How to Avoid Getting Sick on a Cruise Ship
Cruise ships are considered to be notorious hotbeds for illness,
especially the "firing out both ends" kind
. If you'd rather spend your trip soaking up sun and drinking Bahama Mamas than seeing your buffet dinner in reverse, follow these tips.
Despite the horror stories you hear about passengers being trapped on the S.S. Vomit, the odds are generally in your favor. Aimee Treffiletti, head of the CDC's Vessel Sanitation Program (which inspects all cruise ships in U.S. waters), explained to the Los Angeles Times that acute gastrointestinal illness (AGE) is pretty infrequent, and the chance you'll get sick is declining. In fact, Treffiletti says less than 0.25% of the 73 million cruise ship passengers between 2008 and 2014 suffered AGE, so there's no need to fear.
That said, sickness can still strike, and when it does, it will hit a cruise ship hard . Everyone is trapped in the same place, breathing the same air, touching the same surfaces, and eating the same meals. Here's what you can do to avoid an epidemic, and avoid spreading it to others:
Wash your hands often
: This should be a no-brainer, but
make sure you do it right
. Do it after you use the bathroom, before eating, and anytime after you've been touching things in common areas, like railings or door handles.
Carry around hand sanitizer
: When you can't wash your hands, hand sanitizer is the next best thing. Might even consider wiping down things in your cabin, like doorknobs, remotes, and phones.
Do laundry and wear clean clothing
: This is basic hygiene, but it can save you from getting sick too. Norovirus and other gut-wreckers can hang around on contaminated garments, so don't push your luck.
Get plenty of sleep
: You're going to encounter germs no matter what. Make sure your immune system is up for the fight.
Drink lots of bottled water
: You need to stay hydrated to fight off bugs, but don't trust the tap water or ice anywhere. This is especially true when you're docked and wandering around another country's port.
Watch what you eat
: Don't eat food while you're on shore in developing countries, only eat food that is cooked thoroughly and served hot, don't consume unpasteurized items, and skip produce unless it has a removable skin.
Don't share utensils, food, or drinks
: Avoid self-serve foods if possible, but if not, use a napkin to hold tongs, spoons, and ladles. Also, don't take a bite or have a sip or someone else's food or drink. If they're infected, that's it all it takes to spread disease.
Use your own restroom
: When possible,
Joanne Chen at Conde Nast Traveler suggests
you skip the public restrooms and use your own instead. There are still germs in your restroom, but they're yours and not from several hundred other people on the ship.
: If you start to show symptoms of any illness, let the ship's medical team know so they can do whatever they can to prevent you spreading it. You might get quarantined, but you could save everyone else from suffering. If you're feeling sick before you get on the boat, think about changing your plans.
The CDC suggests you make sure you and your family are up to date on routine vaccines before you leave as well. And check to see if where you're going requires additional vaccinations on their Travelers' Health page . If you're not sure where to start, sit down with your doctor and go over your trip itinerary. Of course, not all sickness is caused by a nasty germ. If the motion of the ocean is your problem, fear not, we've got tips for that as well .