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Florida Guide > Other Activities

Cruising - Seasickness Part 1

If you have never been on a cruise before – or even if you have – seasickness is something that crosses most of our minds at one time or another. Having been on nearly twenty cruises myself I can honestly say that I have only once felt seasick, and that was in a force 10/11 gale in the Bay of Biscay, so it is not normally a huge problem. Unfortunately, the captain could not divert as we were going to the Mediterranean, and from Southampton there is only one way to get there – via the Bay of Biscay. We ended up spending twice the amount of time in the Bay, and missing out on the port of Gibraltar as the ship took so long to do the crossing. But once I got my sea-legs I was thrilled to watch the huge waves as the ship ploughed through mountainous seas.

So what is seasickness? Well, it is caused by the body’s inability to balance itself despite the messages which are being sent to the brain. The eyes, the inner ear and the body are all sending different signals to the brain, and the changing movement stimulates receptors in the brain which lead to confusion. The rolling motion of the ship simply throws our inner ear off balance and this can lead to symptoms which include nausea and vomiting, dizziness, headaches and sweating. It can be really miserable.

Cruise ships normally have stabilisers which are employed during rough weather, and these will help to make the ship less uncomfortable, but they are not a cure for seasickness. However, cruise ships do not wiliingly sail into bad weather, indeed, the captain will take every possible precaution in order to ensure that his ship is not in the middle of a hurricane, for example. In the Caribbean there are plenty of places that a ship can go in order to avoid the path of a storm, and we have been on ships where the itinerary has been changed at the last minute to avoid bad weather. But it has to be said that a ship is, after all, not a hotel on the land. Indeed, you chose it because it does go to sea, so you must be aware that at times, the sea is not a millpond. I have to say that on the cruises we have been on, for the majority of the time we simply have not been aware that the ship is at sea. Don’t forget, too, that in the main, the ship travels at night, when you will be fast asleep – and if you are at all worried then you can take a tablet before you go to bed.

However, there are some simple things that you can do to either prevent or alleviate nausea when on a cruise ship. The first is to choose you cabin carefully – and that may not be where you expect. Most of the expensive staterooms are towards the top of the ship, often right at the front, so people think they must be the best place to be. Wrong choice. If you want stability then go for the lower decks as the higher decks will pitch and roll far more than those decks nearer to the sea. The back of the ship is also less prone to pitching than the bow of the ship, but midships is the best place to be – and lower down rather than on one of the top decks. A balcony is a great bonus, as fresh air is a great cure for seasickness. If you feel a little nauseous then just go out on your balcony and breathe in the sea air – it will help enormously. If you are concerned about seasickness then definitely avoid an inside cabin with no window.

Should you have booked an inside cabin then make sure you go out on the open deck if you begin to feel ill – but beware of high winds which will mean that certain parts of the decks will be closed to passengers, but try to avoid the areas around the swimming pools which are generally high up on the ship – just looking at the water slopping from side to side could make you feel even more ill!

Keeping busy is also a great cure for seasickness. If you take your mind off how you feel you can often feel better. My own daughter, who was an officer on board a cruise ship found that despite working in an inside office on board ship, and crossing the Bay of Biscay ever 1-2 weeks, being busy meant that she rarely even noticed what the ship – or the weather – was doing. Join in with some of the many activities available on board and you will soon forget your nausea.

Most people would think that not eating was the best way to stop feeling sick, but in reality, most sailors will advise that you do the opposite. Of course a huge five course meal with fatty food would not be recommended, but even if you are feeling nauseous, try to eat crackers or biscuits or dry bread. Many people swear by the use of ginger, which you can take in the form of a capsule – two 50o milligram capsules are recommended. Research in Germany has shown that these capsules work via the digestive tract rather than by shutting down the messages sent to the brain – which is how most anti-nausea drugs work. Some studies show it to be more effective than Dramamine, the drug most often prescribed.

Phosphoric acid is also useful as a preventative measure, and this can be found in Pepsi and Coca Cola. Definitely avoid alcohol as this will make the symptoms worse!

Just as you would avoid reading in a car, avoid lying down and reading a book if you feel nauseous – get up and go for a walk in the fresh air instead. Working on a computer should also be avoided as it requires too much concentration and focusing on a small screen will probably make you feel worse.

For more tips and hints read Part 2

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Page added on: 31 December 2009
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