It was one of those things I thought would never happened to me. In the middle of a snorkeling session on Aruba I was feeling a little tired. It had been a long day with a lot of sun, pina coladas and rum punch. I thought maybe I should have eaten more at lunch.
Once back on the ship, I enjoyed a cocktail, dinner, and went off to karaoke. That’s when it hit. I felt a little wobbly and there was a weee scratch at the back of my throat. I begged off karaoke and the snorkel/beach trip planned early the next morning and went to bed.
The next day, Curacao, I went slow. Things were fine until I could feel my left sinus swelling. It was a sign my allergy shots didn’t work on something in the air. As I returned to the ship, a post nasal drip started. In the real world, I would go into “sick prevention” mode: drinking copious amounts of water, herbal teas and garlic/ginger/herb chicken broth and lying in bed as early as possible with a thick layer of vapor rub on my chest and the humidifier on high.
In the cruise world, I ignored the drip until again after dinner I began to feel wobbly and snuck off to bed early. By the next morning, I had a full blown sinus infection that eventually contributed to me losing my voice and picking up a cold. I became THAT person. The one with the constant runny nose and miserable cough. The one everyone on the ship fears for their cruise too could be ruined.
Here is some wisdom/advice if you fall ill, but not enough for the ship’s doctor-
1. The OTC medications are extremely limited in the ship’s store. If you are packing medications add your favorite non-food cold remedy (ies). This includes cough drops. The ship may only carry a “natural” brand that has all the effectiveness of a Jolly Rancher.
2. Bring the saline spray if you have sinus issues. One would think that an ocean floating vessel has the humidity to help out. That is true if you are on deck, but in your climate controlled cabin the air is dry. Again, the ship I was on didn’t sell any and I wasn’t able to get any until we reached port again two days into illness.
3. There is not a lot of “sick” people food on a cruise. Let’s face it, cruise food is a little heavier, saucier, and richer than even most everyday food. I could get poached eggs and toast in the MDR for breakfast, and there was a chicken noodle soup on the lunch menu. I avoided the buffet except to pick up a banana and drinking water (both hot and cold). That was the most I could find without special requests.
It took some strategy, but I used my cabin bathroom as much as possible instead of the public area restrooms. This allowed me to have a good coughing and nose blowing session while I was there. Since my immune system was compromised, this hopefully helped me avoid another bug and I hopefully was minimizing germ spread. I could also use a moisturizing soap and/or lotion when I washed my hands. The on ship sanitizers are harsh and this minimized soreness on my skin.
5. I went to the spa first thing in the morning. My biggest indulgence on a cruise is a pass to the spa. I was so desperate one morning to get some steam in my sinuses, I arrived at the spa as soon as it was open. I was the only one there. It was like that for at least 30 minutes every day and I was able to use the steam room before anyone else was around. The steam room brought some nice relief in the mornings and I could avoid other passengers while still getting some “vacation.”
6. Hopefully club soda is in all drink packages. This was a lifesaver as I slashed the consumption of alcohol (so much for the drink package) and didn’t want water with every meal.
7. Did you know that in Jamaica, the moms put some rum, honey and lime in hot water and have you drink the concoction when you have a cold? My MDR waiter told me that when I ordered a shot of whiskey, some hot water and lemon.
9. Give yourself a curfew. Depending on timing, I was able to dance for a few minutes at a couple of dance parties and left soon after. I avoided shows and a couple of other planned activities with friends. One night I stayed for after dinner drinks at a martini bar and had a coughing fit. I felt bad for the lady who tried to crawl inside her seat. Not that much. My friends got the chairs.
1 The plane ride home is the worst. In hindsight, I should have looked into moving my flight to the next day and gotten a hotel room. I was mending nicely by going to bed early, keeping hydrated and taking my motley array of OTC cold and sinus remedies. Instead I headed to the airport for seven hours of flights and 3 hours of waiting in a public place where I couldn’t lie down, truly sleep, nor use a private bathroom. The flights extended the illness and clogged my ears so badly, I had to finally call a doctor.