Cruises are an excellent way to enjoy a vacation. Once onboard, you don't have to worry about much of anything. Food, travel, activities are all planned for you every step of the way. Plus, you have the opportunity to visit multiple destinations without the hassle of transfers and changing hotels. Because of the nature of cruise ships, however, there are some health risks that you should be aware of before you go.
1. Coronavirus or COVID-19
Yes, the risk of Coronavirus on a cruise ship is real. It is easily passed from person to person, and there is new evidence that it can live on surfaces for extended periods of time. Many people with the virus do not develop symptoms, or they are so mild they are passed off as a common cold or allergies. Unfortunately, those people are spreading the virus to others, like you, who could potentially get very sick.
Most cruise lines have temporarily halted operations to address concerns about Covid-19 and the virus that causes it. They are disinfecting ships and testing employees to ensure transmission does not occur. There are things you can do to lessen the threat that the coronavirus presents.
Make sure to wash your hands. Do it often; do it thoroughly. A minimum of 20 seconds each time with warm, soapy water will help kill germs that you may have picked up. Avoid touching your face and rubbing your eyes. Also, try to keep a moderate distance between you and other passengers. Social distancing can seriously slow down the transmission of airborne illnesses, although it can be difficult to implement in the close confines of a cruise ship.
Before the coronavirus, norovirus was often the biggest concern among cruise travelers. It has caused many ships to return to port after a serious outbreak. Highly contagious, norovirus causes severe digestive distress; the most common symptoms are stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea.
This illness can be transmitted quite easily through person to person contact, and you can become infected from unclean surfaces. It can also be caused by eating contaminated food. According to the CDC, preventative measures include washing your hands often, cooking shellfish thoroughly, washing fresh fruits and vegetables, and staying home when you are sick. With lots of close contact with others and food preparation out of your control on a cruise ship, you may be particularly susceptible to an outbreak from norovirus.
Unless you've had a severe case of seasickness, you probably don't understand why this is included in a health risk. You may experience everything from nausea and vomiting to dizziness, profuse sweating, and severe headaches. These are not exactly the conditions you were hoping for on your vacation.
Even if you have cruised before, it can be wise to take precautions against motion sickness. There are many options for pills, lotions, or wearables that can reduce your chances of feeling ill. If you have already begun to notice signs of seasickness, as at the ship medical center about medications that can help ease them. Prolonged vomiting can lead to dehydration and serious complications, not to mention a ruined trip, so it's best to act quickly.
4. Vector-Borne Diseases
Insects carry many diseases that you may have never heard of: Zika, dengue fever, malaria, the list goes on. If your cruise will be traveling to an area that has high rates of vector-borne diseases, take precautions to minimize your risk. Since you probably don't want to be covered up from head to toe as you lounge on a tropical beach, use an insect repellant that has been tested as safe and effective.
5. Vaccine-Preventable Illnesses
Many sicknesses and diseases are preventable with high vaccination rates. These include influenza, chickenpox and measles. Yet, with many people choosing to forgo vaccination, there are rising cases of outbreaks of these preventable illnesses on cruise ships.
If you are planning to travel, it is best to talk to your health care provider about what immunizations you and your family should receive well in advance. Immunity can take time to develop, so leave at least a couple of months to examine your options.
There are health risks no matter what type of vacation you choose. Cruises may have some unique risks, but they can be lessened with proper sanitation and preventative measures.