Navigating the Possible Health Hazards on Your Cruise Ship Vacation
Though it’s good common sense to always prepare for illness during your vacation, the reality of how vulnerable you are to infection and disease is often downplayed by the cruise ship industry. The reality is that it is notoriously easy to catch something while sailing on a luxury cruise ship, which can quickly ruin the dream vacation you have been planning for.
Viral infections are extremely easy to get on a cruise ship for many reasons. On a cruise liner, thousands of people are held in close settings with nowhere to go and may be exposed to contaminated food and surfaces which are ideal conditions for spreading infection and disease.
Earlier this year, a Royal Caribbean cruise returned to shore carrying 100 passengers and 3 crew members infected with the norovirus, a viral infection that causes diarrhea and vomiting. This virus is usually transmitted by multiple modes, through contaminated food and water, directly from person to person and by exposure to contaminated surfaces, such as toilet seats, faucet handles, door handles, sheets.
But gastrointestinal distress is just the tip of the iceberg, vacationers should also watch out for respiratory infections on cruise ships, which travel very easily among the thousands of passengers sailing in the middle of the ocean. A good rule of thumb is to prepare by getting a flu shot or even a pneumonia shot.
Of course, disease and infection is possible no matter where you are. That said, there is no reason to think that you can’t take measures to ensure your health on what should be a fun and relaxing time. The following precautions are highly recommended if you are considering a cruise vacation:
- See your doctor and discuss any health risks you should watch out for. He or she may recommend a flu shot, or may prescribe you some medication to take on board just in case.
- Consider getting trip cancellation insurance
- Try to keep skin-to-skin contact (such as shaking hands and hugging) with fellow passengers to a minimum. This is one of the most common ways to spread infection, though of course it must be taken into account that over-fastidiousness in this area can also ruin your vacation. After all, it’s rude to never shake anyone’s hand or insist on wearing gloves just to avoid skin contact.
- When dining, it is better to be waited on than to eat at the buffet. Because the buffet is a communal food source, the chances of infected hands coming into contact with your food goes up exponentially. Of course, this is not to say that you should never eat at a buffet. But should you choose to do so, make sure to cover the food after getting what you want and to only use clean plates when coming back for seconds.
- If you are feeling sick, go back to your room and call the health center. That way, your infection will not spread to other passengers.
- It is a good idea to always use the bathroom in your stateroom rather than the ship’s public restrooms.
- Always wash your hands with soap and water. Bring hand wipes as backup when you are unable to wash, but remember that it is still not as good as washing.
Bacteria and viruses will always be with us, but with the right kind of preparation there is no reason you can’t avoid a debilitating illness during your dream vacation. As long as you take the proper precautions, staying happy and healthy during your cruise trip shouldn’t be a problem.