Grand Princess Medical Marvel

By Richard Carroll / Photography: Donna Carroll

The GRAND PRINCESS cruise ship, in the booming annals of the ever-changing cruise industry, had a moment of glory, May 26, 1998, in Istanbul, Turkey when she proudly set sail as the "World's Largest Cruise Ship."

With a coy blush or two, the 109,000-ton beauty, lofty, powerful and sleek, and too hefty to fit through the Panama Canal, acknowledged her position as the Amazon of the seas and the new Queen of cruise "firsts."

Truly a floating resort, the ship is breaking new waves in the cruise industry with a breakthrough telemedicine program that is the essence of the expression "Doctors on The High Seas."

cruise ship medical

The unprecedened concept, developed by ImageView in conjunction with physicians, engineers and telecommunication experts, known as SeaMed, directly links the ship's medical staff with Emergency physicians and specialists at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

The spectacular program assists in the management of complex and emergency medical situations in the nooks and crannies of world travel.

The technology is also a first for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, an internationally acclaimed facility and teaching center with more than 2,000 physicians.

A custom telemedicine suite was installed on GRAND PRINCESS and at Cedar-Sinai's Emergency Department where a roster of specialists are on call 24-hours a day, seven days a week.

Spencer Koerner, M.D., senior consultant, Cedars-Sinai Telemedicine and International Health said, "SeaMed provides a safety platform for passengers on GRAND PRINCESS and will be useful for a wide variety of medical conditions, including cardiac, pulmonary, orthopedic, and neurologic emergencies."

This new application of technology nicely compliments Princess' existing telemedicine program.

A splendid idea when you consider the ship at full capacity can host 2,600 passengers and also carries a whopping 1,100 crew members.

SeaMed offers a live two-way video link and a virtual ER visit allowing radiographs, EKG's and other physiologic data to be transmitted to the hospital and to the appropriate specialist stationed at the Cedars-Sinai Emergency Department by worldwide satellite.

No other cruise ship in the world is providing real time audio-visual telemedicine or medical care at this level.

Thomas Conroy, CEO of ImageView said, "We developed the PC-based SeaMed system specifically for communications with remote locations complete with voice, x-ray photographs and EKG tests. The time will come when passengers will demand access to specialists via telemedicine as a prerequisite to booking a cruise vacation."

Dr. Alastair Smith, Princess' vice president of fleet medical which includes 10 ships, carrying 600,000 passengers, calling at 220 ports with approximately 1,500 itineraries said, "Princess has long been known for its quality medical care." The facts support his statement.

The GRAND PRINCESS has two doctors and four nurses dedicated to maritime medicine who work or assist with SeaMed's intuitive on-screen user interface, utilizing a dual monitor capability for multi-processing of information along with a mounted camera and integrated medical devices.

The ship's lab is equipped for general analysis and consulting such as blood tests for kidney and liver functions and heart diagnosis.

Other new, potentially life-saving features are two portable, two-pound, semi-automatic cardiac defibrillators available in medical lockers in the main dining room and the Promenade Deck.

Smith explained, "The SeaMed system is a 911 interface, a backup, a security web. Most problems onboard are not surgical; they're medical which we are setup to handle. We can stabilize a problem then work with a valuable second opinion. If someone is sailing with a new or on-going diseas they can bring along their full medical records.

"A click of a button and the system is up and running. The Cedars-Sinai emergency team, interacting with the ship's doctors, can examine patients based on the data they see."

cruise doctor

SeaMed will allow Princess to reduce the need for evacuations and early disembarkations of critically ill or injured passengers, and could save a thousand mile air evacuation and a huge dent in the checkbook.

The Love Boat Care & Care Gold programs also offer peace of mind for most medical expenses.

Telemedicine is only one of many surprises aboard the ship. For all it's size, the GRAND is jammed with intimate areas and enough attractions to keep children hopping till they slip into the sheet dazed but smiling.

Passengers choose from five swimming pools including the first ship with a swim-against-the-current lap pool.

You can head to the nine-hole putting green and work on your stroke, shoot some hoops, play a game of paddle tennis on the top deck Center Court or do some serious exercise in the state-of-the-art gymnasium and health spa.

Teens chill out in a two-level complex designed just for them.

Three main show lounges and three main dining rooms are another first, as are the large selection of wheelchair-accessible cabins (28), and 710 balcony cabins, the most on any cruise ship.

The Skywalkers Nightclub, the first disco "in the sky," suspended 150 feet above water atop the 18th deck and reached by a moving skywalk can make you giddy if you glance out at the vast immersion of sea, sky and horizon.

For those in a moment of passion who decide to tie the knot under sail, the GRAND PRINCESS is at the ready.

The ship's captain will make it happen in the first-ever ocean-going wedding chapel. The GRAND also offers a wedding program, reception and honeymoon planning.

A couple on the inaugural cruise did just that and were the first to officially be married at sea since the turn-of-the-century.

From medicine to marriage, the GRAND aims to please.

Check with your travel professional for special money saving packages. Log in to the GRAND PRINCESS website for a "virtual tour" of the ship at Brochures are available by calling (800) PRINCESS.