From Gravol to ginger, Anthony Pearce looks at ways of keeping your sea legs
Motion sickness occurs when there’s a conflict between what your eyes see and what your body senses. If they’re out of whack, dizziness, nausea and vomiting can follow – which, if persistent, can completely ruin a good holiday.
Some people experience it on cars, trains and planes, but it’s most common on ships, particularly over choppy waters. You’ll hear potential customers say: I’d love to try a cruise, but I have enough trouble crossing the English Channel, never mind spending a week or more at sea.
The truth is that cruise ships, which are often larger than ferries and may have stabilisers, can deal with swells pretty well. On the largest ships, sometimes you can barely feel any movement at all.
You might get sick every time you get near a ship, or you might be certain you’ve got your ‘sea legs’ and feel invincible. But the problem with seasicknesss is that it can spring a surprise. I felt fine on the notorious Drake Passage, but had (relatively mild) symptoms on the North Sea and even one night in the Caribbean.
So, how do you test your ‘sea legs’? Mini-cruises are a good shout, but remember that northern European waters can be choppy – meaning a fly-cruise to somewhere warm may be a better option.
Seasickness is a bit like a hangover in more ways than one: there are ways to combat it, but there are no magic solutions to prevent or cure it, and everyone has their ways of dealing with it. Over-the-counter drugs promethazine (often sold under the tradename Phenergan), an antihistamine, and dimenhydrinate (often sold under the tradenames Draminate, Gravol and Dramamine) are tried and tested methods, although both, the former in particular, can cause drowsiness. These are often sold in cruise ship shops, and it’s also worth remembering that there is a doctor on board. Some people swear by acupressure wristbands (sea bands), although their effectiveness is debated, while Scopolamine patches, which are placed behind the ear, are growing in popularity, but also cause drowsiness. For those that want to avoid drugs, there’s always ginger, which has all sorts of healing powers, while green apples, which have lots of fibre in them, are often recommended by crew.
Your position on the ship is crucial. Picking a cabin in the midship and in the lower decks (but above the water line), limits how much you feel the motion of the waves, meaning you’re less likely to feel seasick; keeping your eyes on the horizon can help restore balance, so an ocean-view cabin is a good idea – although squirrelling yourself away in your room can make you feel worse: a little bit of fresh air can work wonders.