There’s nothing more fun than a cruise—but nothing less fun than getting sick on one. Cruise ships have a reputation for being floating germ incubators, but truth is, you have about a third less chance of getting sick on one than you do picking something up at home. However, if someone is contagious and goes around touching stuff (inevitable), because so many people are sharing stuff onboard it’s fairly easy for the germs to spread.
Before you even board…
The more exotic the cruise, the more you should consider seeing your doctor before you leave and making sure you don’t need specific vaccines and your immunizations are up to date. Ask about a flu shot while you’re at it. That should help keep you healthy both on board and on shore.
Hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer.
Can we say it enough? Nowadays there are hand sanitizer stations all around ships, but nothing tops bringing a couple of travel-sized versions of your own—and using them liberally, especially before touching anything on your face and most definitely before touching anything you’re going to put in your mouth. Think after touching handrails, elevator buttons, pens, ATM buttons, door handles… you get the idea.
And don’t skimp on the disinfectant wipes or spray.
Your room may look clean, but you can’t see germs and bacteria without a microscope, so make secret double agent sure it is clean by wiping down the parts that you would also wipe down in any hotel room: remote, doorknobs, phone and light switches.
Did we mention washing your hands?
We don’t want to sound OCD, but washing your hands every chance you get isn’t a terrible idea. In fact, it’s more effective than sanitizers. On that happy note, you might want to bring a long a small tube of lotion so you don’t dry yourself out too much.
Need to take a break?
Head to back to your own cabin. Basically, if you can avoid using public restrooms, do so.
It’s probably not what you were taught to do on the playground, but on a ship it can turn bad. Strangers on ships have a tendency to bond quickly, but sharing food or cocktails can quickly go south. That goes for serving utensils on self-serve buffet lines, too. If you can avoid them, do it. If not, yep, break out the hand sanitizer when you sit down and slather it on before you start eating.
Beware the buffet
Another reason people end up in sickbay? Simply put: too much food. Cruise ship smorgasbords are legendary, and if you’re not used to eating like a Viking (who is?) you’re going to want to take it slow and do a little walking around (minimum) to keep your system moving. Also, keep in mind that lots of sun and lots of alcohol are a potent mix (i.e., hello lots of sunscreen and lots of water.)
Speaking of water…
A great rule of thumb: drink as much as you can, as often as you can. Staying hydrated has multiple benefits, including keeping you on the fuller side so you don’t go overboard (ha) with the food. Oh, and though tap water on board a good ship is usually safe, try to stick to bottled water as much as possible (that goes double for shore excursions.)