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The best way to combat sea sickness on a cruise

Seasickness (sea sickness, sea-sickness, motion sickness), no matter how you spell it, still spells misery. And this common malady can steal your enjoyment of that long-awaited cruise ship vacation. But with a little precaution, you should be able to ride out even the roughest seas, with little discomfort. But you must plan in advance.

The best advice for avoiding seasickness on a cruise? Treat it, before it happens. I’ve cruised many times since then, and have pretty much avoided getting sick, while my fellow passengers, the folks who didn’t plan in advance, found the ship’s courtesy “barf” bags, a must.

Seasickness, or motion sickness, is caused by our body’s inability to balance itself, in accordance with messages coming in from our senses. The rolling motion of the waves throws off our inner ear equilibrium leading to terrible symptoms which include: wooziness, nausea, vomiting, headaches, sweating and loss of balance. And the, “Just kill me now!” feelings of abject misery.

In spite of stabilizer systems used by modern cruise ships, seasickness among cruisers is a fact. Even in larger ships, the back and the fronts of the boat are like the ends of a seesaw; passengers situated in these areas, who are prone to motion sickness, will get sick. Experienced cruisers know that seasickness must be avoided because once a person is afflicted with motion sickness; it takes quite a while to recover. But a pre-armed cruiser can avoid this nasty illness, by taking action in advance.

Seasickness preventative drugs

Remember this: Only a drug taken before one gets seasick is effective. There are drugs and shots that can be had following the onset of seasickness, but these merely help to ease the symptoms,; they do not stop or cure seasickness.

Seasickness pills include Gravol, Bonine and Dramamine. All these drugs are available as over-the-counter medications. I stock up before I travel and bring extra for those new friends who may not have purchased any before boarding the ship. The ship’s convenience store usually stocks the more common brands of seasickness pills, too.

All drugs come with common side effects, so read the package directions carefully before taking any pills. Especially note how long in advance the pill must be taken, to be effective.

Seasickness patches

Patches should be used with caution, as they also come with side effects. The patches, containing a drug called scopalomine, are stuck behind the ear, several hours before sailing begins.

The patches should be used only after consulting with a doctor; children must never wear one of these patches as the drug dosages are meant for adults, healthy adults only.

Side effects can include dizziness and drowsiness, and skin irritation at the point where the patch has been applied to the skin.

Seasickness wristbands

Several seasickness wristbands, resembling common sweat bands, are available at your local drugstore. Brands available include Sea-Bands and Bio Bands. These wristbands work on a principle whereby pressure is applied to acupressure points in the wrist. The bands are great because they are effective and they have no side effects. Both my husband and I use wristbands on all our cruises; and whale watch trips, too, for that matter.

Unfortunately, seasickness wristbands seem to have been made in a single size; those cruisers with chubby wrists may find the bands just too tight to wear.

Holistic treatments

For those travelers who prefer not to ingest chemicals, ginger is a good herbal solution, like the Sea-Band ginger gum. But this strongly flavored herb is not for everyone, and there are some health issues that come with using ginger to combat seasickness. So, check with your health provider first, before using this treatment.

Another natural treatment, Motion Eaze, is an oil that is applied to the skin behind the ear, and is touted to both prevent and to relieve seasickness, and its symptoms.

Ship cabin position

If you know you are prone to seasickness, especially if you are prone to vertigo, let your travel agent know so they can request an amidships cabin. But even then, if you feel seasickness coming on, do not lie down in your cabin; the symptoms will only increase. Instead, stay in the open air and fix your eyes on the horizon. Of course, stay near a railing if you feel the urge to upchuck. Lay down only as a last resort.

A last bit of advice

Wear your seasickness wristbands or take a seasickness pill well before getting on the tender boats, because those short ferry rides can be especially rocky, too. Many unprepared cruisers have found themselves rather unhappy upon reaching the shore. And that’s just no way to enjoy a shore excursion.