If you’ve never experienced seasickness on a cruise ship, let me tell you what it’s like. The room is spinning, you feel hot, queasy and parched but can’t hold anything down. Your stomach is in knots and you feel off balance. All you want to do is put your head down, but that almost makes it worse. At least that’s how it felt for me.
I’ve only been seasick on one cruise and ever since then I have almost a ritual of things I do to make sure it never happens again. I’ve also come up with ways to combat seasickness if my preventive efforts should fail. In the tips below I give you my honest opinion on what really worked, what didn’t and what I learned from a fishing captain in Hawaii.
Tips on Preventing Seasickness
1. Choose your cabin location wisely.
There are two parts to this. The first is book a mid-ship cabin. That location will decrease the amount of the movement you feel if the seas are rough, especially if the ship is moving from aft to bow. While I’ve never stayed in the aft or bow of the ship, I know when I’m at a show or dinner I can typically feel the ship moving more than I can in my cabin. Part two is to book a cabin that’s on one of the lower decks. The higher you are, the more movement you’ll feel, especially if you’re sailing on megaships Harmony of the Seas with 18 decks or Norwegian Escape with 20 decks.
2. Splurge on a balcony.
It’s going to cost a little more but you’ll have access to fresh air right at your fingertips. I would avoid Royal Caribbean’s inside cabins with virtual balconies. While the concept of being able to see what’s going on outside (via an 80-inch high-definition screen in your cabin) is a great idea for many people, I found it to turn my stomach a little. So the perfect cabin would be in the middle of the ship, on one of the lower decks and with a balcony.
3. Bring motion-sickness medicine.
These can be used for both preventing and combating. The two I have found success with are meclizine (Dramamine) and scopolamine patch (Transderm Scop). Here’s what I like and dislike about them based on my experiences:
- Meclizine (Dramamine):
- Like: It prevents motion sickness if you take it a little more than an hour before the activity. You don’t need a prescription to get it. It only lasts for 4 to 6 hours, making it a great option to take on a fishing excursion, flying in a small bush plane or driving on winding roads.
- Dislike: It does make you drowsy, and in my experience the non-drowsy formula does not work as well as the original. You have to remember to keep taking the pills every 4-6 hours, and toward the end of that timeframe 4-6 hours you can start to feel sick again.
- Scopolamine Patch (Transderm-Scop)
- Like: It works for 3 full days. You literally put it behind your ear and don’t have to worry about motion sickness for three days. When the three days are over, you can take it off and put another patch behind the opposite ear.
- Dislike: You need a prescription from your doctor. It makes my mouth dry. You need to be extra careful not to touch the patch and then rub your eyes, because it can dilate your eyes. (That happened to me).
4. Save the Lido deck activities for port days.
Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and Carnival have a serious amount of deck game options to fill up your sea days, but choose which ones you do wisely. I would not recommend the ropes course or even the rock climbing walls when the ship is moving.
The last time I did the ropes course on a Norwegian ship it gave me the same feeling as when I try to read in the car. Everything around me was moving but I had my head down trying to concentrate and focus on something that wasn’t moving.
Come back to the ship an hour or so early on a port day and get your fill of activities in before the ship starts sailing. Bonus, it will be less crowded.
5. Research what to do in port.
You’re going to do this anyway, but there are certain things to look out for if you’re prone to motion sickness.
- Travel time – How long will it take you to get to where you are going? If it’s longer than 30 minutes, the mode of transportation becomes extremely important.
- Mode of transportation – Are you going on a snorkeling excursion where you’ll be sailing on a small boat, or will you be on a catamaran that is created specifically for a smoother sailing experience?
- Length of excursion – You will be part of a larger group of people so there’s no way to turn around once you’ve started on your excursion. If you’re worried you might get sick, look for excursions that are shorter in time.
- Ask questions – Whether you book your excursion on your own or with the cruise line, ask questions! A big question people sometimes forget is about food and drinks. Do you need to pack your own food and drinks, or will they be supplied?
6. Limit your alcohol consumption.
Even though you’re on vacation, drinking too much alcohol can increase your chances of getting vertigo and can quickly dehydrate you.
Feeling Ill? Follow These Tips to Combat Your Seasickness.
7. Find something with ginger.
Ginger has been known as a home remedy to soothe the stomach from nausea. Ginger ale is my go-to for this category, and some cruise lines like Carnival allow you to bring a certain amount of canned sodas in your carry-on bag. The good news is that nearly all cruise lines have ginger ale for purchase. But it’s trickier to find the soda in port.
On a recent fishing trip in Hawaii, the captain of our small boat told me he always has ginger chews handy for people who feel they might get sick. You can find them at the grocery store, and they’re basically small chewy ginger candies small enough to carry in your bag both on and off the ship.
8. Munch on these, too.
Try eating bland foods, such as saltine crackers, to help get rid of acids that cause an upset stomach. Also, high-in-fiber foods such as apples (I think green apples work the best) help to rid your body of the chemicals that induce nausea. If you can’t handle solid apples, try applesauce, but avoid those with added sugar. Peppermints also work great to calm a stomach.
9. Get fresh air.
If you’re on an excursion where you’ll be riding on a small boat or a bus, find a seat where you can get fresh air and avoid enclosed spaces. If you start feeling seasick while you’re on your cruise ship, head outside for fresh air.
10. Head to the middle.
If you’re out on a small excursion boat and it’s rocking from bow to stern, get to the middle of the boat. That will help minimize the amount of movement you feel.
11. Find an object in the distance that is not moving.
This may be difficult to find on some cruises, but it can definitely be done on most excursions: Find an object in the distance that is not moving and fix your eyes on it. If you’re in a vehicle, sit in the front or as close to it as you can and always keep your eyes looking ahead.
12. Consider a river cruise.
Do not give up on cruising because of one bad run-in with seasickness on an ocean cruise. You might just need to switch to river cruising where you feel almost no movement on the ship, you can always see land, you make port stops daily (and sometimes twice a day) and the ships are much smaller in size. And because the river ships sail into the heart of the cities, there’s less traveling that needs to be done from the cruise port to the city (especially in Europe).