There’s nothing more frustrating than being on that cruise along Alaska’s Inland Passage or around the Mediterranean—that cruise you’ve been looking forward to for months—and then getting sick. When it comes to health, it’s smooth sailing for the vast majority of cruise travelers. But, when on board, you can experience seasickness, or you can increase your chances of getting a virus simply because you’re sharing everything from recreation facilities to doorknobs with many, many other people.
Luckily for thoughtful planners, you can greatly lower your chances of feeling under the weather or worse by following a few simple cruise best practices. Here are 8 we recommend:
- Wash your hands often and use a hand sanitizer. Keeping your hands germ free as much as you can is critical to staying healthy. Dining room chairs, hand railings, recreational facilities, and the vast majority of objects you touch on board or in a port town have been touched by many other people and are breeding grounds for germs.
- Keep yourself hydrated. Often, we don’t realize how easily we can become dehydrated when we travel. So, make sure you always have a water bottle with you and drink from it even when you don’t feel thirsty. Our recommendation is to drink at least 2 quarts or liters each day. And be fussy about the water you drink too, especially when you are on land. Many of those jokes about not drinking the water in certain port destinations really are based on painful experience.
- Don’t drink too much wine or other spirits. We’re not trying to be party poopers, but too much drinking can lead to hangovers, dehydration, and greater chances of coming down with something worse. If you do like to imbibe, we recommend alternating sips of spirits and water.
- Don’t overindulge at meals. Yes, many cruises are legendary for their great food. But, as with alcoholic drinks, too much of a good thing can easily turn into a not-so-good thing. You can feel uncomfortably full, sluggish, and even queasy. Our advice is to go easy, especially at the buffet, and avoid getting into a child-in-the-candy-store situation.
- Be mindful of germs at the buffet. While we’re on the subject of food, remember that buffets can be breeding grounds for germs as well. People often pick up food items from chicken legs to muffins with their bare (and often unwashed) hands and then put them back. And I’ve also seen people in front of me in the buffet line sneeze directly on the food. So, when the choices are there, gravitate toward servers wearing disposable gloves and using food tongs and toward food that’s placed safely behind a plastic sneeze screen.
- Pace yourself so you stay rested. One piece of advice is to arrive at your port of departure the evening before your cruise sets sail. As well as assuring that you won’t miss your cruise because your flight has been delayed, this gives you a chance to get a good night’s sleep
- Use sunscreen and wear a wide brimmed hat. Even though the air often feels breezy and cool when you’re out at sea, the sun is usually beating down on you with unrelenting mercilessness. If you are outside a lot, apply sunscreen at least twice a day and wear a hat with a brim that covers the back of your neck and ears as well as your face.
- “Chew ginger candies.” That’s the advice of Erica Silverstein, the features editor of cruisecritic.com. Why? It’s one of the many tricks people use to lessen the effects of seasickness. Some other strategies she suggests are eating green apples, wearing acupressure wristbands, taking popular over-the-counter medications such as Dramamine, asking a doctor about the Transderm patch, heading outside for fresh air, and booking a low-deck, mid-ship cabin. Still another thought is to book a cruise that stops in lots of ports along the way.
Nothing is a guarantee, of course, but putting these cruise best practices to work will greatly reduce the chances of your dream cruise becoming the vacation you’ll want to forget.