Health Concerns On Cruise Ships: What You Need to Know To Stay Healthy

It seems that whenever there are health problems on a cruise, it is treated as big news in the media. Yes, the facts are true. There was one instance when 400 people got sick on a cruise. When someone gets sick and it is suspected to be contagious such as the Norovirus, he/she can be quarantined from the rest of the guests. The last thing you want is spending an entire cruise vacation quarantined or trying to recover from an illness.

A ship is a floating city. There are a lot of people on-board in close quarters. All it takes is someone who has a contagious disease to cause an outbreak. If you look at the source you will immediately understand how illness can spread quickly.

That said, all travelers today should be familiar with ways to stay healthy while traveling. Those traveling on cruise ships should not worry excessively, but it is important to take into consideration the inherent differences present between riding on a boat and traveling by other means. With some research and precautions, you should have an enjoyable trip.


So What Are The Recommended Ways To Stay Healthy?

One basic piece of information that many do not consider before departing for a cruise is to consider health concerns in the destination location and not only on the boat itself. Do some research about the destination and see whether or not any vaccinations are recommended for travel to that location. Also take into consideration other precautions that helps people stay healthy at all times, such as the safety of the drinking water in the area.

Start with, with the Vessel Sanitation Program which operates through the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Their job is to inspect ships regularly. They look for cleanliness issues, food storage facilities, food preparation methods, water sanitation, hygiene, pest control and a ship’s disease prevention methods.

After the Vessel Sanitation Program inspects a ship, they issue a report card. That report card is then made available on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention web site. So, before you book your next cruise, research and read your proposed ship’s report card and check their score.

Then, before embarking on your cruise vacation, you will want to schedule a visit with your family doctor. Explain to the physician your itinerary including all the ports of call. Because some countries are known for certain diseases, your doctor may recommend any number of immunizations. This will ensure extra protection against contracting some sort of illness.

If you are taking prescription medications, you should obtain refills. These refills will be readily available if you lose your primary supply while on vacation. This is especially important if the medication is needed for major life support.

In the first moments while on board the cruise ship, find out if there is an on-board doctor and how to contact him/her in case of illness. Also, familiarize yourself with the layout of the ship. It is important that you know where the emergency facilities are located.

Furthermore…..although it is not usually serious, sea sickness is something to be considered when going on a cruise. Most travelers who have this problem recover after a few hours, but the possibility of dehydration should not be taken lightly. In order to avoid this, take precautions to prevent sea sickness from happening in the first place. Take motion sickness medication before first getting on the boat if you are someone who is prone to motion sickness. Even if you are not, it is a good idea to take some medication with you onboard just in case you do end up being affected at some point on your trip. Also consider bringing wrist bands to prevent motion sickness. If you have someone who is traveling with you who is elderly, or if you will be traveling with young children, consider that people of these age groups who are affected by motion sickness may suffer greater damage from dehydration.

Perhaps the most well publicized health concern relating to cruises is the fact that viruses are notorious for spreading on cruise ships. While traveling, it is important to take precautions to prevent contracted diseases anyway, but because of the number of people in close quarters for extended periods of time, viruses have the potential to spread like wildfire on a boat. Try not to worry too much, but do be conscious of the possibility. Wash your hands, use sanitizing alcohol and make sure everyone in your family has this information.

Since germs and illnesses spread easily aboard cruise ships, you will need to protect yourself. This protection involves washing your hands on a regular basis. When most individuals are at home, they wash their hands after completing certain activities. In addition to eating and using the restrooms, you should wash your hands after using all public facilities. If you find it difficult to wash your hands regularly, you may want to obtain a package of disinfecting wipes. If used properly, disinfecting wipes can be just as effective as soap and water.

Cruise ships are popular for their relaxing, stress reducing atmosphere. This relaxation may include lounging on deck. When lounging on deck or taking a stroll, it is advised that you keep your shoes on at all times. As previously mentioned germs can easily spread aboard a cruise ship. Keeping your feet covered at all times will not only protect you from contagious illnesses, but it will prevent you from stepping on harmful objects.

In addition to cruising along water, most cruise ships dock in a port. It is likely that the port you will be visiting is a foreign country. In the event that you end up in a foreign land, it is important that you carefully monitor what you eat and drink. If you notice drinking advisories, you are urged to follow them. Instead of drinking tap water, you may want to opt for bottled water or another bottled beverage. Many individuals are concerned only with the drinking water, but you should also be concerned with ice cubes and water in uncooked foods. Your cruise ship staff is often a great resource regarding safe places to eat and drink.

Apart from diseases and sea sickness, it is also important to consider medical conditions and injuries, both present and potential. If someone in your party has an injury or condition that makes it difficult to get around, make sure to check into accommodations and see how enjoyable the activities on the cruise would be for a person with these conditions. Also consider how this will affect the rest of your party.

It is also important to familiarize yourself with medical treatment available on the boat. Make sure you know who to go to in case of an emergency or injury. For anyone with heart conditions, and even for those without, do familiarize yourself with whether or not defibrillators are located on the boat. Although any traveler, whether on land or on a cruise, should research this information, it is especially important to become familiar with what to do on a boat since medical care is limited compared to options on land.

If you’re booking a cruise with your children, even a “kid’s cruise,” always be aware of the cruise line’s policies regarding child safety. Ask them about how they screen their child care employees, whether or not all crew are required to have first aid certification and – even if you’re cruising with the best – always be aware of where your children are on board at all times.

Last but not the least is food safety. Most digestive problems happen while holidaying because of wrong selection of foods and drinks, buying the right foods from the wrong vendors, irregularity in sleeping pattern, less resting time and sometimes over eating or over drinking. As a result of the above reasons, we suffer from acidity and gastric problems, vomiting, stomach upsets, fever, restlessness, irritation and many more symptoms. The main culprits behind these intestinal ailments are different parasites which enter into our stomach and intestine through food and drinks we consume. Bacteria and viruses play a major role in spoiling our holiday mood.

Are you conscious about food safety issues while travelling by sea? Here are a few tips to save you from health hazards caused for consuming the wrong food while onboard.

• Maintain hygiene: Do not forget the basic rules regarding health and hygiene even while you are enjoying your vacation. Wash your hands with soap and water before every meal. If you have no access to water at that time use a hand gel sanitizer which you can pick up from your nearest drug store before your trip. Disinfecting your hands is a must whenever you eat during your tour.

• Ensure drinking pure water: Water is the main culprit behind most gastrointestinal diseases and other water-borne ailments. So keep an eye on the quality of water you are drinking. Indulge yourself in drinking packaged UV treated water rather than the water supplied in the food court.

• Be choosy about other liquids: Make sure you do not drink unpasteurized milk or other milk products. Even the juices you drink in the cruise must be pasteurized, as in some places the unpasteurized drinks might be contaminated with bacteria. Beverages like tea and coffee should not be made with tap water. Always prefer boiled water if you do not get packaged drinking water. While drinking carbonated beverages or beer or wine make sure to wipe off the surface of the bottle or the can especially the portion which will touch your mouth.

• Consume selected foods: Be aware of the quality of the food stuff you will be eating during your cruise. All foods must be properly sterilized and served hot. Prefer cooked or boiled food rather than uncooked raw food. Be particularly alert while consuming roasted meat, raw sea food, green salads and raw sprouts. The above mentioned foods are more prone to bacterial contamination. If you want to have a fruit delight it is better to buy a complete fruit, peel it by yourself, cut it into pieces and eat. It’s better to avoid fresh cut fruits which are exposed to open air.

• Should you go for “all you can eat”, or “look at all the healthy choices”?: If your favorite part of a cruise isn’t gaining weight during your time at sea, maybe you need to take a new look at your attitude toward the ‘all you can eat’ part. It’s human nature to want to take advantage when something is being offered for nothing–after all, it costs you the same whether you eat 1000 calories a day or 5000 calories a day, right? But think about how you feel after having gotten your ‘money’s worth’. It could end up costing you in many ways later on. Weight gain increases risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer. Besides the health problems, being overweight takes a toll on our self-esteem, our ability to move around comfortably, and our wallets when we have to go out to buy clothes in a larger size!

So what can you do on your next cruise to enjoy what the offerings are, without suffering the physical discomfort and the regret for months later? I look at the buffets like real-life menus: You can see all there is to choose from. But in a restaurant you choose your favorite entree from the list, and one or two side dishes–not half the menu, just because it’s there. Take a look at what there is to choose from and think about what you really like. If you wanted to make a wise choice, which entree would you select? I’m not saying you have to eat baked fish at every meal for a week, but if you enjoyed broiled snapper as much as fried chicken, why not select the healthier option?

Do you really eat six times a day at home? What makes you think it’s a good idea when you’re on a cruise! Take a look at the fantastic and amazing decorative display of food at the midnight buffet. Then have a taste or two of something for a midnight snack (not a meal) and head off to bed to get some much-needed rest–or to the nightclub to dance off some more calories!

Merely taking a moment to think before you eat can make a huge difference. Not just at each meal, but added up over a week it could mean the difference between going home the same weight or gaining three to five pounds. Don’t let the food surrounding you make you feel pressured to eat it all: You’re on the cruise for a nice, relaxing getaway; to enjoy the company of your cabinmate and your fellow cruisemates; to see new sights and encounter new experiences; to take pictures and make memories. Enjoy tasting new foods in small amounts. Challenge yourself to find the most nutritious foods and put together the most nutritious meals. Want dessert? There’s nothing that says you have to eat the entire serving. Taste a few bites of a variety of sweets. Share your calories with a friend!


As you can see, the above mentioned precautionary measures are simple and easy to follow. Why put yourself at risk for illness; especially when it requires little or no effort to stay health and make sure you will always be in good standing.

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