In this series of posts, we share advice on how to get the most out of a family cruise vacation. For more on great family cruise vacations, see our Spotlight On: Norwegian’s “Epic” and Family Cruising in the Caribbean.
This post comes to us courtesy of David Yeskel, “The Cruise Guru”
Staying healthy on cruises is all about prevention. In fact, Benjamin Franklin could easily have been speaking to the modern traveler when he espoused his “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” idiom. Frequent hand-washing and use of the ubiquitous sanitizing stations are crucial for remaining healthy at sea, while common-sense precautions and good, general hygiene practices aboard ship are also key. And despite the undeservedly bad rap that the cruise industry is stuck with re: the dreaded intestinal illness, norovirus, the truth is that the perceived threat to passengers is much greater than the actual one. In fact, a recent CDC study showed that of the total number of norovirus outbreaks reported to that agency, only 1% originated on cruise ships.
Cruise lines have ratcheted up their already vigilant efforts to keep passengers and crew healthy. The longstanding, pre-cruise health questionnaire – querying passengers at check-in about violent symptoms experienced within the last 48 hours – is the first line of defense in keeping sickness at bay. Of course, accurate and honest self-reporting by passengers and crew is crucial to the success of this effort.
And while all cruise lines offer sanitizing stations at the gangway and at food service venues aboard, Holland America Line (HAL) actually goes above-and-beyond in their efforts to keep passengers and crew healthy. Use of sanitizer is mandatory when boarding HAL’s ships and when entering the buffet area. And in order to minimize the risk of contagion (for norovirus or any other illness), there is no self-service at the Lido buffet on all HAL ships for the first 48 hours of each cruise. Thus, crew serves all food and beverages during this time.
Prevention is also key in the ship’s kids club, where sanitizers and hand-washing sinks are prevalent, but not always used. Parents should ensure that their children take advantage of these measures, even urging the counselors to stay vigilant with their kids. In fact, children should clean their hands upon entering and leaving the club.
Meanwhile, travelers don’t need to bring any special medications (other than their usual meds), as the ship’s medical staff will have everything needed for minor emergencies, routine infections and seasickness (which is rare due to the use of stabilizers). It is critical, however, that guests bring lots of high-SPF sunscreen and insect repellent with DEET as the active ingredient when traveling in tropical zones. To paraphrase Franklin in modern terms: prevention is key to a healthy cruise vacation, and is certainly much more convenient and pleasant than treatment.
David Yeskel is a veteran travel journalist and the go-to expert for all matters relating to the cruise industry. Over the past 20 years, he has been praised for his outstanding cruise industry coverage for Travel Weekly, TravelAge West, CruiseMates and Tours.com. He is intimately familiar with the vacation options offered by all of the major ocean-going cruise lines and is able to differentiate each line by its level of quality, dining options, entertainment, on-board atmosphere, passenger demographics and ratings. Follow David Yeskel, aka The Cruise Guru, on Twitter at CruiseGuru