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How to Stay Healthy on a Cruise
A cruise can be a fun way to see beautiful sights, meet new people, relax, and enjoy great food and drink. Unfortunately, when you have a lot of people together in a small space, it also can be a place to get sick. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers some suggestions for avoiding illness while you cruise:
Vaccines. Make sure your normal vaccines – against measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox and the flu, for example – are up to date. Vaccines are less common in some countries, so you don’t want to be under-protected. Also, check with the CDC’s destination pages about vaccines or other precautions that are specific to your destination.
Gastrointestinal problems. Vomiting and diarrhea are fairly common complaints on a cruise. Sometimes they are caused by seasickness or by eating or drinking too much or things that are unfamiliar to you. But sometimes they are the result of a virus, like the norovirus.
To avoid these issues, the CDC suggests that you be careful what you eat. Don’t eat food that seems undercooked. Drink plenty of water from sources you know to be safe. Wash your hands often with soap and hot water. Be especially careful to wash your hands before you eat and after you use the bathroom.
When you go ashore, don’t eat food that is not fully cooked and still hot. Drink only bottled water, and avoid ice. Don’t eat fruits or vegetables that you have not personally washed in water you know is clean.
You also might want to check with your doctor before you go for suggestions about things you can do or take to combat seasickness and stomach upset.
Respiratory problems. Get a flu shot before you set sail. Then wash your hands regularly, and always sneeze into a tissue – which you then throw away – or your elbow. Try to stay away from people who are coughing or sneezing. Don’t share drinks or food.
In general. Avoid overindulging in alcohol, which can impair your judgment and make you less stable on your feet. You don’t want to fall overboard.
Wear sunscreen. A sunburn can leave you miserable – and increase your risk of skin cancer later on.
If you feel sick while you are cruising, see the doctor on board the ship. Stay in your cabin until you feel better. And if you still don’t feel right when you get off the ship, see a doctor as soon as possible.
Recognize that it is possible you might get very sick when you are sailing or in a foreign port. First check and see if your health insurance will cover an emergency evacuation. If not – which is likely -- you might want to consider a short-term travel insurance policy.
Finally, if you are on Medicare, be aware that Medicare coverage generally does not apply if you are outside the U.S., so you probably need additional coverage for your trip.