Cruise Lifestyle: How to treat and prevent seasickness on your next cruise

Seasickness, or the fear of it, is what Cruise Arabia & Africa has found to be passengers greatest concern before booking a cruise or boarding the ship. This is with good reason too…

Despite the highly publicised Costa Concordia disaster in January last year, or the more recent Carnival Triumph engine room fire that left the ship adrift for five days and forced the world’s largest cruise line to eat millions of dollars worth of humble pie, seasickness, or the fear of it, is what Cruise Arabia & Africa has found to be passengers greatest concern before booking a cruise or boarding the ship.

This is with good reason too, at least 33% of people are prone to motion sickness in mild conditions and this increases to more than 66% in ‘severe’ conditions, such as a storm at sea. It is therefore a legitimate concern, especially for those who have never gone on a cruise.

Instead of wasting your time explaining what seasickness, or motion sickness, is (everyone knows its related to the vestibular system within the inner ear, the body’s “balance center”, which kicks off if there is a conflict between what is seen and how the inner ear perceives it), we’ll instead focus on how to treat it.

Cruise Arabia & Africa readers should note, however, that the chances of you suffering seasickness are slim if you aren’t prone to getting car sick, which is a good barometer of your tolerance to motion.

Also, in the Arabian Gulf, where conitions are consistently calm through much of the year, the chances of seasickness are extremely low – you probably wont even realise you’re at sea unless you look at the window!

In the Indian Ocean around South Africa, however, seasickness is more of a possibility because of the often-tempestuous nature of the waters here, with ocean currents funneled into the Mozambique Channel and pushed against prevailing trade winds, creating the perfect conditions for rough seas.

Sailing aboard the MSC Symphony between Bazaruto and Durban in the mid-90s, one of Cruise Arabia & Africa’s staff became seasick and worried they might die, but by the end of the day, they were more worried that they wouldn’t!

Footage of MS Marco Polo in deadly storm that left one dead

So, here are our picks for the best ways to treat seasickness:

Sea-Bands?

These handy little black bands worn around the wrist have become popular in recent years because they’re proven to work for many cruise passengers, or at least ‘take the edge off’ for others. Requiring no medication, they work to alleviate seasickness and its accompanying symptoms (nausea, vomiting etc) using acupressure in the wrists. You can put one on before you board, or have one handy for when you feel that quintessential rise and fall of the deck as the ship’s bow meets the oncoming waves, it is this up and down motion that causes seasickness fastest. With the Sea-Band, you wont have to miss the evening show!

Dramamine?

Some of us prefer straight up, clinically tested and proven medication to namby-pamby natural remedies. If you’re one of them, you should try Dramamine, which is marketed in South Africa as Meclizine and in the Middle East under a number of variations of Dramamine – all are the same drug, however, an antihistamine that inhibits the simulations of the inner ear. It only works, however, if taken before you become seasick. There are specific dosages for adults and children and it is available as a liquid or a tablet.

Ear Patch?

Scopolamine is one of the best known remedies, or preventative measures, for seasickness. While it has been proven to work in treating motion sickness, through the use of a small patch on the back of the ear, which releases small dosages of medication into the skin that interferes with the communication between the nerves and area of the brain that controls vomiting, its side-effects are patchy (sorry!) ranging from mild such as dry mouth, to more serious effects such as heart issues – always consult a doctor before trying any medication.

Surprising Cruisers’ Choice Awards for 2013

Additional Remedies

Modern medicine began coming up with ways to treat seasickness in the mid to late 20th century, but humans have been exploring the world’s oceans for millennia, leading to a plethora of natural remedies for this condition. Cruise Arabia & Africa hasn’t extensively tried any of them, but our readers have commented on their efficacy.

Eating saltine crackers, or a plain piece of toast to ‘settle the stomach’.

Chewing on ginger, or anything chewy such as gum or biltong.

Breathing fresh air on deck – this is one of the most effective temporary alleviants of seasickness.

Setting your sights on the horizon.

Undergoing acupuncture therapy in the ship’s spa.

Limit your exploration of the ship’s areas to the centre of the vessel, where there is least movement, do not go forward or aft.


It goes without saying that Cruise Arabia & Africa, as a cruise information resource, is not a medical authority, and in-depth details of the side-effects, dangers, or efficiency of any medication should be sought elsewhere.

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