Tips to Avoid “Mal de Mer” or Seasickness

I have a confession.  I am subject to Mal de Mer, which is a fancy phrase for seasickness.


My first experience with this most unpleasant ailment was as age nine, on an afternoon fishing trip with family and friends.   There were soft swells on the ocean, and after only half an hour, I turned green…. I will spare you the rest.


The next time I ventured into a boat, the ‘vessel’, if I can call it that, was a Swan Boat in Boston Public Garden.  For those of you unfamiliar with Boston, these are paddle boats holding approximately 20 passengers, moving at the rate of perhaps one mile a day, in a shallow pond with not even a ripple.  Green again, but this time I made it safely to shore.


Why am I telling you all this?  Because I was afraid to take a cruise fearing a week or more of dizziness and nausea.   While other people were dancing, eating and enjoying the scenery, I envisioned myself lying in bed with a cold towel pressed to my forehead.  Meals for me would be ginger ale and saltines, not an exciting prospect for a vacation.


Yes, I knew about Benadryl, and the famous seasickness injections ,administered in the ship’s infirmary after the fact, that would render me sleepy for approximately 24 hours, but that didn’t seem like fun either.


Still, I really, really wanted to go on a cruise.  Fate intervened when my husband gave me a birthday present of a cruise to Bermuda—and my doctor gave me a prescription for the  little ‘patches’ worn behind the ear to diminish the effects of seasickness without making one sleepy.

And that, dear readers, was the beginning of the most exciting travel adventures I could imagine.


While even the hardiest of sailors sometimes succumb to this malady, I am happy to share some of my prevention techniques.   First, the choicest stateroom location for the motion-sensitive passenger is low and to the center—that is where the ship is least likely to exhibit movement.   (Try putting a pencil across your hand and moving it back and forth.  The middle of the pencil sways the least.)


In rough water, try to face forward, in the direction the ship is moving.  I always sit in this position while eating my meals.   If you’re out on a deck, face the horizon.  Try to avoid looking sideways as that can increase a sense of dizziness, as you will have a feeling of both rocking and rolling.


If little bags tucked discretely onto the ship’s bannisters start appearing, it is time to evaluate what you should be eating.  There are lots of passengers who suffer from this malady on occasion, but it doesn’t prevent them, or me, from sailing.    It is claimed green apples are helpful, but I have not found these to be enticing while I feel as green as the apples, though I do chew on ginger and ginger candies.


Which brings me to my favorite travel jewelry— not gold or diamonds, but pairs of sea-band bracelets originally worn by sailors.  A form of acupressure, these are actually quite effective.     Being fashion-conscious, I possess them in four different colors to match my outfits!


The occasional bouts I have endured is nothing compared to the joys of ocean travel.  I have seen penguins float by my ship on ice floes, and watched lava flow into the ocean off the shores of Hawaii.   I have sailed into Sydney Harbor, and been on the first passenger ship to sail on the Orinoco River while the locals rowed out to greet us in small canoes.    I have come to love the beauty of the oceans, the smell of salt air, dolphins swimming alongside the ship, the brilliance of the nighttime stars and the occasional ‘green flash’ at sunset.


So while I might not venture onto Swan Boats again, I am always anticipating my next ocean voyage.  And where am I while you are reading this–crossing the Atlantic Ocean aboard the Queen Mary 2!



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