Just thinking about seasickness is enough to make you squeamish – but help is at hand.
During my career as a cruise writer I have encountered a violent hurricane in the North Atlantic, three cyclones in the South China Sea and survived the tempestuous Drake’s Passage en-route to Antarctica. Fortunately, despite feeling somewhat queasy on all these stormy voyages, I didn’t succumb to ‘mal de mer’. However, before you think this Old Salt has a cast-iron constitution, I have to admit to two unexpected bouts of the technicolour yawn. On a christening voyage from Liverpool to Southampton one December, storm-force winds in the Irish Sea made the ship lurch and roll sufficiently that I lost my breakfast. An overly ambitious lunch plated out one summer’s day between Dover to Boulogne when the ‘corkscrewing’ motion of the ferry saw me hurl the contents of my stomach into the foaming sea.
What is seasickness?
Seasickness, also called motion sickness, is a common disturbance of the inner ear. This is the area of the body that affects your sense of balance. Motion sickness happens when your brain receives conflicting messages about motion and your body's position in space.
Quite often, the best cure for the feeling of nausea is just to get out on deck, put your face to the breeze and stare off into the horizon. Letting your body get accustomed to this new sensation is really beneficial – in nautical terms, it is called getting your ‘sea legs’.
The bottom line is that seasickness only affects barely three per cent of all passengers on a cruise ship. And in this day and age, the accuracy of modern weather-forecasting allows ships to steer clear of any really nasty weather. However, there are measures you can take if that queasy feeling starts to creep up on you.
Seasickness dos and don'ts
The most obvious thing to consider if you are prone to motion sickness is book a cabin in the middle of the ship and near the waterline. Other tips include avoiding heavy, greasy and acidic foods. Despite the cruise bartenders’ promise that a ‘stabiliser’ - consisting of port and brandy - is a guaranteed panacea, it is wise to steer clear of alcohol as it speeds up dehydration and generally lowers your body's resistance to motion sickness.
Many passengers seem to spend a fortune at their local pharmacies before heading off on the briny. Bumper-packs of Dramamine, an array of acupressure wristbands and a patchwork of Scopolamine skin patches behind the ears might be beneficial, but in truth they are more likely to be of greater help psychologically. In extreme cases of ‘motion of the ocean’, the ship’s medical teams are well versed at administering a quick jab of Phenergan and passengers report that, within an hour, they are sleeping like babes, and when they wake up any thought of an up-chuck has been consigned to the deep.
Don’t overlook ginger – either raw or candied. This natural remedy has been used as an elixir for motion sickness for centuries (ginger root is said to have been first used by the ancient Chinese), and although it doesn't work for everyone, a lot of people claim it is a life-saver.