Whether you’re a first-time cruiser or take to the high seas every chance you can get, few words strike more fear in a land-lubber’s heart than “seasickness.” The rocking and rolling of the ship can wreak havoc on your vacation, leaving you feeling queasy instead of relaxed.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of getting seasick on your next maritime adventure and to treat the condition if it should occur.
What is seasickness?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, seasickness is a type of motion sickness (as are car sickness and air sickness). It happens when the brain isn’t able to make sense of the information being sent from the eyes, ears, muscles, and joints. When there is conflicting sensory input from these areas, the brain can’t tell if the body is moving or still.
Symptoms of motion sickness can include:
- Cold sweats
- Inability to concentrate
- Increased saliva, nausea, and vomiting
- Pale skin
- Rapid breathing or gulping for air
Who is at risk of getting seasick?
Certain factors put people at higher risk of seasickness, such as:
- Being female
- Being ages 2 to 12
- Using hormonal birth control
- Having an inner ear disorder
- Having a family history of motion sickness
- Parkinson’s disease
How long does seasickness last?
According to Celebrity Cruises, in most cases, cruise ship passengers will typically get their “sea legs,” meaning their sense of equilibrium will adjust, within a few hours to a couple of days.
What pre-cruise precautions can you take to avoid seasickness?
If you are concerned about becoming seasick on an upcoming cruise, the first thing to do is make an appointment with your healthcare provider, particularly if you have a history of motion sickness. They can provide tips and recommendations for over-the-counter (OTC) medications or prescriptions that you can use in the event motion sickness strikes. According to Carnival, OTC options include a variety of antiemetic drugs that prevent nausea, while stronger prescription options include scopolamine medicine in patch or pill form. The Mayo Clinic notes that taking antihistamines such as dimenhydrinate (brand name Dramamine and others) 30 to 60 minutes before setting sail can be helpful.
It’s also important to choose the right type of cruise to lessen your chances of seasickness. According to Celebrity Cruise, it’s best to avoid itineraries that include a lot of time sailing in open water. Rather, it’s better to opt for cruises that spend most of their time within a sea, such as European cruises that sail along the Mediterranean Sea or Caribbean cruises that depart from Puerto Rico.
Also consider the time of year. For instance, for those concerned about motion sickness, it’s advisable to book Caribbean cruises outside of the hurricane season (June through November).
If in doubt, try booking a cruise with a relatively short itinerary on a large ship (which are less prone to aggressive motion).
Another tip? Book an outer cabin with a window or balcony in the middle of the ship, which is the natural balance point, says Cruise Critic. Near the water level is best, according to the Cleveland Clinic. And be sure to get a good night’s sleep prior to your cruise (to the extent that you can with the anticipatory excitement!) so your body is in the best shape possible to deal with any motion sickness that should arise.
How can you avoid seasickness once you’re on board?
Once you’ve been welcomed aboard, have a light snack about an hour before you depart, which can help keep your stomach settled, and keep snacking every few hours throughout the cruise. That said, avoid fatty, spicy, or acidic foods and very heavy meals, and steer clear of alcohol, which can make symptoms of seasickness worse. Also be sure to stay hydrated by consuming adequate fluids. According to the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, this is about 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids each day for men and 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids each day for women from both food and beverages.
The Mayo Clinic notes that it’s important to avoid smoking or sitting near smokers. Keeping your head still while resting against a seat back and focusing on the horizon or a distant, stationary object (and avoiding reading or using electronic devices) can also keep symptoms at bay.
What if you start to feel seasick?
If, despite your best efforts, you start to feel that telltale wave of nausea come over you, there are steps you can take to feel better. First, head to an outer deck of the ship, where the fresh air and wind can help keep your body temperature from rising, Carnival says. An area in the middle of the ship is another option, as the rolling of the waves will feel less extreme than on the outer edges.
Also try wearing an acupressure band around your wrist, which will apply pressure to a specific spot reputed to relieve motion sickness. Having some ginger, whether via a supplement or some ginger ale or ginger candy, can be helpful for nausea, as can nibbling on some plain crackers and sipping on cold water or a carbonated, non-caffeinated drink, notes the Mayo Clinic. Mint, ginger, and lavender scents can be helpful as well, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
And if you’re still not feeling well, it’s a good idea to head to the medical center onboard your ship for medical attention. Typically, the infirmary will be located on a lower deck and will have regular hours reflected in the ship’s program (with staff on call 24 hours a day for emergencies).
Riding the waves on your next cruise
While the thought of getting seasick may dampen your interest in a cruise, remember that with the right preparations and precautions, you can significantly lower your chances of experiencing it. With these tips in hand, you’re all prepared to embark on your maritime journey, focusing on the exciting adventures that await on the high seas. Anchors aweigh, and bon voyage!
Disclaimer of Medical Advice: This information does not constitute medical advice or recommendation of any kind, and you should not rely on any information contained in such posts or comments to replace consultations with your qualified healthcare professionals to meet your individual needs.