Unless you’re one of the unlucky ones who are prone to seasickness, a holiday on the high seas shouldn’t pose too many health risks. If you’re planning to cruise for more than a few days, or travelling to a distant country, however, here are several things to consider to ensure that you have a healthy holiday.
1. Existing health problems
If you have an ongoing health problem, choose a ship with a doctor on board, and avoid cruises to remote places, or itineraries with many sea days. Also get a full health check before you travel and, if you have special dietary needs, check with the cruise line before booking. Large ships generally cater for special diets, such as those including low salt or low in cholesterol.
Carry enough supplies for your trip of any medicines that you take regularly, plus a little more in case of any delays; also pack prescriptions for anything vital, in case your supplies are lost or destroyed. A basic medical kit, containing aspirin or paracetamol, band-aids and other over-the-counter medicines, may also save you a trip to the ship’s doctor. If you need oxygen, most cruise lines can usually provide oxygen tanks but you will need to pre-order these.
If it’s been a while in between overseas trips, check up on the status of your childhood vaccinations, including tetanus. If your cruise will take you to a less-developed country and you will be eating onshore a lot, consider having a hepatitis A shot. The risk of malaria is very low on a cruise; however, if travelling through malarial areas take insect repellent in case it’s not available on the ship, and be prepared to use it and cover up for protection.
4. Colds and tummy upsets
While there is an increased emphasis on hygiene on ships these days, illnesses such as colds and respiratory infections can still break out on board, and be passed around easily. If you have an ongoing respiratory condition, a flu shot might be worth considering. Traveller’s diarrhoea can hit you anywhere, especially if you eat ashore, so only drink bottled water when you are away from the ship, avoid undercooked meats and fish, and fruits, unless you can peel them. I never travel without my gastro-stop tablets and some fluid replacement medicine, such as Hydrolyte. If you need them, you won’t regret this decision.
Norovirus is a common cruise ship illness, causing symptoms including nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. It is transmitted in several ways, including through person-to-person contact and via contaminated surfaces. To avoid catching norovirus, wash your hands after using the bathroom, before eating, and regularly use the hand sanitisers provided in public areas. You know what they say; it is better to be safe than sorry.