How Not to Get Sick on a Cruise
Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Friday and we have almost made it through another work week. It has been a very busy week for Dab the AIDS Bear and me.
On the rare occasion when I get to take a real vacation, my favorite way to travel at least once a year is on a cruise. There are many advantages - getting to see multiple ports, you only have to unpack once, someone else does the driving, you don't have to worry about where you are going to eat. But some people fear getting sick while on a cruise, so today I would like to blog about how not to get sick while on a cruise.
Stay on board with these 12 strategies, and, chances are, you’ll be healthy and happy your whole time at sea.
One of the biggest misconceptions about cruise ships is that they’re germ incubators—that you can't escape. But the likelihood of catching a stomach bug on a seven-day voyage is less than 1 percent—which is about a third the risk of getting infected in your day-to-day life back home.
Here's the catch: If someone onboard does succumb to a nasty virus, it can spread quickly across the ship because it's a closed environment where many people share many things. When a sick passenger with poor hygiene touches a water pitcher, doorknob, or poker chips, other passengers may fall ill, too. To avoid the flu virus, stomach bug, or any other infectious condition, stick with the following strategies:
1. SEE A TRAVEL MEDICINE SPECIALIST BEFORE YOUR TRIP.
If you think a bellyache or throat tickle is unpleasant, you certainly do not want to know what dengue fever feels like. A doctor or nurse specially trained in the area of travel will be tuned into the latest updates for vaccines in the areas you’re docking, and can advise you on what’s recommended and what’s absolutely required.
2. PACK YOUR OWN HAND SANITIZER AND TRAVEL-SIZE DISINFECTANT.
While reputable cruise lines train their staff stringently on cleanliness, it doesn’t hurt to be extra cautious and wipe down especially germy parts of your cabin, such as the phone, doorknob, and remote. You can also compare ships according to how they scored in their latest inspection by the Centers for Disease Control Vessel Sanitation Program, but even the best-scoring ships are vulnerable — all it takes is one highly infectious individual to step on deck and change things.
3. AVOID COMMON SERVING UTENSILS.
Cruise lines often minimize self-serve buffets for at least the first two days of trip, so that sick passengers can be identified and quarantined before germs spread. Given that passengers can expose themselves to bacterial and viral infections every time the ship docks, the risks continue throughout the trip. To be extra safe, avoid self-serve options entirely. Not an option? If a fellow passenger in front of you in the buffet line offers to pass along a plate or silverware, decline and help yourself to your own.
4. NO SHARING.
Unless you trust whomever you’re traveling with to be as careful as you are, don’t share plates or sample her cocktail. A person can be infectious without showing symptoms.
5. WASH YOUR HANDS OBSESSIVELY.
Rubbing them in warm soapy running water for about 30 seconds is more effective than using sanitizers, says Aron J. Hall, an epidemiologist on the CDC’s viral gastroenteritis team. Dry your hands with a paper towel and use it to turn off the faucet and exit the door. A gel with at least 60 percent alcohol is helpful for on-the-spot use: after using handrails, door handles, and other frequently touched items, like pens, ATM machines, elevator buttons, golf clubs—after all, you never know when you might touch your face and infect yourself without even realizing it.
6. EAT YOUR FOODS COOKED.
You’re likely fine eating salads, fruit, and raw seafood on reputable cruise lines—they have strict guidelines for keeping foods clean—but avoid them when you’re dining on land, particularly in less developed regions. The high cooking temperatures kill off bacteria and viruses that can make you sick; food poisoning is not a fun addition to any cruise.
7. SKIP UNPASTEURIZED FOODS.
Besides norovirus, there are many other microbes (salmonella, listeria, and campylobacter, for instance) that can cause gastro-hell, and they can lurk in unpasteurized dairy or eggs. If a flan or other egg-heavy dish catches your eye, ask if the eggs are pasteurized. Watch out for unpasteurized cheese as well.
8. USE YOUR OWN RESTROOM.
Public restrooms on reputable ships (usually) have frequent, thorough cleanings by ship staff—but if you don’t need the facilities urgently, why take the risk?
9. REPORT SICK TRAVELERS IMMEDIATELY.
There’s no way to put this delicately: If you see someone vomit, get a member of the crew to clean it up as soon as possible, and stay away. Crew members are trained to take care of the mess quickly and thoroughly, but in the off-chance that doesn’t happen, it’s safest to hang out elsewhere: Droplets of vomit have been reported to aerosolize and travel short distances in the air and settle on nearby surfaces. Stay away from an incessant cougher or sneezer, too, and tell a crewmember if you spot one. That way, the staff person can furnish the passenger with a mask, and keep his possibly infectious droplets from spreading, says Hill.
10. USE BOTTLED WATER.
The tap on board a reputable ship is generally safe. But to avoid getting sick should a rare incident of contamination occurs, drink and brush your teeth with bottled water. This goes for when you’re on-shore in a developing country, too.
11. DO YOUR LAUNDRY WELL.
Norovirus can remain on contaminated garments that are not washed sufficiently. The launders on, again, reputable ships should deliver, but if you decide to do your own laundry in public machines, always wash and dry for the longest time possible and at the highest temperature possible, says Hall.
12. GET ADEQUATE SLEEP AND STAY HYDRATED.
While this may not prevent you from a viral or bacterial attack completely, it will build up your immune system so that you can fight it off more efficiently.
Hopefully these tips will help your next cruise be a healthy and happy once. Hope you have a beary safe and great Friday!
Until we meet again; here's wishing you health,hope, happiness and just enough.
big bear hug,