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  • Writer's pictureMike Bechtol

Overcoming My Top 5 Cruising Fears

I had already visited all 50 US states and most US national parks before I took my first cruise at age 53. I had long dreamed about cruising, but a variety of fears, spanning from the mythical to totally legitimate, stifled me for years from booking that first cruise. Roadtripping will forever remain my favorite travel style, but cruising has opened new doors, presented a great new perspective, and provided the opportunity to visit many new countries and locations over a short time without constantly packing and unpacking. Cruising is certainly not for everyone, and someday I’ll post about the pros and cons. But for now, here are my top 5 fears and concerns (from biggest to smallest) that prevented me from cruising until a few years ago, starting with…

1. MOTION SICKNESS – This was my #1 deal-breaker. For those who are susceptible to seasickness / motion sickness, this is a totally legitimate concern. I remain convinced that I am in the top one percentile of motion sickness sensitivity. I have repeatedly experienced serious motion sickness on small boats, small aircraft, flight simulators and amusement rides. A particularly nauseating 15-minute experience in Gatlinburg paralyzed my lips, face, hands and feet to the point that I could not properly stand or walk, frightening my children who were unaffected by this nightmarish ride. Dramamine, pressure-point wristbands, ginger gum, nor any other over-the-counter precautions have always been completely ineffective. NONE has ever prevented my temporary, yet intense misery, plus I find the side-effects of Dramamine to be quite unpleasant. The notion of cruising at sea for several hours or days without seasickness relief was irreconcilable.

It is most unlikely that you are as susceptible to motion sickness as I am, however, there is a medication in the form of a skin patch that helped alleviate my seasickness fears. It’s called “Transderm-Scop”. It has potential side-effects, but I experienced nothing negative except for a bit of dizziness and fog after removal. It’s a prescription, so you’ll need to talk to your doc about drug interactions, overall health, side-effects, etc., but it seems to have worked for me.

HOWEVER… I’m not sure I really needed it on my first cruise. I boarded the Norwegian Getaway with a patch behind my right ear. I had never cruised and I was still apprehensive about seasickness, but experienced nothing that would have triggered my unmedicated seasickness. I’ve worn the patch ever since. I’ve never been seasick while wearing it.

The following year in Alaska, I received absolute confirmation of the medication’s effectiveness. Wearing the patch, I was one of three passengers in a small plane. We encountered some extended rough air. The passenger in the front seat (without medication) puked into the barf bag that I was asked to hand to him. I smiled because I felt fine.

My extreme motion sickness sensitivity, and fear of seasickness prevented me from cruising for years. Some rough water is always possible, and I certainly can’t offer a 100% no-seasickness guarantee, but the patch has worked wonders for me… on the ship… and on small shore-excursion boats.

2. COST – Long, long ago, a cruise was a vacation for the wealthy and elite. Today, cruises range from a few hundred bucks per person for a 3-4 day trip out of South Florida, to tens of thousands for lengthy, exotic journeys. Choice of cruise line, type of cabin, and add-ons such as spa packages, drink packages and shore excursions can significantly add to the cost. After adding in port taxes, gratuities and insurance, first-time cruisers may experience sticker shock. However, if you keep in mind that your all-inclusive cruise includes all of your food, transportation and on-board entertainment, cruising becomes quite a value. If you’re on a tight budget, consider an interior cabin with no add-ons.

3. VIRUSES AND CONTAGIOUS ILLNESS – There is a heightened risk contagious illness anytime people congregate. Close living quarters and extended time together increases the risk while cruising. Health officials track cruise ship outbreaks, so they are discovered and reported more quickly than outbreaks on land. It seems we can’t turn on the news without hearing about the latest ship-borne outbreak. The number of outbreaks is actually quite small, and usually affects a small percentage of passengers. Yes, there is a risk, but perhaps not as much as is typically believed. Following sanitation protocols and frequent use of the countless hand sanitizer stations helps mitigate the risk.

4. BAD WEATHER / ROUGH SEAS – Through four cruises, I’m fortunate that I have never encountered any intense storms or exceptionally rough seas, so my experience is limited. But I can say that I’m 4 for 4 when it comes to smooth sailing.

5. OVERALL SAFETY – Every time cruise ships crash into each other, a ship tips over, a crime is committed, there’s a fire, or someone falls overboard… it’s headline news. Reality is that these issues are uncommon.

Those were my biggest fears before I booked my first cruise, a 7-day western Caribbean adventure aboard Norwegian Getaway. Others may suffer from claustrophobia, agoraphobia, or apprehension about being on the open sea. Some may shudder at the mere mention of the Titanic.

I’m happy to say that all of my fears have been greatly reduced simply by exposure and experience. I’m sorry that I waited this long to discover this exciting and rewarding travel style.

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