Many of the rumours you hear about cruises being unhealthy are taken out of context and blown out of proportion - urban legends that take on a life of their own.
If you compare boarding a cruise ship to simply flying on a plane, using public transportation of any kind, dining in a restaurant, and generally living your life in a society, all the fuss just doesn't add up.
Short of living in an environmentally sealed bubble, you are exposed to a certain element of risk every single day. With strict hygiene practices in place and an abundance of healthy food options and physical activities available, there is no reason you shouldn't take that dream holiday and enjoy every minute of your time at sea.
Illness prevention measures
The CDNA (Communicable Diseases Network Australia) enacts key measures to prevent spreadable diseases on land and at sea including the following:
- Routine environmental cleaning
- Incorporation of safe practices for handling bodily fluids
- Prevention of contamination during food preparation and handling
- Hand hygiene and cough etiquette
No one takes hygiene more seriously than cruise ship crews. It is in their best interest that great lengths are taken to ensure the wellbeing of passengers.
- New staff complete rigorous training up to 13 weeks before a voyage and follow mandated cleaning procedures before, during and after the voyage.
- Pre-boarding health screenings are required before any passengers board the cruise.
- Sydney Cruise Ship Health Surveillance and Inspection Program ensures ships follow strict sanitation practices to minimise public health risks.
To limit the risk on a daily basis, precautions are taken:
- Hand sanitiser stations are placed at every corner along with reminders to wash your hands before and after meals.
- Often there is a staff member standing outside dining areas to ensure passengers use the provided sinks or sanitiser to wash their hands before they enter.
- Some cruise ships even ban buffet service for the first 48 hours at sea.
The truth about outbreaks
Norovirus, despite being commonly associated with cruises, is not actually a cruise-related virus. However, if someone comes aboard carrying the virus, it can spread quickly. Health officials are required to track and report illnesses on ships and the cruise lines have contingency plans in place in case of an outbreak.
Despite best efforts, yes outbreaks do happen occasionally but context is key. The latest Sydney Cruise Ship Report states that 2.6 cases of acute gastroenteritis occurred per 1000 passengers in the month of March where 28 cruise ships carrying over 97,000 people ported in Sydney. There are over a million people now cruising from Australia each year so there is bound to be a little bit of sickness onboard, just like on land.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle onboard
Cruise lines are constantly improving their healthy-food options with new cafes and restaurants. State-of-the-art gym facilities offering fitness classes, steam rooms and running tracks are standard across cruise ships. Plus onshore activities include highly active excursions.
If you want to keep up a healthy routine while onboard, you certainly can!
Health food options galore
Healthy choices are offered in most dining venues and are often highlighted on the menu to make them easy to find. Cruise lines also cater to diet restrictions such as vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and kosher.
Get fit onboard
Work out with views overlooking the ocean. Join a fitness class or step into the boxing ring. Go for a run around the jogging track. Opt for something different and rock-climb, rollerskate or play basketball on Royal Caribbeanâ€˜s Oasis class ships. Challenge yourself on P&O's high-ropes obstacle course including a thrilling slackline and awesome flying fox across the ship.
There is always a way to get your heart pumping.
Hike through rainforests, run on jaw-dropping beaches or surf the waves. Hire a bike to explore the city or join a bicycle tour. Play a game of beach volleyball or take a SUP (stand-up paddleboard) class. Ask your concierge for more recommended fitness activities at your cruise stops.
Still a bit worried?
Adopt the same healthy practices you would use on land to ensure you remain in top notch health during your holiday.
- Stay hydrated and get plenty of sleep.
- Avoid sharing utensils and glassware.
- Be active for at least 30 minutes of each day (with so many activities, this should be easy).
- Bring your own hand sanitiser to keep in your room and when you visit a port city.
- Stick to cooked foods on shore excursions