Should I take a cruise if I'm liable to become sea-sick?
October 7, 2009 4:00 AM   Subscribe

I get sea-sick. Should I go on a cruise?

A good friend is celebrating a milestone birthday on a cruise ship and I really want to go, but am worried that my seasickness will be a huge detriment.

Now I was violently ill on a couple of boat trips when I was young, but a few years back made sure I took sea-sickness tablets before I went on a short day cruise between islands and I felt reasonably okay - though I didn't feel like tempting fate with drinking or activities on the boat during the trip.

I was wondering if pills over a week-long trip would be effective and if, perhaps, a cruise ship is less likely to be prone to the rolling waves that made me ill on much smaller boats in the past. And maybe after a day or so, I might get used to the sensation and not need to take the drugs?

I've got plenty of time to make up my mind, since we've been given some time to save up for the trip - but should I even consider it given my past experiences?
posted by crossoverman to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Based on my own experience, I would suggest you should go for it. I am very prone to being sea-sick (and car-sick), but i've successfully been on a cruise to the Bahamas, on a relatively small cruise ship. I don't do well in small boats (and had a similar experience to you!), but the bigger boat seems a lot more stable.

I think it also depends on what part of the world you're cruising in and what the weather conditions are generally like -- I did get pretty woozy on a few ferries over the North Sea in the past few years, but that is tremendously choppy water; i've been fine on other ferries in good weather.
posted by ukdanae at 4:19 AM on October 7, 2009

Yes, larger ships are more stable and less prone to rolling, and the Carribean (for example), is relatively calm.

You may not want to go on a cruise to Alaska -- the seas there tossed our 91,000 ton cruise ship around something fierce.
posted by Comrade_robot at 4:51 AM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

I enjoy pitching and rolling, and the cruise I took to the Carribean was disappointingly calm. My room was in the far back of the ship, and we felt nothing. I think you might want to be in the middle of the ship if you'd like to minimize whatever motion might carry through. But yeah, definitely go.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 4:59 AM on October 7, 2009

Best answer: Definitely go. I've been on 2 cruises - one where I never felt anything, one that was a little choppy the first night. Have you ever tried Sea Bands? On the choppy cruise, I was pregnant, so I had Sea-Bands along with me for nausea. My sister-in-law got sick the first night so I gave them to her, and she felt fine shortly after. They're really inexpensive and worth a try if you're worried about the seasickness. They're gray wristbands with a little plastic bead on them. You wear the bead on the inside of your wrist on a specific acupressure point. They are not one bit stylish, but you won't be the only one wearing them, guaranteed. In fact, they often sell out of these on cruise ships. Here's a link to them on the reviews...lots of people use them for cruising.

Have fun!
posted by fresh-rn at 5:26 AM on October 7, 2009

Best answer: Sorry...missed the link...
posted by fresh-rn at 5:26 AM on October 7, 2009

The bigger the ship gets, the less they wobble. They've gotten much better over the years--the worst I remember was on a rather small cruise ship through the Amazon, modern Caribbean cruises are pretty minimal. Dramamine helps although it can make you kind of sleepy. I still get car-sick, but haven't felt particularly ill on a ship for a while. I think I definitely get more used to it as time passes. Depending on your tolerances you might start to feel a little woozy but I don't think it'll get into the full-blown vomity seasickness. It's fun! Do it!

Otherwise, it might be a little unsettling to sleep the first night, feeling the universe move, but you'll probably get used to it. You might also hear the engines depending on your location, but it won't be too bad. Makes for good white noise.

Make sure you play ping-pong and shuffleboard at least once!
posted by that girl at 5:33 AM on October 7, 2009

Large ships have stabilizers which minimize the motion caused by waves.

Through accident, I found that minimizing stomach acid can greatly help minimize seasickness. After taking over-the-counter prilosec for an unrelated reason, all of a sudden, my feeling of seasickness on small boats went away whenever I had taken some for a week or two. YMMV, not proven by any study, etc. I also make sure to keep some light, calm food on my stomach at all times. Since food is available at all times on cruises, heh, this is not difficult.
posted by mightshould at 5:52 AM on October 7, 2009

Best answer: I say go, but if you're concerned you can always have your doctor give you a prescription for scopolamine (usually in the form of a patch) which should take care of any lingering problems.
posted by namewithoutwords at 5:54 AM on October 7, 2009

When the mythbusters did their episode about motion sickness, they found that dramamine and ginger were the two top contenders. Gravol [pretty much *the* brand for dramamine where I live, so I assume they're gigantic and available where you are] even makes a pill that is nothing but powdered ginger now.

The grocery store also sells powdered ginger and other delicious ginger products for much cheaper.

Ginger tea / ginger candies / ginger beer all have the distinct advantage of being so tasty and not making you sleepy.
posted by Acari at 5:59 AM on October 7, 2009 [3 favorites]

Agreeing with others that it depends on where you go. On a cruise down the Pacific coast of Mexico, we hit rough waters a couple of times and quite a few people were getting a little green. They even had to close the onboard swimming pools because the water was sloshing dangerously. During those legs of the cruise I noticed that the staff had discreetly placed barf bags in strategic places around the ship, which really amused me for some reason.

I don't want to say that there's no chance you'll get seasick on a cruise, because it can definitely happen. But I do think that you should pack some Dramamine and go anyway, because that sounds like one hell of a party (and I'm not even much of a cruise person).
posted by balls at 6:05 AM on October 7, 2009

Seconding namewithoutwords -- get a prescription for scopolamine.
posted by Perplexity at 6:13 AM on October 7, 2009

I would also go for a prescription. You can get pills that will last for eight hours and not cause drowsiness - far superior to Gravol.
posted by Dasein at 6:19 AM on October 7, 2009

Get the patch, go on the cruise. You'll be fine.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 6:47 AM on October 7, 2009

Best answer: Nthing that you should go, but go armed with scopolamine.

Note that I am *the worst* when it comes to motion sickness, and I *always* get seasick, no matter how calm the seas and good the stabilizers on the cruise ships (and I have been on cruises several times.) I still go on cruises, despite that, but I just plan not to do much during the first 24 hours (eat, but eat carefully during that period). I usually get my sea legs after about 24 hours, with or without medication, and I expect you would as well.

If you do wind up feeling seasick, it helps to combat it if you can see the horizon. I usually wind up camping out on a deck chair on deck and feel much better.
posted by gudrun at 6:56 AM on October 7, 2009

I have a bit different opinion then many posters here. I recently went on my first cruise. It was to the Caribbean on a boat with around 2,500 people. Our assigned dinner location was towards the back of the ship, about 8 floors up I believe. Every night at dinner my wife and I could feel the ship swaying back and forth. Neither of us had cruised before, and neither of us took any drugs for sea-sickness. But I will say I found it somewhat uncomfortable throughout the trip, and especially at our dinner table. Walking down our hallway to the room, sometimes I would have to hold on to the walls to keep my bearings.

Everyones sense of vertigo or nausea is going to be different, but in my limited experience, it was somewhat uncomfortable the entire trip. I can say one night I woke up in bed and the ship was rocking so considerably that I had trouble getting back to sleep!
posted by dpollitt at 6:56 AM on October 7, 2009

GO! as for the inevitable brutal first 24 hours:

1. throw up.
2. wait a few minutes (no more...)

i cannot stress in addition the the bracelets (the electronic one works as well as the bead thingy) how much just eating a ton helped. (and a glass of wine or beer etc... did NOT exacerbate the issue)

posted by chasles at 7:09 AM on October 7, 2009

Unless you're in rough seas, a 100,000 ton cruise ship feels like a hotel that happens to have water on all sides.

My wife and step mother both swear by Sea Bands. Usually they only wear them for the first day or two then they're fine. I would avoid Dramamine if possible. You don't want to sleep away your vacation!
posted by JuiceBoxHero at 7:22 AM on October 7, 2009

I got very seasick (flat on my back for 3 days) on a cruise around South America. Having said that, I took no precautions and we were far away from the coast in choppy waters. YMMV but I wouldn't take a cruise again.
posted by cranberrymonger at 7:53 AM on October 7, 2009

I went on a Western Caribbean cruise many years ago on a cruise ship that was on the smaller side (MS Veendam with Holland America I believe) and we had rough seas for a few of the days. I personally don't get sea sick so I don't have any recommendations for you there, but just wanted to pop in and say that rough seas CAN and DO happen in the Caribbean...rough enough that they had to close the on board pools, walking down the hallway was a feat of strength, and every single other person in our 22 person party was violently ill until they took Dramamine. A few of the people were still feeling queasy after the Dramamine, but not to the extent that they couldn't enjoy the amenities of the ship.

The cruise was also during the second week of December, which is apparently storm season in the Caribbean.

So I would say that the Caribbean during the calm season would be your best bet, but go armed with some of the suggestions for sea sickness mentioned above just in case.
posted by Gonestarfishing at 8:25 AM on October 7, 2009

I get horribly sea sick. I've been on 3 cruises in my life in the last 15 years. The first I spent a uncomfortable first 2 days not wanting to leave the room, I felt so nausous. On the second I noticed it, but it didn't hamper my activities or enjoyment. The third cruise, last year, I didn't notice a thing! And on this cruise, we definitely had rough waters -- our cruise ship had to be rerouted because of hurricane Gustav, and we were always sort of following its path.

I think the difference between the reactions was progressively larger boats -- my first cruise was a very tiny ship (by today's standards), and last years ship was freaking huge. But even that first cruise, with all the seasickness issues, I'd do again -- you do get used to it. And if it's going to be a big boat with one of the big name cruise companies, you'll definitely be fine.
posted by cgg at 8:39 AM on October 7, 2009

Try a anti-seasick medication now before you decide and see if you have any side effects.

I once got a job on an oil rig before I knew I was prone to seasickness. Utter misery. Then for the second 8 day shift, I got a medicated patch which fixed the nausea but gave me a wicked headache. Different misery. I tried Gravol next and it worked great but I probably shouldn't have been working around so much heavy equipment.

I'll only go on a boat again out of necessity (not by choice).
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:31 AM on October 7, 2009

Another way to look at is this: you either go on this cruise and feel sick and you have a good reason never to go on a cruise again, or you skip this cruise and all other future cruises because you might get sick (but aren't sure). Given the choice between knowing and uncertainty, I always choose knowing.
posted by smackfu at 10:04 AM on October 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

You should go on the cruise.

One thing that helps is to try and not look out windows while inside. I actually don't get seasick, but for some reason when I was on my last cruise, I couldn't even tell the boat was moving if I was inside until I sat by a window. something about the feeling of stillness with the moving visual made me really nauseas. I was fine seeing the motion on the open decks, however.
posted by WeekendJen at 11:44 AM on October 7, 2009

Bonine is much better than Dramamine. It doesn't make you quite as sleepy, and it just... works. I don't trust Dramamine to do anything except make me sleep through whatever's making me feel sick, which is not what you want to do on a cruise.

I get motion sick frequently (if I put myself in motiony situations) and I once went on a short, 3-day cruise on a big cruise ship (Florida to Bahamas). There was some motion, but it was not the regular rolling-waves motion; more of a vibration, and sometimes an odd side-to-side feeling. (It freaked me out a little, but I just hung out on a deck chair for a couple of hours, enjoying the breeze and staring at the horizon, and felt better.) If you're going on a really big ship in fairly calm waters, you should be fine.
posted by chowflap at 2:24 PM on October 7, 2009

Best answer: I get quite seasick and spent six months on a yacht. Some people get used to it after a few days - I rarely did, and took medication very frequently. So I think you should go, because I think it is possible to have an enjoyable time.

I found that the scoplamine patch was no good - great for a day's sailing, but wearing it constantly made my pupils dilate and I felt weird and wired (in a bad way). Talking to others, it seemed that men were fine with them but women not so much, for longer periods (though some reported more measured results when they stuck them on their bottoms instead of behind the ear, or alternated wearing it and taking it off, say at night).

For the drugs - take early, take often. Don't wait until you get sick, start taking them even 12 hours before you are going to set off. I used to take the pills every 12 hours for the first couple of days, then taper to every 24 depending on how I was feeling.

Seasickness medication seems to have a variety of side effects and effectiveness, depending on the person, so I would also recommend taking a few varieties and consider trying them first to see what the side effects are for you. Some I could barely keep awake, others were fine. Dramamine was ok, Sturgeron worked better on reducing the seasickness but also made my balance a bit weird
posted by AnnaRat at 4:56 PM on October 7, 2009

Response by poster: The cruise will be in the Pacific somewhere, probably around Fiji. I guess the open waters of the Pacific are more prone to rougher conditions than, say, the Caribbean.

Thanks for the tips on the different meds - whatever medication I used on my last (small) day cruise seemed to work okay without any side-effects. And this would be a large cruise ship, so less likely to bounce around.

I will definitely go armed with meds and start taking them early. It's good to hear that other people who suffer sea-sickness have gone on cruises and enjoyed them. I was hesitant to even be enthused about the idea but these reassurances are great.
posted by crossoverman at 6:29 PM on October 7, 2009

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