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CoralHunter

Getting Sick on a Cruise

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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.

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So sorry to hear about your illness. 
 

We always have an “emergency” makeup bag of an assortment of OTC drugs. If you get sick, you’ll be sick. But if you can treat the symptoms (not so much the illness), you may be able to carry on enjoying a cruise. We have day/night cold tablets, antihistamines, saline spray, Afrin nasal spray, Benadryl, topical antihistamines for bug bites, Tylenol, Bonnie, bandaids, antiseptics. 

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Having a cold/sinus infection on a cruise is no fun. I always travel with anti-histamine, decongestant pills and chewable Pepto Bismol tablets. Last time I was sick on a cruise, we were in St. Lucia. I spied a pharmacy looking with binoculars from my balcony. We left the ship just long enough to go there and get cough syrup. After going through the gauntlet of vendors getting off the ship, we made it to the pharmacy. I picked up what I thought was very overpriced cough syrup, but after they converted the money into U.S. dollars it turned out to be reasonably priced. I was glad it was not my first time in St. Lucia as buying medicine for my cold was the highlight of the day.

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Thanks for sharing.  You gave some excellent advice to managing the dreaded cold/flu/sinus attack that one should be prepared for before, during and after a cruise.

 

I've been there and done that. 

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OP left out the most important thing. Spend the money, go to the ship medical office and get looked at. If it is viral they won't do anything, but if bacterial, as are most sinus infections you get an antibiotic and are feeling better within 36 - 48 hours.

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That happened to me when hubby and I did our Christmas Epic cruise some years ago...I felt so awful by the time we hit Cozumel that I didn’t get off for my prepaid “swim with manatee”” trip - dumb!  Worst part was if I had gone to the ship doctor my trip insurance would have paid for the visit and reimbursed me for my missed manatee swim.

 

I agree with carrying the OTC meds.  I had the same thing happen to me at Disneyworld, as well as on a couple of business trips—I’m a slow learner!  So now my travel kit has mucinex, Afrin, Tylenol, Imodium, Dramamine, anti-blister bandaids, neosporin, and excedrin migraine.  Never leave home without it.

 

OH—and I start Medicare 1/1/20 and I’ve been reading the travel insurance board, so hubby and I are getting GeoBlue Trekker insurance as well, just in case....

Edited by erdoran

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1 hour ago, zqvol said:

OP left out the most important thing. Spend the money, go to the ship medical office and get looked at. If it is viral they won't do anything, but if bacterial, as are most sinus infections you get an antibiotic and are feeling better within 36 - 48 hours.

and if you have it, travel insurance will reimburse you the cost of the medical center visit

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After getting sick on a B2B cruise a several years ago and stuck on the boat with two days at sea and an ill equipped on board ship store I learned my lesson.  Now I carry what others have mentioned above and then some. I also take a mini ice/mini bottle, ace bandage, tape and thermometer. It all fits in a gallon zip lock bag and over the year has come in handy.
 

I promised myself I would never be caught without my own first aid kit no matter where or how I travel. lesson learned.

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1 hour ago, shof515 said:

and if you have it, travel insurance will reimburse you the cost of the medical center visit


We always get travel insurance. Starting 2020 our personal health insurance will cover us around the world. Can’t tell you how happy we were to learn this.

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I carry my own first aid....cough, cold, flu, whatever I can treat OTC...on every overseas trip.  BUT with a sinus infection, the ship doctor should have seen it.  I know someone who has destroyed his health permanently because of a sinus infection left untreated too long.  I woke up to the OTC first aid kit, after I spend over $80 on OTC cold meds in 3 days from the ship store a few years ago, $10 for 4 pills each ripoff and made me mad to boot!

 

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3 hours ago, zqvol said:

OP left out the most important thing. Spend the money, go to the ship medical office and get looked at. If it is viral they won't do anything, but if bacterial, as are most sinus infections you get an antibiotic and are feeling better within 36 - 48 hours.

 

I'm the canary in the coal mine.  Is there's a respiratory illness circulating I'll be sure to catch it.  Luckily most respiratory illnesses are not serious, the culprit is usually a virus not bacterium.  If I went to the doctor every time I caught a cold I would go broke!    

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10 hours ago, lanceholt said:

I carry my own first aid....cough, cold, flu, whatever I can treat OTC...on every overseas trip.  BUT with a sinus infection, the ship doctor should have seen it.  I know someone who has destroyed his health permanently because of a sinus infection left untreated too long.  I woke up to the OTC first aid kit, after I spend over $80 on OTC cold meds in 3 days from the ship store a few years ago, $10 for 4 pills each ripoff and made me mad to boot!

 

Another issue with the OTC meds at the ship’s store beside being expensive, is that on longer cruises, like TA’s, the ship store sells out of the cold/flu remedies.  So if you become ill and need them mid-cruise, you may not be able to purchase them, even at the greatly inflated price.  I too carry my own first aid kit. 

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OP,  I empathize with you.....our last cruise, in the Med on the Jade, what you describe as your symptoms circulated the  ENTIRE ship.  It was the "sickest" ship I have ever been on and all 3 of us caught the dreaded "plague".  It spread like wildfire because it was accompanied by a cough, the easiest way to spread germs.  When I realized I had a pretty bad sinus infection, we were in Greece, where we luckily found out they dispense antibiotics over the counter at their pharmacies.  After touring Athens, feeling so awful, we spotted a pharmacy right across the street from the port.  My saving grace - they dispensed Amoxicillin over the counter thankfully.  It saved the rest of the trip for me - major relief in a day or two!  So I feel for you OP....but on our cruise, it seemed that most everyone on the cruise became a 'vicitm' - it passed like wildfire.

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18 hours ago, zqvol said:

OP left out the most important thing. Spend the money, go to the ship medical office and get looked at. If it is viral they won't do anything, but if bacterial, as are most sinus infections you get an antibiotic and are feeling better within 36 - 48 hours.

If its viral, will they quarantine you by confining you to your cabin?

Edited by MoniMommy

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You should also be careful about dosages when purchasing OTC meds in port.  I packed Advil just in case for my cruise.  I ended up with constant foot pain and ran out, so I hit up a pharmacy in port.  They tried to give me 800mg ibuprofen with codeine.  I kept explaining that I needed stuff legal to bring home!  I ended up with 400 mg which I thought matched US dosage.  Turns out my usual is 200 mg, so I really didn't need to be taking four of them.

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I  always take so many OTC's with me. Two years ago on a cruise so many of my new friends were getting sick that I was sharing.

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When my husband had to go to the medical office on our last cruise I noticed that there was a vending machine outside the door which had OTC meds. It might be worthwhile checking it out if the shop runs out.

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I take so much OTC medicines with me my husband calls it the "Pharmacy."

 

I've been sick on so many cruises.  I had to cancel half of our St. Petersburg two-day tour.  That broke my heart.  But my husband has only been sick once on our 70-something cruises.  The big difference is that I simply cannot keep my hands away from my face and touch everything:  hand rails, door handles, elevator buttons, etc.  You'd think I'd learn.

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One word...zicam.

I take that (along with day pills, night pills, throat lozenges and cough drops) on every cruise.  Not to mention medical insurance!

 

 

 

 

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Great advice! On a related note, I discovered on my last cruise that one should always carry benadryl, especially when in port. My dad was stung by a wasp (or similar) in Bay of Fundy, and it swelled up to a huge lump immediately. I did not have benadryl, nor did the driver, the tour guide, or anyone else on the tour. Fortunately he didn't have an anaphylactic reaction, but it was a scary experience, and going forward I will always carry benadryl. I would highly suggest everyone learn from my mistake and carry it all the time.

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26 minutes ago, calmpets said:

Great advice! On a related note, I discovered on my last cruise that one should always carry benadryl, especially when in port. My dad was stung by a wasp (or similar) in Bay of Fundy, and it swelled up to a huge lump immediately. I did not have benadryl, nor did the driver, the tour guide, or anyone else on the tour. Fortunately he didn't have an anaphylactic reaction, but it was a scary experience, and going forward I will always carry benadryl. I would highly suggest everyone learn from my mistake and carry it all the time.

Gonna add that to "my bag".  Also, I keep some band-aids in "the bag".

I think of it like an umbrella.  If I carry one on an "iffy" day it won't rain. 

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I always bring a little ziplock bag with a few otc meds for colds, allergies  and stomach issues. Also I bring some band-aids, neosporin and alcohol/betadine swabs for small injuries. If you aren’t the type of person to bring tweezers in your toiletries, I would pack them in your medical kit-for getting splinters out. Last time I flew I got a splinter in my foot going through airport security and was miserable until I got my bags back. Couldn’t find anything that would work in any of the airport shops.

 

Also if you are traveling I would make sure whatever you are bring is pseudoephedrine free-a lot of places have it banned and it isn’t worth risking it being an issue imho. 

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I carry a bunch of things as well- sore throat spray , alka seltzer, benadryl etc. in addition I take those anti bacterial hand wipes and use them often and wipe down some things in the room when entering on day 1.

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2 minutes ago, HowardK said:

I carry a bunch of things as well- sore throat spray , alka seltzer, benadryl etc. in addition I take those anti bacterial hand wipes and use them often and wipe down some things in the room when entering on day 1.

Anti-bacterial wipes may well be a good thing to have (and use), but they do nothing against norovirus. 

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We carry scripts in addition to OTC meds.  Antibiotic, super strong anti-diarrheal, muscle relaxer, strong pain med.  Yeah, we're a bit paranoid.

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