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Self-Care

Staying Healthy on a Cruise


For many people, a cruise is an ideal way to relax and see the world. You are surrounded by the gorgeous blue of the ocean, get waited on hand and foot, have activities and events planned for you, and are provided with a seemingly limitless supply of food and drinks—all while having the opportunity to visit multiple countries and destinations.

Although cruising has many obvious pleasures, certain health hazards are also a risk with cruise ship travel. Staying informed and preparing for these potential hazards can help you stay healthy and get the most out of your cruise vacation.

Vaccines

Additional vaccines you'll need depend on where you'll be stopping and what you're going to do there. CDC's general vaccination recommendations, by country, can be found on the Travelers' Health destination pages. However, discuss the cruise itinerary and your specific travel plans with your doctor. If you're stopping in a country only for a short time, or if you don't plan to leave the tourist area around the dock, certain vaccines may not be necessary.

Even if you are not at risk for yellow fever during port calls, some countries in Africa and South America may require proof of yellow fever vaccination if you have previously visited a country with yellow fever. Visit the destination pages for a country's yellow fever requirements. Cruise ship companies sometimes have requirements that differ from those of the countries you will be visiting, so be sure to check with the cruise line about those requirements as well.

Nausea, Vomiting, and Diarrhea

Cruise ship outbreaks of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, primarily caused by norovirus, have been reported. The easiest way to avoid these problems is by frequent handwashing and use of alcohol-based hand cleaners. Most likely, you will see dispensers of these hand cleaners everywhere on a cruise ship—use them, especially if you have touched something other people have also touched (such as a stair railing).

While on shore excursions, especially in developing countries, follow basic food and water precautions: eat only food that is cooked and served hot, drink only beverages from sealed containers, avoid ice, and eat fresh fruit only if you have washed it with clean water and peeled it yourself.

Other Health Concerns

Seasickness is a common complaint of cruise ship passengers. If you are (or think you might be) prone to seasickness, talk to your doctor about medicine to decrease your symptoms. Note that many common medications (including some antidepressants, painkillers, and birth control pills) can worsen the nausea of seasickness.

Various stressors associated with cruising—changes in diet, variation in climate, changes to sleep and activity patterns—can worsen a chronic illness. If you have been diagnosed with such an illness, you should be prepared to monitor your health while on a cruise (for example, frequently testing your blood sugar if you have diabetes). If you regularly take medicine for a chronic illness, make sure you bring enough for the duration of the cruise, plus extra in case of delays, and take it on the same schedule as you would at home.

For more information on healthy travel, visit www.cdc.gov/travel.

For more information on cruising and cruise ship inspection scores, visit CDC's Vessel Sanitation Program.


© 2011 Health Resources Publishing