Boating – Ways to Avoid Getting Seasick While Cruising

Ways to avoid getting seasick while cruising…

Being seasick, or, mal de mer, as the French say, is not fun. But, there are many ways to avoid getting motion sickness. Some methods include taking medication but there are several other ways to avoid this malady.

Many first time cruisers are concerned that they might become seasick. On my very first “cruise,” on the ocean liner, the S.S. Lurline, traveling to Hawaii, my uncle immediately made us go to the purser’s office to get him some Dramamine. He took it once before dinner and was fine for the entire cruise. He had spent most of WWII on ships, seasick the entire time while out at sea. Personally, I think he would not have become seasick even if he hadn’t taken the medicine.

Some people are definitely more prone to seasickness. Like my longtime friend, Karen, who as a child, used to get sick before her dad’s car left the driveway. But, just because you get queasy (or worse) on a small sailboat, doesn’t mean you will get seasick on a cruise ship.

Mal de mer is actually a balance problem caused by the inner ear’s nerve fibers trying to compensate for the strange motion of moving through water. Often, this is of short duration once your body becomes more comfortable with this movement.
Most of today’s cruise ships are equipped with stabilizers and on the newest megaships, you sometimes can’t even tell you’re moving. If your cruise includes the open sea on a windy day, you might feel some movement. If you’re a first time cruiser, and worried about becoming seasick, a mega-liner ship would be your best choice. You might also avoid the Caribbean during the height of the hurricane season.

If you’re prone to motion sickness, be sure to book an outside stateroom. You’ll want to be able to see the horizon when your stomach is feeling queasy. A small enclosed room will not help you if you’re feeling nauseous.

Even “good” sailors sometimes take medicine or use other methods to avoiding becoming seasick.

There are three common drugs suggested to avoid being seasick – Dramamine, Dramamine II and Bonine. Basically, they’re just anti-histamines and are available OTC at more drugstores. Many people will become drowsy after taking them (I do not; medication never makes me sleepy) and they might try Dramamine II and Bonine which are formulated to be non-drowsy. Each of these medicines should be available in ship sundry/gift shops, the purser’s desk, or from the infirmary.

The “Patch” is worn behind the ear and dispenses a metered dose of medicine which is absorbed by the skin and into the bloodstream. Each patch should work for about three days and must be prescribed by a doctor. He, or your druggist, will advise you on what possible side effects to be aware of.

If you expect to be seasick, you should take these medications a few hours before you start your cruise. Then, you can try not using them again to see if you will continue to need them.

You should avoid alcohol with the patch or any of the other medications. If you are drowsy be sure not to drive or perform activities which require a high state of alertness.

Then, there are the more mundane, and common sense ways of avoiding becoming seasick. First of all, if the ship is experiencing a lot of movement, do not read in your cabin. (One very late night, as I lay in my bed reading, I had to rush and get dressed to get out on deck. I was one of the few – six of us – who spent a couple of hours in the disco because we didn’t want to go back inside. A similar feeling had happened to me earlier that afternoon while reading in my room, so I should have known better.

Consider wearing sea-bands, a wristband which works like acupressure. The wristband has a button on the inside which is positioned to press a specific pressure point on the inside of the wrist to avoid the nausea seasickness brings. My cousin used this on the last two cruises we were on and never had a problem. Again, these should be available for sale onboard ship.

Get up on deck even if it’s chilly outside. You don’t want to be in your room, so dress for the weather, request some saltine crackers from the crew and head for the nearest deck chair. The fresh air will make you feel better. Request a light beverage (no, not a beer!) to sip slowly. Look out to the horizon and you’ll soon feel better. As the queasy feeling leaves, you might move inside but sit by the window so you can look out.

Sip ginger ale instead of 7 Up; the ginger in it makes for a great anti-nausea remedy. On one “rocking” wintertime cruise, the waiter actually brought my grandmother bits of boiled ginger to eat. It worked – she was one of the few people who had dinner on New Year’s Eve in the dining room.

This is an Italian remedy and one you will not like the taste of. There is an Italian medicinal drink, Fernet Brancha, (alcoholic drink) which tastes terrible. Take a shotglass full of it, drink it down quickly – you might need club soda to chase it with and it should help you very quickly. Sometimes it will make you vomit immediately, but it will settle your stomach very quickly. I keep a bottle in my cupboard (it lasts a looong time!) and take it when I have an upset stomach.) I have read that bartenders will mix Angostura Bitters with half a glass of club soda so this would be a similar remedy.

Be sure to eat lightly because you need a little something in your stomach. Saltine crackers and ginger ale should work and you might try a little broth or hot tea with dry toast also. Be sure to drink enough to avoid becoming dehydrated especially in warm weather.

Happy cruisin’

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