“Will I get Sea-Sick”?

The fear of sea-sickness (or mal de mer as the French call it) worries a lot of first time cruisers.  I hope to be able to dispel at least some of their fears.

The sea is unpredictable; however as a broad generalization the sea conditions tend to be calmer in the spring/summer/autumn than they are in the winter.  Warm waters, like the seas of the Mediterranean and Caribbean can often be calmer than the seas of colder climates, although the Caribbean does have a hurricane season in ‘the fall’.  There are of course no guarantees of calm seas whatever the time of year.

You may have heard that the Bay of Biscay has quite a reputation of being very rough, as does Cape Horn, even the English Channel too but at times these seas can be very calm.

Now irrespective of what anybody might tell you, all ships go up and down in rough seas – PERIOD.  Ships can Pitch: a front to back movement, and Roll: a side to side movement, or can even do a combination of both.  Fortunately today’s newer cruise ships tend to be very big, thus more stable than smaller ships of yesteryear.  You are more likely to feel ill on a 30,000 gross tonne ship than a 90,000 gross tonne ship in the same sea conditions.

Fortunately cruise ships have ‘stabilizers’ which can be deployed.  These are like underwater wings which are computer controlled to counter-act the motion of the  sea.  These help reduce the movement of the ship.

Cabin location is a very important tool for the nervous.  The lower down and the more central the cabin location, the better.  The bow (front) or stern (back) of the ship are the worst places to be in rough seas.  Also the higher decks are not so good for stability.  Curiously some of the most expensive accommodation on –board a ship tends to be high and/or at the stern, or bow, all of which are unstable locations in a storm.

So what if you do feel sick:  They used to believe in the great days of the Ocean Liners that Champagne & Celery helped.  They also used to make all a ships mirrors in public rooms and lifts from smoked glass so passengers could not see how pale they actually looked in a storm.  Unfortunately, neither solution is based on medical science!

Today, motion sickness tablets should be your first defence.  It is wise to take them before you actually feel ill.  There are both the ‘drowsy’ and ‘non-drowsy’ types.  The drowsy type are likely to “put you out like a light” and you can sleep it off’, but I would not recommend them as you will miss part of your cruise.  If tablets do not work for you,  the second line of defence is the ship’s doctor who has a magic ‘injection’.  Although this is normally chargeable, it can work wonders.

Some people believe that ‘Sea Bands’ can help.  These are two wrist straps which allegedly work by putting pressure on acupuncture points to counter-act sickness.  Others believe there affect, if any, is only physiological.

Some suffers feel that enclosed spaces do not help, so sitting in a public lounges, ideally on a lower deck, amidships, can help.  Many suffers feel that fresh air helps them feel better, so sitting on your balcony or on deck may also help.

Although sea-sickness is very real, there does seems to be a physiological aspect to it as well.  If you are engaged in conversation and/or keeping fully occupied you may not fee the affects so badly.  When sleeping, people do not tend to be so affected by the motion of the sea either.

My final piece of advice is that you should really not worry about sea-sickness, it may not even happen.  Just choose your departure date, ship size and cabin location carefully and have some tablets as a back up.

Malcolm Oliver

Below: Big ships are more stable. This one is a city afloat:

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3 Responses to ““Will I get Sea-Sick”?”

  1. V Anderson Says:

    It is mal de mer in French. Mer being the French for sea

  2. Malcolm Oliver Says:

    No. The only modern ship that makes a good Ocean liner is the ‘Queen Mary 2’ which was BUILT for the North Atlantic run!

  3. khasanda Says:

    Would the quantum class cruise ships make for good ocean liners

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