I am always eager to recruit new folks to the wonderful world of family cruising, or at least convince them to give it a try. One of the most frequent objections that I hear, however, is a fear of motion sickness. My reluctant recruits are afraid that either they or their kids might be stricken with motion sickness during a cruise. People seem to have this concern even if they haven’t had a problem with other types of motion sickness in the past.
These are obviously legitimate concerns. Anyone can get motion sickness under certain circumstances. And the categories of people who are identified as being most likely to get motion sickness are relatively broad: children ages 5 to 12; older adults; women, particularly if menstruating; and migraine sufferers. See here and here. Interestingly, children under the age of 2 don’t seem to be that affected.
Motion sickness can easily turn what should be a relaxing dream cruise vacation into a nightmare. Here are some strategies for avoiding motion sickness, and also for addressing it, if it should occur.
1. Choose the Right Cruise
Selecting the right cruise can help you prevent motion sickness. By this I mean the right size ship sailing on the right itinerary. There are certain ships and certain itineraries that are less likely to trigger motion sickness.
Essentially, to lessen the chances of your or your kids experiencing motion sickness, you want to be on a sailing that is not rocky. Thus, the first thing to do is select one of the newer megaships because they have state of the art stabilizers that control the types of ship swaying that contributes to disequilibrium. Since so many of these have launched in the past few years across almost all of the major cruise lines, this should not be a problem.
You also want to be strategic in selecting an itinerary. Select one that has less actual time out on the water, such as one that has many port days and minimal sea days. Or, similarly, one that has built in “overnights” where the ship stays in port. You should avoid sailings that have multiple consecutive sea days.
Also, some seas are known to be particularly choppy at certain times of the years. For example, the Caribbean waters are generally smooth sailing, but it is a different story during hurricane season. Consulting with a travel agent can help you figure this one out.
2. Choose the Right Stateroom
As with selecting a ship that is less likely to provide a rocky ride, you can select a stateroom that is also less likely to experience obvious rockiness. Think stability. You know how on a see saw, the closer you are to the center, the less likely you are to feel the extreme swings of the seesaw motion? The same is true for a ship. The farther away that you are from the center of the ship, the more likely you are to experience motion. Likewise, the higher up you go in the ship, the more likely you are to experience motion. So you should select a room that is a close to mid-ship as possible, and on a lower deck. The ship rocking side to side as it travels through the waves causes most motion sickness. The closer to the middle and the closer to the water line you are, the less movement you will experience
Also, if there is a balcony stateroom that fits within your budget, grab it. Apparently, being able to actually see the horizon helps mitigate the queasiness from the ship’s movements. Having access to the fresh air also helps.
3. Be Prepared With Medical Options
Not surprisingly, there are a variety of medications that can help prevent motion sickness. First, there are well-established prescription therapies that you can use to avoid seasickness. You should confer with your private physician about them. Some of them are supposed to be started a few days before you ever leave the shore, so you should plan early. This would be the prudent strategy if you or a member of your family has a history of motion sickness. Although the prior circumstances that led to past bouts of motion sickness do not necessarily mean you will also experience motion sickness on a large cruise ship.
Second, there are also a variety of over the counter medications. Antihistamines are known to be particularly effective. Two popular medicines for motion sickness are Bonine and Dramamine. These are available over the counter at most drug stores and grocery stores. But a downside of these medications is that they can make you drowsy. They work best if you take them before you start feeling seasick. There are children’s versions of both of these medicines. (Since some kids are known to have unusual reactions to antihistamines (e.g., Benadryl), you should try this out at home first.)
4. Consider Popular Non-Medical Treatments
You have some non-medical options as well. One popular solution is a Sea-Band wristband. You can often find these in one of the gift shops on board the ship. This band uses the principles of acupressure to help curve motion-induced nausea and vomiting. I have traveled with several people who have used these bands and found them to be effective. These were people who were experiencing unpleasant symptoms before acquiring the band, but were able to enjoy the rest of the cruise once they started wearing them. (By the way, in each of the instances I am thinking of, we were sailing during the height of hurricane season.)
Some people swear by ginger root or variations on ginger, and others talk up green apples. Also, increasing your hydration by drinking lots of water and limiting or eliminating alcohol consumption also helps.
5. Embrace The Power of Positive Thinking
Finally, never underestimate the power of mental suggestion and positive thinking. Experts say that sometimes the fear of experiencing seasickness can actually cause some one to experience the symptoms. Also, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, “discussing symptoms with others can exacerbate the condition.” Assuming that is true, you should be cautious about talking about potential seasickness excessively in advance of the cruise, particularly in front of your kids. Also, some people have found (including NASA astronauts) that positive thinking and biofeedback exercises like controlled breathing and other relaxation techniques can help control motion sickness.
You don’t have to let a fear of motion sickness keep your family from going on a cruise. Motion sickness doesn’t have to ruin your cruise. Employing one or more of the above strategies should help you limit the occurrence of seasickness and the effect of its symptoms so that you can enjoy your time out on the ocean.