How to beat sea sickness if you’re on a cruise

An estimated one in three people experience motion sickness at some point in their lives. And this can be particularly problematic if you’re on a cruise! 

While cruises offer an unparalleled blend of relaxation, adventure, and stunning scenery, unfortunately for some, the gentle rocking of the waves can lead to motion or travel sickness.

To help, Saga Cruises have sought advice from Dr Bhavini Shah, a GP at LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor, to explain the causes of travel sickness and share tips on how to alleviate the symptoms. 

What causes travel sickness? 

Travel sickness can most commonly be put down to motion sickness. The repeated movement of a car, train, plane or boat can often result in feeling nauseous and dizzy, as well as being sick. You may also experience headaches, feel cold or notice you have pale skin. 

Motion sickness is caused by mixed signals in the brain as the inner ear (responsible for monitoring your balance) detects movement while your eyes perceive that you are still. This can be common when travelling on a large ship as you can’t see the same rising and falling that your inner ear feels.  

What techniques or exercises can help alleviate sea sickness symptoms?  

There are a few easy ways to reduce motion sickness when at sea. If you’re on a large cruise ship, you can reduce the amount of motion you feel by spending more leisure time in the centre of ship away from windows during the journey.  

You can also take frequent walks so that your eyes can detect the same motion as your inner ear. Taking a walk on the deck is also a good opportunity to get fresh air, which can also help reduce your motion sickness. Looking out at a fixed point over the horizon can also be beneficial, so long as you aren’t focusing on moving objects, such as waves.  

Avoid reading or watching movies if you feel motion sickness settle in. Instead, close your eyes and listen to music or an audiobook. Having your eyes shut stops ‘positional’ signals from your eyes and reduces confusion in the brain. Sleeping can also help with this.  

What medications or home remedies can prevent or treat travel sickness? 

Ginger is commonly used as a home remedy for travel sickness as it can help reduce nausea. If you suffer from travel sickness, it could be a good idea to purchase ginger tablets for your trip, or just enjoy ginger biscuits or ginger tea.  

Alcohol should definitely be avoided as it will exacerbate any dizzy or nauseous feelings. Instead, take small sips of cold water to calm your stomach.  

Are there any specific medications that are more suitable for certain age groups or medical conditions?  

Travel sickness tablets can help alleviate common symptoms for many people. You’ll be able to find them at most pharmacies or you can buy them online. Pharmacists will be able to recommend the best treatment for you or your child.  

In a pinch, antihistamines can also be used to help prevent motion sickness, however they may be less effective than travel sickness tablets. Some antihistamines can cause drowsiness, which may come in handy to help mellow irritable children on a trip.  

Always consult your doctor before taking travel sickness pills if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have other medical conditions.   

Get help if you are feeling unwell at sea

If you are are prone to motion sickness and feel unwell during a cruise, the onboard medical team will be able to help. Your ship’s medical officer will be able to provide the most suitable travel sickness treatment or suggest remedies to ease symptoms.