A Disney Cruise offers unique experiences that you can’t get anywhere else, but it always seemed out of reach for my husband, who is a severe motion sickness sufferer. He has suffered from motion sickness his whole life, and has been sick on just about any form of transportation you can name: plane, boat, car, helicopter (on our honeymoon), and even while parasailing. After 12 years of marriage, I’ve learned not to pressure him into doing anything he feels uncomfortable with, and I’ve learned that I just can’t judge what kind of activities will cause an issue for him.
A few years ago, he decided that he had to stay home while I went to the Bahamas for my first ever cruise: three nights on the Disney Dream with our two daughters. We had an amazing time, but we wished we could have experienced it with him.
So, I was very surprised when recently, my husband suggested that we all go on a Disney Cruise together. I was hesitant to agree. Would he be okay? Would I just spend the whole trip worrying about him? We started to do some researching and planning.
Stateroom Location: I heard that the best location for a stateroom if you suffer from motion sickness was the middle of the ship. So we booked a cabin on deck 6 (on a 12 deck ship) that was located in the middle of the hallway (equal distance from aft and front of the ship).
Length of Cruise: I had heard that longer cruises, and on bigger ships, were often the most stable in terms of rocking. We knew the Disney Dream was a pretty big ship, but on my prior three-night cruise there was a bit of rocking one night. However, we really had no idea if my husband would be sick the entire cruise despite the length, so we decided to just go with a three-night cruise. We figured if it didn’t work out, at least it would only be three days of hell for him.
Excursion Planning: We planned as much time off the boat as possible, wanting to get our feet on dry land to recover for a while, if needed. We planned for “the worst” by booking a cabana at the Atlantis Aquaventure water park during the stop at Nassau. We figured that he could relax in the cabana while the kids and I rode the waterslides. Luckily, we also were able to reserve a cabana on Castaway Cay. This was not easy to get and I checked the booking website just about every day for months. The only thing available at first was a Serenity Bay/Adults only cabana, which we were prepared to use (send kids to the kids club for part of the day), but we were able to upgrade to a family cabana once on board. The DISboards were helpful as I was figuring this out.
Prior to taking anything, my husband went to his doctor, got a full checkup and some recommendations. We also talked to some friends who were experienced cruisers, and got some feedback from the DISboards as well. In the end, he considered a few options. Disclaimer: your results may vary. I’m not a doctor and I’m not recommending anything. I am just sharing the options that we considered.
– Original Dramamine: Available over-the-counter, the original formula contains dimenhydrinate, which has been known to make people drowsy. My husband used this years ago during a trip to an amusement park and pretty much passed out halfway through the day.
– Bonine and Dramamine Less Drowsy: Available over-the-counter, both of these products contain meclizine HCL, indicating 24 hours of protection with less drowsiness. Recently my husband started taking this regularly on his airline flights and hasn’t any motion sickness issues.
– The Transderm Scop patch: Available by prescription only, it contains scopolamine. The small patch is applied behind the ear and is meant to work continuously for up to 72 hours. Since we were embarking on a three-night cruise, this option was attractive but we heard that some people had side effects with this method. So my husband tried it out first on a recent trip to Disney World. After riding the Tower of Tower, he still felt great!
– Sea-Band wristbands: Placed over the “Nei-Kuan” point on both wrists and are meant to prevent/relieve nausea caused by motion sickness or morning sickness. They are reusable, and are said to be safe for adults and kids.
– Ginger is a well-known natural remedy for nausea, and even Dramamine markets a “naturals” formula that consists entirely of ginger. It’s all-natural, but we had doubts about something like that being effective enough.
In the end, my husband decided on the Transderm Scop patch, which he applied right before we drove over the port. He also wore the Sea Band wristbands during the day.
The Result: We had an AMAZING time! During the three-night cruise, he didn’t suffer any motion sickness at all but did experience drowsiness from the patch. Further, the patch also comes with a recommendation not to consume alcohol, which he followed. But I didn’t let that stop me from enjoying a few drinks.
Our stateroom location in the middle of the ship was definitely a good idea as we experienced minimal rocking while in our cabin. However, while dining in Animator’s Palate, which is on a lower deck in the back (aft) of the ship, there was quite a bit of rocking. It was enough that my husband left before dessert was served to go back to the room, where he was able to “sleep it off”. I recall that on my previous cruise, that restaurant was also rocky, so for any future cruises I think we might make other plans for that night of our dinner rotation.
Overall, the length of the cruise and the activities we planned seemed to be just about right. But, of course, there was one member of our party who felt seasick the very last night, after riding the Aquaduck several times in the dark. Yes, it was me! So I took a Dramamine, went to bed, and felt awesome in the morning!
Our “plan for the worst” wound up being amazingly awesome, especially since the whole family rode all the water slides at Atlantis, and had an amazing cabana at Castaway Cay. In looking back, I’m not sure we needed to spend all that time off ship, since the ship seemed pretty stable while in the port. In the end, this vacation worked out so well, we fear future vacations may never be able to measure up to this one.
Have you ever experienced cruising with a severe motion sickness sufferer? Are you a sufferer? What are your cruising tips?