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How to Prevent Seasickness and Conquer the Motion in the Ocean

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I was fortunate as a kid to go on a couple of Bahamian cruises with my fun-and sun-loving parents.

I bought “We Be Jammin’” T-shirts by the gross, downed Goombay Punch by the six-pack and even got by hair braided — way back when I had some. We snorkeled, swam with the dolphins and gorged ourselves on midnight buffet fare.

I never worried once about seasickness. I thought seasickness only afflicted greenhorn crab fishermen skirting the Arctic Circle for their next big pot.

But my wife, well, she’s a different story. She’s a little bit anxious about spending three to five nights tucked away in the cabin, trying to regain her faculties while I whoop it up on the Lido Deck with the kiddos on the water slide. Really, she’s nervous about wasting a well-deserved vacation on a trip she’s convinced is a one-way ticket to an ending worse than “Titanic.”

So I started doing my research. And somewhere in the process of creating a compelling pro-cruise manifesto for her, I realized I’m not the only one with a reluctant cruiser who would rather walk the plank than remain on board in a 7’ x 7’ cruise ship infirmary with a diagnosis of seasickness.

What is Seasickness?

Seasickness is really another name for motion sickness — the same condition one might experience on carnival rides as well as even driving through hilly terrain or curvy roads. The big difference is while the effects may always linger for a bit, the tilt-a-whirl only lasts about five minutes and it’s easier to pull your car over than to get a cruise ship docked at a moment’s notice.

About 75 percent of us experience some level of motion sickness. But here is some good news — and something you’ll want to share with reluctant cruisers: only about 5 to 10 percent of the population is extremely sensitive to the condition. And better yet, another 5 to 15 percent are insensitive to the effects of motion sickness. That said, women are known to succumb to its effects more often than men.1

The root cause of seasickness is in your inner ear, the place responsible for maintaining your balance, or sense of equilibrium. When your body — from your eyes to your muscles and joints — receives mixed messages about your movement and positioning, it gets confused.2 And when your body is confused, it gets angry, unleashing a torrent of symptoms ranging from nausea to sweating and dizziness. Severe motion sickness can even include heart palpitations, exhaustion and vomiting. 1

Again, part of the fear of seasickness is rooted in a lack of control. Unless your cruise ship is stopping at a port, it can be more difficult to immediately alleviate some of these symptoms. However, there are a number of reasons why cruisers should be reassured that motion sickness will never be an issue.

Why Shouldn’t Cruisers Sweat Seasickness?

Science and technology are the enemies of seasickness. The big cruise companies want cruisers to be comfortable. They’ve evolved cruise ship design to include very effective stabilizers, which reduce the back-and-forth or up-and-down motion you may have experience on smaller watercraft on rough seas. Also consider that these ships are so massive, weighing in at more than 100,000 tons and capable of carrying 4,000 or more passengers, that it’s tougher even for rogue waves to rock the boat.

The result is that most of the time, passengers are walking on sunshine, that is, floors and decks that feel as stable as walking on dry land.

Of course, stabilizers can’t counteract the entirety of the motion in the ocean. But there are a number of additional steps cruisers can take to up the odds in their favor. Many travel experts suggest staying in a cabin toward the middle (the hull) of the ship, avoiding both the lowest floors and rooms that may be in towers several stories above.

Some travelers claim that acupressure bracelets are effective in helping to maintain their equilibrium. And while it’s up for debate, there are studies showing that a placebo can be effective in curbing seasickness.3

Other proactive measures are more general, but can still pay dividends for those who are sensitive to motion sickness. These include getting plenty of rest, drinking water and avoiding excessive alcohol, and limiting greasy food. Another bit of advice to consider is to avoid reading while the ship is moving; this is a common trigger for seasickness in many.2

What are Seasickness Remedies?

Sometimes you can do everything right and still fell the nausea creeping up, even with the most subtle rocking.

Anti-nausea medicine such as Dramamine can certainly help counteract symptoms of seasickness. A natural alternative may be an anit-nausea sea band that apply pressure to your wrist. As can hydrating and eating some dry crackers, even if you’re nauseated and have zero appetite.

Also, the last place you may want to be is outside when you’re feeling queasy and just uncomfortable in general. But some fresh air, and better yet, being able to trace the motion of the boat against the horizon with your eyes, can both offer some relief.

Finally, it’s best to avoid hanging out with other seasick passengers, even if they’re your friends and family! The mere sight of another sick cruiser can immediately exacerbate your own symptoms. Seasickness occurs between your ears, after all; figuratively and literally.3

If you’ve never experienced motion sickness, and your travel companion isn’t so fortunate, just know that severe bouts of seasickness can render travelers less than enthusiastic, even if you’re soaking in some of the most beautiful spots in the world. Positive encouragement is fine; but asking how they’re doing every five minutes may quickly create frustration.

The best thing you can do is to give them time, space and carefully suggest remedies. This will be my plan when I finally get my wife cruising the warm waters of the Bahamas or even the cold waters off the coast of Nova Scotia. With the right planning and positive attitude, I can avoid taking home the worst cruise ship souvenir of all: an “I told you so."

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May 08, 2019