There's no getting around it: you might get sick on your cruise, as on any holiday. Just like on land, bugs can be passed from person to person, food can get contaminated, sea sickness can strike and your holiday can take a turn for the worse. Cruise ship illness is a bummer, that's for sure, and it gets a lot of play in the media. Outbreaks of norovirus and the like, although very infrequent, grab headlines thanks to a trepidation around being stuck on a ship with nowhere to go.
The reality is that you are very likely to come through your cruise unscathed and in full health - just as likely as land-based holidays. In 2014 there were 22 million cruise passengers globally, and only nine outbreaks of GI illness on cruises involving a total of 1,612 passengers as reported by vessels participating in the Vessel Sanitation Program (statistics from the Center for Disease Control). This is a drop in the ocean, so to speak, and there is no reason to fear illness on a cruise any more than on land. However, it's always a good idea to be prepared and protected, so here are a few tips from the Cruise Sale Finder team to avoid cruise ship illnesses the next time you head out on the high seas.
Keep your hands clean
Clean hands is just basic hygiene, but it is especially important when you're touching lots of shared surfaces, and probably the biggest concern in regards to cruise ship sickness. Wash your hands after using the bathroom, before meals, after meals, and as often as possible when in the public spaces. Hand sanitiser shouldn't replace soap and water completely, but it does help. Most ships will place bottles of it in strategic points around the ship, and you could bring your own small one for convenience. In fact, many have staff greeters at dining area entrances standing next to two stand-up pods of sanitiser, encouraging people to use it on their way in. Consistent hand-washing means the germs are gone before they can get in your system or spread somewhere else. This is very important when sharing spoon handles and the like in the buffet line.
When it comes to contagious illness, avoiding it on a cruise ship is the same as anywhere else. Limit person-to-person contact where possible and practical, don't leave your food unattended where it might be touched by others, and don't put your unwashed hands in your mouth. Make sure your kids know to do the same things. If you do become ill, common courtesy and sense dictates that you stay away from crowds and avoid infecting other passengers.
Leaving the country? Consult your doctor before you embark and find out what shots will give you protection while globetrotting to different countries. Doctors recommend a minimum of seasonal Influenza, Hepatitis A and Diphtheria inoculations for travelling anywhere, and there are some which are recommended for certain people or certain places - such as Yellow Fever, Hepatitis B and Typhoid. Don't freak out! With a short cruise ship visit, you are unlikely to need these. However, be informed and prepared.
Drink the water - or don't!
Staying hydrated is a good way to avoid exhaustion and sunstroke, both real dangers on a tropical cruise. Tap water on the ship is fine to drink both in your stateroom and in the dining areas. You can grab a free glass any time and take it along with you around the ship. You can also purchase bottled water in your room or elsewhere on the ship if that is your preference. Be advised, there are usually signs asking you not to refill your water bottles at the buffet areas, for hygiene purposes. We recommend abiding by these rules as they aim to protect the water source from contamination. When onshore, you will need to use your judgement as to whether the water is OK to drink. In Australia and New Zealand, tap water is fine, but when visiting some of the islands you may prefer to stick to bottled water as there have been contamination issues in places like New Caledonia and Fiji.
Tackle seasickness early
The problem with "Mal de Mer" is that you won't know whether you are prone to it or not until you are already on a sea voyage. If you begin feeling ill, don't hide away, but take steps to stop it in its tracks before it gets worse. There are many tips for preventing or treating seasickness floating around, some of them old wives' tales. What does work is ginger in most forms, green apples, sitting outside in the fresh air and meds or patches like Dramamine and Transderm which you can get from the ship's doctor.
Dress the part
Tropical islands mean tropical temperatures and sometimes tropical rainstorms. Wear lose, light clothing and a hat to avoid sunstroke and overheating. If you're visiting during the rainy season, keep an umbrella handy to avoid being stuck in wet clothes all day. Change out of your wet bathing suit when you know you won't be going back in the water to avoid getting a chill. On the flip side, cruise ships are usually kept very cool which is a fantastic feeling to come back to after a long day in the hot sun. However, it can sometimes get a little too cool for comfort in certain places - bring a little scarf or cardie along with you to keep your ideal temperature no matter where you are.
Look after yourself
Although you are on holiday, don't forget about basic self-care. When in the sun, apply sunblock and wear sunglasses. Don't neglect your nutrition completely and get in some fruit and veges - the buffets will have plenty, and there are healthy options on all menus. The gym isn't for everyone, but there are plenty of ways to be active outside of it, from pools to dance classes. Make sure you get enough sleep too. Here's a handy tip: if you are planning on partying until the early hours, an inside cabin is not only cheaper, but eliminates any pesky sunshine to wake you up.
Cruising is better when you're healthy, there's no denying it. We want you to have the absolute best time possible and a little mindfulness can go a long way in staying in tip top shape for the whole journey. Happy and healthy cruising!