Staying Healthy on Your Cruise Vacation

Take vitamins before sailing to stay healthy.

One of the worst vacation emergencies is illness or injury. Pain and discomfort can disrupt the most carefully planned getaway, turning a delightful experience into a regrettable ordeal. On cruise ships, illness can be particularly upsetting because the close confines insure the afflicted individual is well aware of every activity, party, and show they are missing. With common sense precautions, however, it is easy to stay healthy on a cruise ship and enjoy every moment at sea and in port at the peak of your physical condition.

Before Your Cruise

The key to staying healthy on a cruise vacation is to begin a healthy regimen long before you set sail. Several weeks prior to your voyage, begin improving your health with these tips:

  • Take a daily multivitamin to strengthen your body and immune system.
  • Become accustomed to eating healthier foods such as salads, whole grain breads, and lean meats.
  • Drink more water, substituting for sodas, alcohol, and sugary drinks.
  • Exercise more through walks, classes, or daily routines.
  • Avoid crash diets that you will abandon as soon as you step onboard.

Even slight changes in daily patterns can strengthen your body and immune system. Furthermore, these simple changes can lead to lifelong habits that guarantee you are healthy enough to enjoy many more cruises. In order to continue these habits on your cruise, be sure you pack appropriate vitamins, medication, and health supplies. While all cruise ships have an infirmary, services can be difficult to arrange outside of emergencies. Packing your own products guarantees that they are the same items your body has grown accustomed to in the weeks preceding your cruise.


Seasickness is one of the most common maladies on a cruise. If you are especially sensitive to motion sickness or nausea, you should consult your doctor prior to sailing for his medical recommendation. There are several drugs available, such as Dramamine, which are known to be somewhat effective against seasickness. You can also consider booking a centralized cabin - a middle deck, in the middle of the ship - where the ship's motion is less noticeable. The size of the ship is another factor: larger ships are more stable and motion is reduced. If, however, you find yourself susceptible once you're onboard, you can take several precautions to stave off the symptoms.

  • Take your mind off the nausea by getting involved in ship activities - take a tour, explore the decks, participate in a game, or enjoy a show. This occupies your mind while your inner ear adjusts to the equilibrium changes.
  • Avoid lying down or napping - when your body is horizontal, the ship's motion is far more pronounced, and because your mind is not engaged you will notice it more.
  • Avoid trying unknown foods - you don't know how your stomach may react to new sauces, tastes, or ingredients. Instead, opt for familiar fare such as a burger, slice of pizza, steak, or other comfort food.
  • To help your equilibrium adjust walk around the ship, forcing your body to adjust to the motion. Be aware, however, that it may take several hours to become adjusted depending on the severity of your symptoms.

If you are still uncomfortable after you've been on the ship a considerable length of time (perhaps after the first night), consult the ship's physician for assistance.

Contagious Viruses

Each year, a few cruise ships are infected with outbreaks of flu-like viruses involving vomiting, diarrhea, and other unpleasant symptoms. While these occurrences invariably make headlines, in reality only 1 in 10 passengers typically get sick. Because of the confines of a cruise ship, this can seem quite severe, and there are several precautions you can take to avoid a similar fate.

  • Frequently wash your hands with warm water and soap - before dining, after using the restroom, after playing casino games that other passengers have touched, etc.
  • Avoid the most crowded venues where other passengers may be spreading germs - packed nightclubs, front rows for lounge shows, etc.
  • Eat healthy meals - light dining options, salads, balanced meals - to bolster your body's health.
  • Get enough sleep to avoid weakening your immune system.

If you do begin to show symptoms of a virus, immediately curtail your activities and rest. By recognizing the onset of an illness you can quickly work to counteract it, and because your body has time to recuperate, you will miss less of your vacation.

Food Illnesses

On a cruise, you will have the opportunity to try dozens of unusual, gourmet dishes. Food illnesses can be quite common, but several simple steps can help you avoid any unpleasantness.

  • Take care not to overindulge, particularly on unfamiliar foods.
  • Inform your dining room wait staff about any food allergies and do not be afraid to ask about specific ingredients in unfamiliar dishes.
  • Resist the temptation to eat full portions of everything you'd like to try - sample the most appetizing dishes but do not gorge yourself at every buffet.
  • To avoid potential food poisoning, always order meat fully cooked rather than rare.

Injuries Onboard

While a cruise ship is inherently a safe environment, any activity has an element of danger - particularly unfamiliar activities such as the rock climbing, ice skating, and other unique sporting opportunities offered by many modern vessels. Common sense can help you avoid many accidents.

  • Follow posted safety instructions and the advice of trained crew members.
  • Be honest about your previous experience and do not exaggerate your own expertise or lack thereof.
  • Use safety equipment properly and responsibly.

One frequently overlooked chance for injuries onboard a cruise ship is the combination of rough weather and simply walking around the ship. If the ship's motion is unusually pronounced, always use handrails, particularly on staircases. Comfortable shoes can help you maintain your balance, and be aware of any potential trip hazards such as small steps, door frames, or water barriers.

Shore Excursion Precautions

When on a cruise, you should take precautions not only while onboard the ship, but also in different ports of call. The same simple steps can insure your ability to explore new cultures safely.

  • Try local foods in moderation only, especially if they are unfamiliar or if you are unable to determine the exact ingredients - particularly if you have food allergies or sensitive tastes.
  • Drink bottled water - bottles are frequently available on the ship - to avoid possible contagion from unfamiliar water sources.
  • Carefully follow the instructions of tour guides, particularly when using specialized equipment or attempting new tasks. Most shore excursions are geared toward both novice and experienced patrons, but be sure to choose tours that suit your abilities.
  • Avoid venturing into ports alone, particularly at night, when unscrupulous people will be watching for unsuspecting tourists.
  • Never take a tour with someone who claims to be an expert unless they can provide credentials.

Weight Gain

Weight gain is one of the most frequent complaints about cruises, yet it is also one of the most easily avoided by adhering to several easy steps.

  • Forgo unnecessary treats in order to indulge in your favorites. If you plan on attending the midnight buffet, for example, plan a light dinner or only sample the most tempting buffet snacks rather than every one.
  • Choose spa alternative meals - these selections are prepared with less oil and fat than standard meals.
  • Limit your alcohol intake to avoid an excess of liquid calories.
  • If you do indulge, consider walking a few laps around the deck or spending an hour in the fitness center to work off extra calories.


Another frequent health complaint aboard cruise ships is fatigue. With planned activities extending well into the night, many passengers fail to budget for the proper amount of sleep and spend their vacations yawning rather than smiling. To keep fatigue at bay:

  • Limit strenuous activity at night that will get your heart rate up and stave off sleep.
  • Sleep in on port days if your shore excursion does not leave early.
  • Feel free to take afternoon naps to prepare for evening festitivies.
  • Ask your cabin steward for additional blankets or pillows to make your sleep more comfortable.
  • Consider packing a sound machine or small fan to provide soothing white noise at night.

A cruise can be a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, but any getaway can be spoiled by illness or injury. By following these common sense tips, you can easily stay healthy on your cruise and enjoy every moment of your getaway without discomfort.

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Staying Healthy on Your Cruise Vacation