Here’s Part 2 offering more tips for keeping your kids safe and healthy on a cruise.
The only thing worse than suffering from seasickness is watching your child succumb to it. What was supposed to be a fun-filled family cruise turns into a nightmare of nausea as your wannabe-sailor is plagued by dizziness, stomach cramps and vomiting. Travel agents will ensure you that today’s large modern vessels are equipped with sophisticated stabilizers and weather detectors to ensure smooth sailing. However, it’s not just the big swells that bring on this mal de mer. Sometimes it’s the subtle motion that messes with the brain’s perceptions and inner-ear’s equilibrium, and you never know who and when one might be afflicted. Children aged 3 to twelve and women happen to be more vulnerable to this malady – it’s not a sign of weakness or frailty or, as my husband likes to rib me, an imaginary psychosomatic condition I should just get over. It’s real, and it’s nasty.
So what can you do about it? There are several prevention and treatment strategies that may be effective for your child. Popular prescription patches like Transdermal Scopolamine are not recommended for under 18s, but over-the-counter meds like Dramamine (Gravol) and Benadryl work well for children over two and come in various forms and flavors. These are best taken one to two hours before boarding the ship as a preventative measure, but are also effective for treating symptoms once they occur. The downside is they’ll probably make your kid drowsy. More natural seasickness remedies include the Sea-Band acupressure wrist band, which comes in children’s sizes, and various forms of ginger such as real ginger ale or ginger beer (check the label to make sure it contains ginger root), ginger tea, or, most brilliantly, candy lozenges like Queasy Pops.
Other suggestions are to have your child go out on deck, breath in the fresh air and gaze at the horizon soon after embarking. The less time spent below deck or in a porthole-free stateroom the better, and resist the instinct to lie down (being horizontal often amplifies the wavy sensations). Avoid close-up activities like reading, coloring and playing with hand-held electronics until you know your child has adjusted to the shipboard instability. If there is an onset of nausea, make sure your child drinks plenty of water and keeps something light like crackers or toast in the stomach. The good news is seasickness usually subsides in a few days as the body adjusts to the motion of the ocean, so your child should be able to enjoy at least part of the cruise.
Sun and water safety
You’ll no doubt be spending lots of time near water on a cruise ship – you’re literally surrounded by the stuff. Swimming pools, water slides, splash parks and even surfing simulators are a main cruise ship attraction, and your children will surely be spending plenty of time running around in a bathing suit. It goes without saying but bears repeating, be sun sensible with your children. Apply (and reapply) plenty of sunscreen, have them don a hat and try to keep them out of the high noon rays. Be especially alert when it comes to pools and water play. Tempting as it is to lie back on a lounger with your nose in a book, make sure someone is responsible for keeping a watchful eye on the kids around water at all times. Even so called “good swimmers” need vigilance and supervision.
Too much of a good thing
Today’s family-oriented cruise ships are not your grandmother’s shuffleboard and bingo boats of yore. The range of adrenalin-invoking activities offered onboard include adventurous things like rock climbing, ice skating, and circus school not to mention popular shore excursions like zip lining, paragliding and cave tubing. The pros: plenty of opportunities for kids to try new things, stretch their skills and push their limits. The cons: increased potential for accidents and mishaps along the way. In fact, some special kid, youth and teen programs can be quite strenuous and challenging. Many youngsters want to dive right in and find themselves over their heads. While every effort is made to keep supervised activities age-appropriate and participants safe and intact, we all know that kids have a tendency to overestimate their abilities and peer pressure may tempt them to try and keep up with new cruise-mates. Just be aware of the inherent risks involved in some of these activities and try not to let your child step too far beyond his or her capabilities.
Pace yourselves by not packing too much excitement into one day. Shore excursions and shipboard activities can tire kids (and grown-ups, for that matter) out. You all need some rest to counterbalance the excitement and keep your immune systems in check. If you have a particularly active day, take it easy the next. Being trapped in confined quarters with over-stimulated, burnt out kids does not make for a good vacation.