Cruise ships are famous for many things - exorbitant extravagance, larger than life surroundings that feel like 'adult Disney World' and their ability to take you from country to country without too much effort on your behalf.
From giant waterslides, to onboard nightclubs, spas and casinos, cruise ships today are like floating resorts that are built around entertaining and ensuring their guests have a great holiday. If you enjoy this leisurely form of travel (or are straight-up too afraid to fly) it can be a great way to see pockets of the world.
However, what a lot of the travel agents might be too timid to tell you is that if you're not used to it, traveling by boat can take its toll on the body. Sure that's true of any travel, but in this case since you are living every waking moment (essentially) on the boat, it can manifest itself in a number of not-so-nice effects that can be more than a bit uncomfortable or alarming even if you aren't sure to expect them.
Luckily! We have put together a list of 10 commonly occurring effects of your cruise holiday along with related preventatives that will help with the transition from turf to surf.
20 Motion sickness
If you have ever been in the back seat of a car on a lengthy road trip or sometimes, a winding road for as short as 30 minutes, you will likely have experienced a form of motion sickness. The most obvious sensation is nausea and in extreme cases, vomiting. Other symptoms can include headaches, sweating or general malaise.
None of these sound like the kind of vibes you want to be cultivating on holiday understandably but it can help to know what causes this sensation. Essentially, overstimulation of your ear's vestibular balance organs and/or by a mismatch between the sensory inputs from your eyes and inner ears can lead to these uncomfortable effects. While non-life threatening, it is important to recognize the symptoms so that you assign yourself rest early on.
19 Weight gain
Cruises are about indulgence so it may come as no surprise that much of the food on offer is quite rich and features some heavy-duty ingredients that while, delicious, will add a few inches to your waistline.
With unlimited packages that include sugar-crammed drinks, burgeoning buffets and every dessert under the sun on a daily basis - it is easy to pack on anywhere from 5-10 pounds per week! You don't have to be 'supermodel skinny' to start to notice after a few indulgent meals. It can be enough to make you feel less than stellar in your skin.
18 Cabin fever
Cabin fever is described as a feeling of restlessness, boredom, or claustrophobia experienced when in an enclosed space for a prolonged period of time. But aren't these ships massive?! They are. But they can feel a bit like a hamster wheel if you're aimlessly wandering from your pea-sized cabin to the dining hall and the sun-lounger on loop. After a few days of this cycle it's normal to experience a desperate feeling of wanting more freedom.
Cabin fever's effects can range from anything resembling lethargy, apathy, impatience to even food cravings. If you're feeling a little down and out, it could be a result of being cooped up.
17 Sun Burn
Taking that Caribbean cruise can feel like a dream come true, especially if you're coming from cooler climates like Canada or USA. Let's be honest, the majority of your 'clothes' packed are in two pieces and are meant for poolside lounging so you can work on your tan. The trouble is, the sun is strong and sitting out in the sun for days on end without adequate protection can lead to painful, blistering sunburns.
It can be difficult to realize on a ship with the gentle breezes that nicely compliment your pool session, but you are after all on a vessel surrounded by water which not only magnifies but masks the strength of the sun.
Rapid heartbeat, disorientation, shallow breathing, muscle weakness, a throbbing headache, red skin that's hot to the touch - these are indications of sunstroke.
Sunstroke is classified as a type of hyperthermia where the body temperature is elevated to an abnormal degree. It occurs when strenuous or excessive activity is carried out in hot or humid conditions. If you notice that yourself or someone else is slurring their words or not making too much sense or seems confused - it's important to notify a member of the ship's staff who can seek medical support. The very worst cases of sunstroke can result in passing out.
Remember those rich unlimited drinks and foods we talked about earlier? They aren't just a problem for your waistline. In fact, these tempting treats are often chock full of sugar which causes you to crave more sugar and naturally depletes the body of water.
Aside from feeling sleepy and lethargic, there are a few other indicators. Dry skin, dry mouth, a dark marigold colour when you go #1, or not going #1 at all can mean that you are in need of more hydration. This is especially likely in warmer climates where you are constantly sweating. If you aren't replenishing your water intake, it can be far easier to achieve dehydration.
14 Stomach Flu
The flu is particularly precarious on cruise ships because there are so many people in close quarters interacting regularly and eating communally that it makes it relatively easy for these microorganisms to thrive and be passed along. The stomach flu usually lasts anywhere from 24-72 hours and is a gastrointestinal illness.
Outbreaks have been recently reported causing massive ships to dock and disinfect for as long as a week. Don't let it deter you from boarding your next Bahamas-bound cruise though! We've listed a few tips for prevention later on in this article.
13 Jet Lag
It seems improbable since you're not on a plane that you would experience any kind of jet lag but it's totally possible. Jet lag occurs when your internal clock is not synced or properly adjusted to that of the local time where you are. It can be frustrating to feel the disruptive effects of being exhausted during the day and wide awake at night.
It takes a physical toll as well with symptoms ranging from digestive issues to headaches to irritability - definitely not our idea of a holiday.
The worst part is we don't always know we are jet lagged so it can be a few days before you realize it for certain. Rest assured, we have a few tricks up our sleep to help you cope below.
You may not have fears or anxiety about the cruise but could experience an unexpected influx while onboard a ship, especially if it is your first time. The most commonly experienced anxieties can be linked to being surrounded by a large body of water (aquaphobia) or even being surrounded by large crowds of people (a
11 Mal de debarquement / Disembarkment Syndrome
Disembarkment syndrome is a neurological condition that can occur after sustained motion on an aircraft or cruise. More serious than the more common 'sea legs,' it can be described as a constant rocking, bobbing or swaying feeling even once on solid land. It can also mean a loss of balance.
Headaches or migraines, neckaches and backaches are not uncommon in more severe cases. While symptoms last about two weeks, an official diagnosis is given after they persist beyond 30 days. The feeling is a result of your body being tricked into thinking that you are still on a boat and can be heightened when in enclosed spaces or attempting to stay still. Many people liken it to that of trying to walk on a trampoline.
If you're intimidated by all of this, don't worry. Here are the cures!
10 PREVENT: Motion Sickness
More than anything, your physical location on the boat will be crucial in eliminating unnecessary provocation of symptoms. Sitting / sleeping closer to the water line with a view on the horizon, versus objects immediately in front of you can eliminate dizziness. The center of the boat is likely to experience the least of the motion and is considered to be the most stable position.
If you are in the early stages of dizziness you can prevent further nausea but assuming what in Yoga is called a 'child's pose.' You can do this by beginning on your hands and knees. Spread your knees wide apart while keeping your big toes touching. Sit up straight and lengthen your spine up through the crown of your head. On an exhalation, bow forward, draping your torso between your thighs. Keep your arms long and extended, palms facing down.
If you are not able to accomplish the full pose, placing your head between your legs should reduce any early effects of motion sickness at sea.
9 PREVENT: Weight Gain
The best thing you can do to prevent packing on the pounds on your holiday without missing out is to pump up the physical activity. Buy a fitness tracker or install an app on your phone that reminds you when its time to get moving! Many of the cruise ships have state of the art gyms, running tracks, and even dance classes you can partake in to rev it up.
There are also the places you dock in which can be like your personal palace of physical activity, from hiking up hills to walking up steps versus elevators, you can find ways to increase your exercise at every turn of your trip. Make sure to pack at least one pair of gym clothes and sneakers.
8 PREVENT: Cabin Fever
The best way to prevent cabin fever is by making your experience on board as varied as possible by breaking out of your comfort zone and taking advantage of the amenities. Whether it's rock climbing or hitting the club after dinner versus your regular sloth-like sauntering back to your bed for a movie. Even if you planned your holiday around soaking up the sun on deck, rotate your location so that you're taking in different views / aspects of the ship.
It may also help to cough up some extra cash for a balcony that overlooks the sea or even the center of the ship for some people watching.
7 PREVENT: Sun Burn
The most obvious way to prevent a sunburn is to stay out of the sun during the most dangerous times of the day from 10am -4pm. If that's not plausible than taking regular breaks every 20-30 minutes to sit in the shade are absolutely non-negotiable. Also reapplying sun cream with the appropriate SPF every hour is mandatory.
If you notice a sensation of tenderness or redness, cover that spot immediately with clothing or a shade umbrella to prevent further damage. A wide brim hat and some sunglasses will at the very least prevent you from looking like a pureed tomato if you accidentally doze off. In that case, it can help to have some fresh aloe vera on hand to try to backtrack.
6 PREVENT: SunSTROKE
You can prevent sunstroke by wearing loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing and limiting strenuous activity or workouts to early mornings (dawn) or early evenings (dusk) when the temperatures have cooled. Drinking plenty of water is also really important to stay consistently hydrated.
Children and seniors are especially at-risk so be mindful if members of your travel party fall into these categories and take precaution. Foods like cucumber, watermelon, fresh fruits can also aid in hydrating the body and ensuring it has enough energy. Taking a dip in the pool or regular room-temperature showers/baths can also help to cool the body and maintain its equilibrium in the tropical heat.
5 PREVENT: Dehydration
The obvious answer is to drink more water. It's important not only to drink more but to also drink water consistently throughout the day. If you're chugging a litre of water in the morning only, it won't be as great for your body as drinking 8 ounces an hour. Avoiding or limiting the intake of caffeinated or sugary drinks and alcohol is incredibly important.
Taking time to rest in between activities or taking breaks to hydrate while exploring outdoors at port stops, is paramount. When starting the day out with breakfast on board, make choices that are high in electrolyte content like yogurt, cheese, and coconuts and pack lunches full of green leafy veggies.
Powdered electrolyte replacements are good as an emergency back-up if you are experiencing symptoms of dehydration.
4 PREVENT: Stomach Flu
In order to prevent the unlikely but still haunting potential nightmare of contracting the stomach flu while on holiday the preventative measure is really quite simple. Wash your hands and wash them often. By using warm soapy water and washing for approximately the length of the 'happy birthday' twice repeated (20 seconds), you will have effectively completed part 1 of germ management.
If there has been an outbreak on your ship, you can also limit any extraneous touching or handshaking with other passengers to be on the safe side. The most intelligent precaution would be to avoid eating raw foods like shrimp or sushi and to take probiotics leading up to and while on your trip (as long as they don't interfere with any of your medications- always check with a doctor).
3 PREVENT: Jet Lag
Jet lag is just as much psychological as it is physical so it can help for starters to adjust your clock to your destination prior to arrival so that your body gets used to it. Once landed, avoid caving into the drowsiness and settling in for a nap. Instead, force yourself out into the sunshine where it can physically energize you (just be sure to apply proper sunscreen first).
Plan to eat light your first few days and take advantage of salads, fish, fruits and vegetables over fried foods or meat which can weigh you down and make you feel drowsy. Instead of sleeping pills, with heavy chemical components that can make you feel groggy in the morning, pack some melatonin which is a natural hormone that helps to regulate sleep cycles.
2 PREVENT: Anxiety
It sounds a bit silly but even looking a few statistics prior to your journey can help you to realize how rare issues are aboard (versus the mass media sensationalism we sometimes see displayed in the news). Lavender is a scent that has been known to soothe and calm via aromatherapy and can be useful to have on hand in an essential oil or hand cream that you can apply just under your nose before any stressful scenarios on board.
There are a variety of magnesium supplements that can help sooth any acute anxiety and also relax muscles which can be helpful after a long day of sightseeing. Other natural supplements can help take the edge off without any prescriptions necessary. A quick visit to your local vitamin shop to speak with an experienced staff member can help ensure you have what you need.
1 PREVENT: Disembarkment Syndrome
Sadly there is no cure for those experiencing this confusing sensation. Since the syndrome is the result of your body balancing between the adjustment, it is suggested to start your 'sea wellness' prep in advance. Taking ginger to fight nausea, etc so that your body feels supported. If you have experienced disembarkment syndrome before, the best preventative is likely to avoid any similar motion that caused in the first place. The reason it may be worth forgoing any long-term sea travel for sufferers is because if it comes back a second time, it often persists longer than the first time which can be debilitating, to say the least. That is the best preventative measure at this time.
References: danboater.org, www.clinicaladvisor.com, wikipedia.com