How to Stay Healthy on a Cruise

There’s a widespread misconception that cruise ships are a lot like floating petri dishes. That every surface and space is crawling with germs and everyone’s constantly falling ill. I can’t explain to you how wrong that is.

Let’s face it: if the last two years have taught us nothing else, it’s that the entire world is a petri dish. Sure, you can catch a bug on a cruise ship. But you can also catch a bug by going to an all-inclusive resort, flying on an airplane, or standing in line at your neighborhood grocery store.

But it’s completely possible – nay, probable – to stay healthy on a cruise ship. It’s all about keeping your immune system strong. Here are a few tips to stay in good shape while you’re at sea.

Wash your hands frequently.

This one is probably super obvious, but it’s also super important. Keeping your hands clean is the number one way to prevent sickness on a cruise ship. Buffets always have hand-washing stations on the way in – don’t be the person who passes through without lathering up. People notice. Trust me.

But even if public humiliation doesn’t motivate you to practice basic hygiene, then think about the number of people who’re touching that same serving spoon you use to heap mashed potatoes onto your plate. And then after you touch that spoon, you’re grabbing a roll with your hands and eating it…

Grossed out yet?

Don’t get me wrong, though: I love cruise buffets. I just keep my hands clean while I’m eating at them. Aside from washing my hands on the way in, I keep a little container of hand sanitizer on the table so that after I touch that spoon that a thousand other people have touched, I can feed myself with germ-free fingers.

Get plenty of sleep.

There’s so much to see and do and explore on a cruise ship that it’s easy to want to stay up all night. But sleep is when your body repairs itself. According to the Sleep Foundation, when you’re catching zzzs, your body is repairing wounds and fighting off infections. So even if you were exposed to some nasty virus in the theater during the evening’s featured performance, your immune system might be able to fend it off if you get enough sleep.

And sleeping on a cruise ship? It’s absolute heaven. In fact, I get so much sleep when I’m cruising because the lull of the waves rocks me right to sleep. I’ve been known to nap twice a day during sea days. Sometimes next to the pool.

Practice moderation.

Indulgence is common when you’re cruising, but it behooves us all to practice some self-restraint – both in the buffet line and at the bar.

Despite the fact that there’s so much food available all the time, it is entirely possible to eat healthy on a cruise. And that doesn’t mean sacrificing the prime rib or those extra desserts. It means eating a hearty salad alongside your red-meat-heavy meal, and making yourself a fruit plate during the breakfast buffet. Eating fruits and veggies can boost your immune system, even when you’re pigging out on unlimited poolside ice cream cones.

As for alcohol consumption: it’s well-known that heavy drinking is detrimental to immune function. That doesn’t mean you have to abstain from drinking. As far as I’m concerned, the sail away party is an abject failure without a rum punch in hand. But if you’re drinking non-stop… well, that might make you more susceptible to illness. And also more likely to get injured or fall overboard. (That’s been happening a lot lately, hasn’t it?)

Anyway, I’m not here to lecture you. Just be safe out there, and use good judgment.

Stay hydrated.

On a related note, water is crucial to immune function. When you’re dehydrated, your body becomes the perfect breeding ground for germs. Plus, a lot of the food you’re eating onboard is super salty, which can make you more parched than you realize.

Fortunately, water is abundant at sea. Almost every cruise ship has water bottle filling stations scattered around so it’s easy to stay hydrated. Carry a water bottle around with you onboard. That way it’s easy to remember to drink it. This one is actually perfect, since it has a nifty strap, so you can have your hands free as you stroll the decks.

Choose active excursions.

You know what else is good for your immune system? Exercise! And while many cruise ships have state-of-the-art gyms and group fitness classes available, there are plenty of other ways to get exercise on a cruise. When you’re at port, participate in excursions that will get your heart pumping. Hikes through the rainforest or scenic city bicycle tours are great ways to explore destinations while staying active.

While you’re at it, try to partake in some active onboard activities, too. On my last cruise to Alaska, I did a family scavenger hunt that had us running up and down the sixteen decks of Quantum of the Seas. By the end, I was sweaty and panting – and we had a great family bonding experience, to boot. (We also came in dead last, but winning wasn’t the point!) On your next cruise, try rock climbing or pickleball or any of the other dozens of sporty activities that are available.

Then pull up a seat at the bar and enjoy a nice cold rum punch. You deserve it.

How Do You Stay Healthy on a Cruise?

Let me know if I missed anything. If you have any tips for staying healthy on a cruise, leave them in the comments.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.