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9 common sense ways to avoid getting sick on a cruise ship

Worried about staying healthy on a family cruise? I don’t know. All you need is a few simple precautions.

Let’s start by clearing up some common misconceptions about going on cruises.

While norovirus cases on cruise ships can make alarming headlines, they actually affect less than one percent of all passengers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Members of your family are more likely to contract an illness at work, school or on public transportation.

The idea that cruise ships are germ-infested Petri dishes is also wrong. Cruise lines are hyper-vigilant about hygiene and sanitation, and cases of food poisoning or water contamination are also extremely rare.

The main health risk on a boat is through person-to-person contact. If a passenger becomes ill, a contagious disease can spread relatively quickly because a ship is a closed environment where passengers touch the same handrails, elevator buttons, door handles, etc.

The best way to ensure your family stays healthy is to follow these guidelines:

  1. Wash your hands frequently. This is the best way to keep you and your family healthy. Teach young children to rub their hands well, not politely.
  2. Bring antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer. Cruise ships provide hand sanitizer dispensers at the entrances to each dining room and around the ship. Have your whole family sanitize each time you pass a dispenser, and carry a small bottle in your purse or day bag. Nor can it hurt to disinfect the most germ elements in your cabin, such as the TV remote control and light switches.
  1. Be careful with self-service foods. When in the buffet line, be aware of serving utensils used by multiple passengers. It can’t hurt to re-sanitize your hands after the buffet line and before eating. The same is true when using self-service ice cream and beverage dispensers on the top deck.
  2. Drink bottled water. The water on the boats is filtered and drinkable, but if you’re still worried, just drink bottled water. Always bring bottled water when exploring ports of call.
  3. Eat cooked food when visiting ports of call. Cruises have very strict guidelines for food preparation, so it is safe to eat salads, fruits, and vegetables on board. But when in port, particularly in less developed countries, it’s best to stick to well-cooked food, as high cooking temperatures kill bacteria.
  1. Get enough sleep and stay hydrated. Cruises are full of guts with ways to have fun, so it’s tempting to leave all the time. But getting weaker will weaken your immune system, so be sure to enforce quality downtime for yourself and the kids.
  2. Don’t forget sunscreen. The sea breeze can make you forget how strong the sun’s rays are on the upper deck of the ship. Apply a high SPF sunscreen generously and often to avoid sunburn.
  3. Prevent dizzy tummies. You are less likely to be motion sick on large cruise ships, and there are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of motion sickness. But if you’ve never sailed before or if you know someone in your family is very prone to seasickness, plan ahead for these preventative anti-motion sickness remedies.
  1. Be on the lookout for sick passengers. If you notice that a passenger appears to be ill, stay away. If you see someone who is coughing incessantly or vomiting, tell a crew member so the passenger can isolate themselves.

Worried about germs when you travel? Here are 6 things to sanitize when you fly and 6 things to sanitize in your hotel room.

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