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Hurtigruten's Richard With in stormy seas

How to Prevent Seasickness on a Cruise

Hurtigruten's Richard With in stormy seas
Marissa Wright

Last updated
Oct 24, 2023

Read time
6 min read

Seasickness is hardly fatal, but with symptoms such as nausea, stomach cramps and vomiting, it can certainly feel like it may be -- and it can certainly put a damper on your cruise.

Luckily, cruise lovers have an array of options for seasickness prevention, from medicines and seasickness patches to Sea-Bands and even cabin-booking tricks that can alleviate motion sickness.

When it comes to finding the best prevention method, keep in mind that every person and their response to medication or treatment is unique. Don’t compare yourself to others, as the best remedy for seasickness will be unique to you and your body. Some cruisers find success with a motion sickness patch, while others rely on home remedies like tea.

If you have a propensity to motion sickness or are concerned that you might develop symptoms, read on for a handy breakdown of what causes seasickness and the methods you can use to avoid it with the best seasickness remedies.

What Is Seasickness?

Motion sickness is thought to be caused by the visual disorientation resulting from being on an object in motion (the ship) competing against our body's natural inclination for balance.

Mal de mer, however, is not caused by choppy waters alone. Scientific studies have shown that some folks become seasick by suggestion. They simply convince themselves that being on a ship will make them ill. On the other hand, for those who can forget about it, it's often smooth sailing.

Meanwhile, some people have a genuine proclivity for motion sickness and will undoubtedly suffer more during rough seas.

According to medical professionals, seasickness is more prevalent in children and women (though children under 2 seem to be immune from the ailment). Of equally interesting note, elderly people are less susceptible.

If you’re not prone to seasickness or motion sickness, following some basic tips on how not to get sick on a cruise should ensure you stay healthy while onboard.

Seasickness Medicine Is Often the First Line of Prevention Drug Remedies

Dramamine vs. Bonine (ID: 1899) (Photo: funnyangel/Shutterstock)

Seasickness medicine is easily the most reliable route to keeping the good times rolling on your cruise. You can choose from numerous options, including patches and pills available with prescriptions or over-the-counter medicine.

The Seasickness Patch: One of the Strongest Motion Sickness Remedies

One of the most widely recommended remedies is Transderm Scop, which is a scopolamine nausea patch applied behind the ear at least eight hours before exposure and is effective for up to three days.

Available only by prescription, Transderm Scop is preventive and not a treatment that can also cause possible side effects such as dry mouth, blurry vision, drowsiness and dizziness.

When applying the patch, be sure to clean the area of the skin thoroughly and clean your hands after application. Some substances from the patch may transfer onto your hands and cause more side effects.

If you know you or a family member experience severe motion sickness, bringing a seasickness patch (or several) with you is likely in your best interest. Even if you don’t end up using it, it’s better to have it on hand if things get a little bumpy.

If you’re feeling seasick, a patch may be one of the easiest treatment methods, which is why so many cruisers recommend it.

Prescription-Strength Motion Sickness Medications

Other prescription motion sickness remedies are available from a physician, including promethazine and ephedrine, which, when taken together, produce quick results as well as potential side effects such as sleepiness.

Another option is suppositories administered by the ship's physician, which work magic for some people. Please note that if you or your child cannot keep food or water down and other medicines are not working for you, a suppository may be your best option. Suppositories are often the best remedy for seasickness if you can’t keep anything down.

How Not to Get Seasick With Over-the-Counter Medicine: Dramamine, Meclizine and More

Over-the-counter medications like Dramamine, Meclizine (also known as Bonine) or diphenhydramine (commonly called Benadryl) can also help prevent or alleviate seasickness. On some ships, these are dispensed freely or are sold in the sundries shop.

Remember that the most common side effect of taking Bonine and Benadryl is drowsiness, and alcohol will exacerbate this. Both medicines are available in smaller doses for children, though you should speak to a pediatrician before administering either to your kids. (Learn the differences between Dramamine and Bonine.)

Seasickness Remedies: Drug-Free Options

TA Noordam Outside Cabin

If you don't prefer taking medication, there are plenty of other options if the numerous Cruise Critic boards' threads on seasickness remedies are any indication. From Sea-Bands that help with vertigo sensations to strategic cabin booking, multiple options are available.

How Do Sea-Bands Work Against Seasickness?

Some cruisers swear that applying a Sea-Band wristband the minute you embark can ward off unwelcome motion sickness. The easy-to-wear, acupressure-inspired product has a plastic bead that presses against the Nei-Kuan pressure point located on the palm side of the wrist.

Users say that it eases nausea and vomiting without any side effects. It comes in both adult and child sizes and can be used by pregnant women. Sea-Bands are available without a prescription at major drug stores or on Amazon.

Use the Horizon as Your Personal North Star

Passengers enjoying the sunset on Quantum of the Seas North Star (Photo: Tiana Templeman)

To acclimate to shipboard life, you should spend as much time as possible out on deck once you’ve boarded, using the horizon as a point to maintain your equilibrium.

Booking an outside cabin in the middle of the ship -- the natural balance point -- is another option. Having a window in your cabin will also give you a consistent view of the horizon point, which can help in avoiding seasickness (unless you find yourself in stormy waters with sea spume splashing against your window).

Booking a room with a window works well for many cruisers who experience seasickness. The body is able to regulate itself, and it may mean you won’t need to use prescription medication such as a motion sickness patch.

Get Some Fresh Air to Prevent Seasickness

Some cruisers find that booking a room with a balcony helps them prevent seasickness. Maybe it’s the fresh sea salt air or the fact you can see the horizon, but some cruisers find success in getting much-needed fresh air to remain healthy.

Natural Seasickness Remedies Like Ginger and Apples Could Also Help Onboard

Other cruisers faithfully promote the benefits of ginger, which studies have found alleviates nausea associated with motion sickness. The root can be taken in various forms, including powder, tea, pill and candy.

Some swear that eating green apples helps with nausea, and some ships offer plates of green apples and crackers on their room service menus.

There’s no proven effectiveness to these natural remedies, but some cruisers swear by eating ginger, green apples or crackers and tout them as the best seasickness remedies.

Planning Your Cruise Perfectly Can Also Help Prevent Seasickness

Carlos Martinez and Joel Vazquez relax with drinks on the Magic Carpet on Celebrity Edge. (Photo: Naima Green/AIPP)

Knowing how to prevent seasickness isn’t limited to pills, gadgets and natural remedies like ginger. A little pre-cruise homework can go a long way in keeping seasickness at bay.

It's not a bad idea to take only port-intensive cruises with fewer days on the open seas if you’re prone to motion sickness or worried you might be. You should also avoid itineraries where the ocean is bound to be rough, such as North Atlantic crossings or the Caribbean during hurricane season.

Another wise option is to pick large, modern ships -- not a difficult proposition with the industry trending toward larger ships. Relatively new mega-ship that weigh 100,000 tons or more have stabilizers which are used when needed to provide the smoothest ride possible.

Always Come Prepared to Treat Seasickness

Come prepared if you know you or a family member is prone to seasickness. Be sure to bring all the essentials in your medical kit. There’s no guarantee that items or over-the-counter medication will be available onboard. If you or a family member experience extreme illness due to motion sickness, contact the medical staff onboard your ship to find a safe solution.

Remember that everyone reacts differently to the various remedies out there. It's on the cruiser to take part in a little research and self-experimentation, and one of the most useful places to start is the Ask a Cruise Question forum on the Cruise Critic message boards.

Publish date March 27, 2023
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