Gosh - Sorry about your FROZEN INSULIN!

Some of you may have noticed me missing for the last two weeks. I’ve been on vacation. I went on a cruise and then spent a week in Mexico. This was the first time I’ve taken a long cruise and the first since starting insulin. So I checked with the cruise line and was advised that the fridge in my room was not assured to keep things cold and that cruisers could have their insulin stored at guest services in a special fridge.

Imagine my surprise when on the third day of my cruise when I went to get a new basal pen I was handed my frio pack and it was FROZEN SOLID! I pulled out the pens, they didn’t appear to be crystalized, but I knew this was bad. This was essentially my entire stock of insulin for my two weeks. I immediately told the guest services the seriousness of this. Initially they just apologized and suggested that I go see the doctor. I did that first thing in the morning. I had hopes that it was ok, but within a day I knew that all my basal was shot and in the end my humalog was also a bit off. The on-ship doctor was able to provide me with a vial of NPH and R and about 20 syringes. When I got to Mexico I was able to get more syringes.

In the end, I got an apology from the cruise line. They paid for the consultation with the doctor and the replacement vials and syringes. I realize I could of gone blitzo on the cruise line and I may still write a complaint letter. After all, I had followed their guidance on the proper way to store my insulin. I was a bit worried, but not too much. When we stopped at Cozumel, I was able to see that you could basically buy anything in Mexico and in the end I was able to easily get syringes and could have bought replacement insulin if I had needed. I was able to maintain reasonable control despite the tropical heat, gourmet meals and heavy drinking.

And I realized that part of the situation was my fault. I placed most of my supply all at the same place. I should have distributed my insulin supply better, I should not have assumed that my in room fridge was bad and kept virtually all my supply in the ship fridge.

What would you have done in my position? Do you have a favorite ruined insulin story?


bsc, Sorry to hear this.
I went on a 2 week cruise to the Mediterrenean last year. Since being on a pump it is a little easier. I put 2 bottles of Apidra and one back up Apidra pen in my Frio pack and kept it in my room. This has always worked for me since a bottle of insulin only lasts about 20 days.

When I travel I like to keep my room below 68 if possible so I just keep my insulin on the dresser. Hope you had a great time

In hindsight, this is what I should have done. I have a distrust of in room fridges, but the frio pack would have been fine.

I like the happy ending. Welcome back bsc.

Not sure how long your cruise was or how hot it got… but insulin, even the modern fancy-pants analog insulins, will keep just fine at “room temperature” for a month. I personally interpret room temperature to mean up to the 90’s.


I was worried about this on the tour bus of spain. so I asked the Portugese driver " Insulino no congelar ?" pointing at the bus cooler. ( no sure if this is the correct word for freezing in spanish but it is close to french) He assured me that no, no way which was true. We could have bought exact replacement cartridges in Grenada easily but when I ran out it was a nightmare gettting something to match in Barcelona. Room fridges seem mostly ok. In Turkey the frio bag and air conditioning were adequate to keep the stuff cool.

Wow, sorry you faced this. I can only imagine what it’s like to be in a foreign country with this happening. (BTW, but not D- related, I was on a cruise ship docking in Cozumel on Sept. 11, 2001. Also felt a bit scared and stranded. We did complete the cruise as planned, but getting back home to New York was an adventure).

When I’m on a cruise ship I’ll just leave the insulin in my room. It’s air-conditioned, and doesn’t need to stay all that cold, it just shouldn’t overheat. And I’d much rather it be somewhere where I could get to it.

I don’t know which cruise line you were on (perhaps you shouldn’t say), but I was on Carnival on 9/11 and they handled everything, including accomodations for stranded passengers, quite well. They really took care of us in a crisis.

Had frozen insulin on a cruise as well…in my cabin fridge. never kept it there since, always kept most of in the health center, and some in the in the cabin outside of the fridge with no issues. Sorry to hear about your adventure. Glad they made it right.

I’ve also had room fridges freeze and I’ve had them be heaters. I thought I was being safe using the ships store. What I should have done is just split my insulin up, some in the room, some on the counter and some in the ship fridge. My crucial mistake was believing that a cruise ship carrying 3000 passengers and having provided specific instructions for diabetics with insulin would not have a problem like this. Ooops. I guess it was a learning experience.

Hi Brian, welcome back! I hope you had a great vacation. On cruise ships, I keep most of my supplies with me and some just stowed in the room. I certainly don’t trust the ship’s fridge, and I am suspicious of the cabin fridge. I have never had a vial of insulin go bad on me due to excessive heat; I have more distrust of the fridges. Every vacation is a learning experience! I travel a lot, and I am always fine-tuning my strategies.

When I fly, I carry my insulin in a Frio pack inside a small collapsible cooler with a refreezable ice pack. Once I get onboard ship and into my room, I tip my room steward to keep my ice bucket full and I put the insulin bottles inside a small plastic dish with a lid on top of the ice in the bucket. This has always worked for me. If I get a room fridge, I have used it, but have never had it too cold where it froze my insulin. Maybe I’ve just been lucky.

I cruised last year, and just kept my insulin in a drawer in the room. I brought all fresh insulin with me. Next time I plan to keep 1/2 in my room and 1/2 in the medical fridge.

Hope you had a blast despite the complications. WB!

I believe it’s more like 82, but in a Frio that should be doable? I dunno. Probably not in a hot car, but maybe yes in a warmish hotel room?

I assume it was ignorant staff trying to “crank down” the fridge to keep things from spoiling, while being clueless that insulin cannot be frozen.

People working on boats are not always perfect at thinking things through. (Yes, this is true of humans in general.)

One of my favorite stories about my time working in the crab industry in Alaska was the one about the new kid who watched experienced staff open the processing deck scuppers and sweep out debris (mostly stray crab parts and water) with a push broom.

In the middle of the night an alarm fired off and it was all hands with push brooms and bilge pumps clearing the processing deck and lower compartments of sea water.

It seems that the new guy missed an important step in the deck cleaning procedure which is: after you’re done using the scupper, CLOSE IT TIGHT.

He went to bed in calm seas leaving, essentially, A 12" by 30" HOLE IN THE BOAT just a few feet above the water line wide open to the rising swells when a little squall blew in during the night.

Hello? A hole in a boat? NOT good.

I can almost forgive whomever thought “lets keep that insulin good and cold” for not realizing that frozen is also not good. It’s fairly specialized knowledge, unlike “hole in boat – bad”. ;0)

Actually, I think that what probably happened as that the door of the fridge was not closed properly at night and it ran full bore trying to keep the contents cold. This can cause anything next to the side of the fridge to freeze.

When I wrote this story of my frozen adventure, I still felt a little “latent anger.” After all, 26% of diagnosed diabetics use insulin, and 8.3% of the US population is actually diagnosed diabetics. This would suggest that on average, the cruise ship I was on, which held 3000 people had on average 65 people using insulin. Since the cruise line actually advises guests to employ guest services for refrigerated medication, this is not some odd request. I did not feel that my request for insulin storage was uncommon, and instead I “expected” that the staff would routinely handle my request. This may well have been a wrong.

So nobody here expressed outrage. And so I guess I’ve rethought things. I will probably add this as a comment “that they should rethink their advice” on my survey, but I don’t think I’ll send a raging complaint. They did basically make things ok and after all, in the end we all have to personally accept the ultimate responsibility for our health.

I am surprised the ship’s doctor had the NPH and R, that is rare, most do not carry any insulins or meds outside of aspirin.

Most staff on a ship are young and in tip top shape and have never heard of diabetes, a lot of them do not speak fluent English, some not at all.

How about putting your insulin in a bucket of ice? Put the insulin in a zip lock plastic baggie. Place bucket in the bathroom sink for easy water disposal. I also put a can of pop or water in the bucket to let the cleaning people know I do not want the bucket removed, a note may or may not help (saying-please do not remove). This of course only helps if they read English.

This then allows me time to reactivate my Frio or if I take the Frio on a port tour, my other insulin is still in my room.


You were right to expect that they had experience and would have handled things competently, you were after all following their advice.

I am prone to shoot off my mouth in situations like this, but have found its always better to remain calm. I guess the real message is not to trust someone else for something as important as this, if at all possible. At any rate lots of useful strategies in this thread.

Welcome back.