Sea Sickness (motion sickness) – Is it a problem on a cruise?

A common question for first timers on a cruise or those considering their first cruise is about sea sickness, which is actually a form of motion sickness. Modern cruise ships have stabilizers which greatly minimize chances of sea sickness. Most passengers have no problems at all with sea sickness on today’s cruise ships, but I have experienced it a few times, usually during the first couple of days.

How can you tell if you are suffering from sea sickness? Sea sickness causes queasiness, headaches, and nausea. If you start to experience these symptoms, you may be experiencing sea sickness. The good news is that sea sickness is easy to manage. But first, let’s understand what it is and isn’t. First, it is not a virus, bacteria or a disease.

It cannot be caught from someone else. Sea sickness/motion sickness is caused when your body, inner ear, and eyes send conflicting signals to the brain. On a ship which might be slightly rocking, the fluid in your inner ear, which maintains our sense of balance, tells your brain that your body is moving with the gentle rocking of the ship, while your eyes which are looking at walls and floors, tells your brain that you are not moving. These conflicting signals to your brain can lead to an upset stomach, headaches, and/or nausea which is sea sickness. Second, it is easy to treat or prevent.

There are several options. Over the counter drugs are very effective. For instance, Bonine is taken once a day and is available at most drug stores as well as on virtually all cruise ships. Bonine has very little side effects and it is my preferred solution to motion sickness. The pills sell for under $10 for seven day cruise dosage. Some people prefer to obtain patches, such as Transderm Scop, which requires a doctor’s prescription. The patch looks like a small round Band-aid and is placed behind the ear.

There are some side effects with the patch. If you are going to use them for the first time, you might want to consider using it first before the cruise to make sure you have no side effects. Many people also swear by ginger whether it is in pill form, paste, candy, or in any other form. Ginger helps settle the stomach and overcome the symptoms. Finally, Sea Bands are a pressure point based wrist band therapy. Many people swear by them. Since it is something you wear, you don’t have to worry about any drug interaction with other medications you might be taking. I have never tried them, but you’ll see many people using them on cruises.