cord before boarding the ship, or order one online at home, and bring it with you. Also, bring an extra mask and filters.

Finally, check with your cruise line's disability services department about the availability of distilled water for your machine. Although, it's unlikely to hurt the device if you use tap or bottled water for a short period, most big ships will provide a gallon of distilled water without charge, or for a nominal fee.

In Flight

At the airport, inform the TSA screener you are carrying a medical device. Most agents are familiar with CPAPs and won't have further questions, but have a copy of your prescription available just in case.

Here's the good news. Your CPAP is considered a medical device, and you can take it aboard the plane as hand baggage. Even better, it doesn't count against your carry-on limit. However, this isn't necessarily the case on flights outside the U.S.

If you plan to sleep onboard the plane and want to use the CPAP, consider purchasing a backup battery for your machine, which may cost several hundred dollars.

Onboard Your Cruise

Don't put your machine in checked luggage, but instead hand-carry it to your cabin.

Once you arrive, use your extension cord to set up the CPAP. If you forgot the cord, ask your cabin steward, who may be able to find one. And request the distilled water.

For information about cruising with a different medical condition, see our articles on:

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