Cruise time! You’ve looked forward to this cruise for weeks, maybe months. Now you’re onboard and ready to enjoy every minute. But suddenly, you don’t feel well…queasy, dizzy, and “green around the gills.” Uh-oh, it’s seasickness!
My last cruise was an open invitation to be seasick. From the time we left Miami, the waters were not friendly. High winds, storms, and huge waves tossed the ship around like a toy. Walking anywhere required holding on to walls, railings, posts–anything nailed down. The outer decks were off-limits. Dinner–actually, eating in general–seemed like a bad idea. The initial excitement faded into pools of vomit. Literally.
What is seasickness?
It’s motion sickness, a disturbance of the inner ear that controls balance. Seasickness–along with its evil cousins that afflict passengers of cars and planes–happens when the eyes are getting one message, but the brain is getting another. Motion sickness can even occur while watching 3-D or IMAX movies. It’s officially called kinetosis or “sensory confusion,” just other fancy words for misery.
Symptoms of seasickness include:
- Extra saliva
- Pale skin
Who gets seasick?
Depending on the turbulence, anyone can have a bout of seasickness. Some people seem to be more susceptible than others:
- Previous history of motion sickness of any cause
- Children, especially ages 2-12
- Females, possibly because of hormonal shifts
- Vestibular (inner ear) and balance disorders
- History of migraine headaches
- First-time cruisers, who are unprepared
Sounds awful. So, don’t hold back: What can I do?
Prevention is always the best remedy. If you’re prone to motion sickness, you should absolutely prepare ahead. If you think you’re immune to the ship’s unplanned pitching and rolling, you should absolutely prepare ahead. Give this as much thought as you do to your cruise wardrobe.
More specific? Sure! I asked the experts!
Because I was confined to the ship, it made sense to ask the experts–the ship’s crew–what they found helpful during turbulent times on the water. The range of suggestions was surprising and sincere. Here’s what they told me:
Gabriela Puscas, RN (Medical Services) “If you know you are likely to get seasick, bring medications with you. Dramamine is the classic. Bonine works well, too. Accupressure wristbands help people, and they’re drug-free.” Scopalamine patches are effective, but require a prescription. You can use over-the-counter patches for continual dose of medication.
Ms. Puscas went on to tell me that repeat passengers come straight to Medical Services after they board to pick up medications for seasickness. Can anyone come if they don’t feel well? “Absolutely! That’s why we’re here.” she said. “The sooner, the better!”
First Officer Marriano Cottatini (Bridge Officer) understood that the ship’s rolling was causing distress. He first assured me that the ship was safe; the waves were hitting the bow, causing a 2-2.5 degree listing. “The higher decks move more, so it’s better to stay lower.”
Does he ever get seasick? He smiled. “Not so much anymore.” Lucky him, but what did he recommend for the less fortunates? “Start taking medication an hour before we depart. That’s very important. Then continue until we reach calm waters. You might want to stick with liquids, too.”
Letitia Martin (Housekeeping) offered a simple and straightforward solution: Green apples. She absolutely, positively swears they work better than anything else. Sure enough, the next time I was at the buffet, a couple of crew members were asking the servers if there were any more green apples. Sadly, the “miracle fruit” seemed to be in short supply.
Kuniyil (Stateroom Attendant) had a different take. Maybe because he tends to cabins all day, he thought that lying down and closing one’s eyes was the way to go. He also suggested another simple tactic. “Chew gum. I don’t know why, but it works.” Turns out, there’s science behind both remedies; they disrupt the communication between body and brain, reducing or eliminating the unpleasant sensations.
“Sam” (Bartender) seemed wise beyond his thirty-something years. He sees it all, he claimed. So, then, what’s his remedy? “Brandy and ginger…” He meant ginger ale, although ginger in other forms is an ancient cure for motion sickness. (Pack some Ginger Chews–they’re tasty.) I tried a brandy and ginger–it was good, but I think its purpose was more to distract than to restore. When I got back to land, I tried to find proof of Sam’s claim. No luck…in fact, carbonated beverages are discouraged during seasickness. But, hey, Sam probably convinces lots of passengers they’ll feel better fast. The placebo effect. Who am I to argue?
All’s well that ends well
We pay a lot for a cruise. We expect to have a fabulous time. When seasickness hits, it steals our time and enthusiasm. Be smart. Prepare. And don’t waste a moment if you start to feel ill…for any reason. Bon voyage!
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