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Meet the team: Dr Kate Bunyan


Tips from our Medical Director on staying healthy on board and what it takes to be a medic at sea

Dr Kate Bunyan, Medical Director at Carnival UK

What led you to your current role? 

My background is as an emergency doctor in a range of hospital medicine and surgery jobs. When I joined Carnival UK in 2007, I combined working on board the ships with working in my local A&E department until 2010, when I took up my current position as Medical Director.

What does your job involve?

There is no such thing as a typical day for my team and me! As Head of the Health and Environmental Department, I’m responsible for everything from providing support to our doctors and nurses at sea through to developing international policy on the management of health risks on cruise ships. We’re constantly looking for new ways to improve what we do, and it’s rewarding when we hear that we’ve exceeded people’s expectations. Some people come to us thinking they’ll never get another holiday, and working with them to find the right cruise that enables them to have the holiday of a lifetime is very special.

What medical facilities are provided on board? 

All our ships have a fully qualified team of on board nurses and doctors, who work in first-class medical centres that are equipped more like a local A&E department than a GP surgery. We even have digital x-ray equipment on board, and the ability to have the images reviewed by a radiologist onshore.

What are the most common ailments found on cruise ships?

A cruise ship is like a mini town, so everything that happens at home can happen on board. Plus, if it’s a bit rough there can be seasickness to deal with, too! In terms of staying safe and well during their trip, we advise guests to simply do as they usually would do – wash their hands regularly, cough into a tissue, etc – but also to make sure they relax, enjoy a varied diet and get involved in some of the many activities readily available on a cruise holiday.

Do you enjoy cruising yourself?

Definitely. Cruising is an amazing holiday opportunity and I firmly believe that there’s something for everyone. I’ve visited some fabulous places on cruises, and being able to take in a variety of destinations in the one trip is fantastic.

Does working in cruise ship medical care require a particular set of skills? 
Because literally anything and everything can happen at sea, our teams need to be able to handle a variety of different areas of medicine until they can access specialist care onshore. They need to love a challenge and work well with others. I guess the skills are similar to working in an A&E department; the big difference being that our crew could be in the Caribbean one day, visiting the Norwegian Fjords another, and watching the sun rise over volcanoes the next...