Seasickness Prevention

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Fresh air can help seasickness.

If you're ready for a cruise but are prone to motion sickness, understanding seasickness prevention can help you enjoy your getaway without illness or discomfort.

About Seasickness

Seasickness is a physical disorientation resulting from conflicting signals from the body's different senses. The inner ear may sense irregular motion of the ship, but the eyes can't see it because the walls and floor appear stable even though the body is stumbling back and forth. Depending on an individual's natural equilibrium and balance, their ability to adjust to different motions can vary considerably, and not everyone experiences seasickness.

While rough waters, strong swells, and storms can cause seasickness in the hardiest individuals, the gentle pitch, roll, and yaw of a cruise ship sailing in calm waters may disorient some passengers. Understanding the symptoms of seasickness and how to prevent or remedy the discomfort can help travelers avoid a prolonged illness and adjust to their sea legs as soon as possible.

Symptoms

Seasickness can manifest itself differently in different individuals. As the body attempts to correct for the conflicting inputs from different senses, common symptoms may appear, including:

Rough water can cause illness.
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Cold Sweats
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches

As soon as the symptoms are noticed, passengers should take precautions to prevent the disorientation from intensifying. The stronger the symptoms, the longer recovery can take and the more vacation time will be missed.

Seasickness Prevention Tips

Individuals who are prone to motion sickness are more likely to be afflicted with seasickness, but these prevention steps can minimize any discomfort.

'Before the cruise…'

  • When planning a cruise itinerary, choose voyages with more sheltered routes. Open waters are generally rougher and have larger swells that may instigate seasickness, and avoiding hurricane season can help minimize the chance of violent storms.
  • Choose a large cruise ship instead of a smaller vessel. Larger ships are more stable and motions will be minimized.
  • Opt for a cruise ship cabin close to the center of the vessel, both vertically and horizontally. Centrally-located cabins are the most stable with respect to the ship's natural motions.
  • Stay healthy long before the cruise by engaging in regular exercise and a healthy diet. This helps the body strengthen its natural defenses and prepares it for unusual circumstances.
  • Get a good night's sleep the night before the cruise. A well-rested, energetic body can adjust to unexpected conditions more easily.

'During the cruise…'

  • Avoid alcohol as well as spicy, acidic, or fatty foods that may upset the stomach. Until you've acquired your sea legs, opt for more familiar foods.
  • Get plenty of fresh air and take deep breaths to keep your lungs clear. This will also eliminate any potentially disturbing odors or fumes that could contribute to seasickness.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
  • Use a cotton swab to keep your ear canals clean and unobstructed. This will help by allowing the ear membranes to adjust more quickly to ongoing disturbances.
  • Stay on deck and focus on the horizon to give the eyes and body similar inputs about any cruise ship tilting or other motion so the body can adjust more quickly.
  • Keep busy with cruise activities to keep your mind off the illness symptoms and instead enjoy the cruise. Many times seasickness is exacerbated by mental concern when the physical conditions are not that extreme.
  • If necessary, take a brief nap. This can remove some of the conflicting inputs the body receives and allow it a better opportunity to adjust. For many individuals, napping will be easier in an upright position, such as in a deck chair where you can get fresh air at the same time.

Seasickness Remedies

Seasickness prevention isn't effective for everyone, and at times even individuals who have never been subject to motion sickness may feel unwell when they start a cruise vacation. Fortunately, there are several remedy options that can be effective at reducing or eliminating the unpleasantness of seasickness.

Over the Counter Remedies

Over-the-counter drugs such as Dramamine are effective against nausea and motion sickness for many individuals. Most pharmacies carry tablets, and many cruise ship infirmaries or gift shops will have tablets available. Prescription drugs and patches are also available, and passengers who are concerned about the potential for seasickness may want to consult their physician before sailing.

Herbal Seasickness Reflief

Herbal remedies also offer some relief from the symptoms of seasickness. Ginger - either as a tablet, powder, or tea - can be effective, and peppermint can also help calm an ill passenger's anxiety and ease their symptoms. The efficacy of these remedies will vary from person to person, however, and they are best used in conjunction with other seasickness prevention methods.

Medical Assistance

If no actions provide relief from the nausea, dizziness, and headaches, passengers should seek assistance from the ship's infirmary. Medical care on a cruise ship is accustomed to dealing with seasickness regularly and an experienced doctor or nurse may have additional suggestions available to help passengers adjust quickly so they can enjoy their vacation.

When It Isn't Seasickness

In some cases, what first appears to be seasickness may actually be a more severe illness such as norovirus. If seasickness symptoms are especially debilitating or accompanied by a fever or diarrhea, passengers should seek medical treatment immediately to alleviate their suffering as well as to avoid spreading the illness to other passengers.


Seasickness prevention can be as easy as planning a less physically stressful getaway or knowing how to help one's body adjust to the unique and sometimes unexpected motions of a cruise ship. By understanding what seasickness is and how to prevent it, passengers can get their sea legs faster and immerse themselves in the fun and relaxation of their cruise instead of the misery of an illness.

Seasickness Prevention