Cruising vs Sea-State

I commented on this in a different thread and then decided I'd start a new thread. I'm sure we have lots of people on the forum that have significant experience cruising. I'm interesting in peoples opinions/experiences from various cruise/tours they've taken with respect to the sea-state they encountered and if any fellow travelers experienced sea-sickness.

I've taken the Tauck small ship (Ponant) Venice and Dalmatian Coast tour. On that tour no one that I know of had any sea-sickness. You could barely even tell you were on a ship the seas were so calm. Another Tauck tour was the Treasures of the Aegean on the Windstar. Again, there were no cases of sea-sickness and the seas were very calm.

A non-Tauck tour that I took of the UK and Ireland took a ferry from Wales to Dublin. During the crossing it seemed like the deck of the ship was at about a 30 degree tilt. It made walking on the deck interesting, but I heard of no sea-sickness cases.

A non-Tauck tour I took in Australia had an excursion from Cairns to the Great Barrier Reef. On that transit some people did experience sea-sickness and had to make deposits in the sea-sickness bags. When I see someone doing that it promotes a gag reflex, so I have to immediately head to other parts of the boat or I would be joining the bag depositors.

I would suspect that of the Tauck tours Antarctica, followed by any tours that cross the Arctic Circle would have the highest possibility for unpleasant sea-states.

I'd love to hear experienced cruisers (especially on the small Ponant like ships) tales relative to sea-state. I don't know but I'd think the large cruise ships (thousands of passengers) could drive through most anything short of a hurricane without creating a large sea-sickness issue.



  • I was on a Ponant small ship on Tauck’s Land of the Rising Sun. The ‘ride’ was mostly very smooth. My 4 friends had no sea movement issues at all. I am very sensitive to motion and had 1 mildly uncomfortable nite. I did not need a ‘patch’. But I took some ginger and went to sleep early. This did not impact my trip - I missed dinner that nite which was perfectly fine. Next day I was back to normal! Walking around the boat was not noticeably rocky. The stability of the boat seemed comparable to the Windsurf.

  • I was on a NCL cruise (NYC/Bermuda) 15-20 years ago. On the way back to NYC, we followed a major hurricane, 6 hours behind its eye. Why? Because the greedy bast...ds wanted to get us back in time to prepare for the next launch.

    In any case, we had 60-80 ft swells, with water crashing against our cabin window. The captain frequently got on the PA to assure everybody the ship was built to handle this. In the meantime, every Hummel and other fragile knickknack in the gift shops were trashed, falling of the shelves. Elevators were shut down. The 3000 seat dining room had about 60 people show up for meals, my family being 4 of them. We don't get seasick, but many people did.

    Your mileage may vary.

  • edited April 2021

    I don’t usually get sea sick, I’ve mainly been on ferries. I have taken two Tauck small ship tours plus two Tauck Galápagos tours. I’ve taken vacation on catamarans. Our Iceland tour, on a literally brand new Ponant ship, the first night, it was so rough, I was being bounced up and down on my bed all night. It did not make me sick, but I thought the whole trip might be the same, it wasn’t.
    For me, it’s not being on a small ship that is the issue, it’s that you see far less of a country while going on a ship tour, that was especially true on the Ponant ships, one tour a day from the ship and then endless hours on the ship with little entertainment unless you are into quizzes or origami.
    On a Tauck tour of Italy, we were on a hydrofoil from the mainland to Capri as part of the tour. It was extremely rough, I vomited all the way over, as did many other people. I wanted to die when we got to Capri, I felt so bad, had to go to bed, headache and everything.

  • We went with Tauck on LeBoreal to the Antarctic a few years ago. The Drake Passage was smooth as a lake going to Antarctica...the return was rough. Compared to some tales we heard...really not bad. That being said, I experienced nausea, stayed in our cabin for several hours and survived. It was a spectacular voyage and remains one of my Top 3 Tauck trips!

  • edited April 2021

    We basically don’t get seasick. I have been through a typhoon on an aircraft carrier, and I can verify that no ship is too big to do some serious rocking and rolling. The Oriskany once took a twenty six degree roll just approaching the Golden Gate ... new dishes, new TV’s, all of that. I was once on the LSO platform of the Oriskany landing airplanes when we took green water over the bow and down the flight deck. The wave actually broke the tie downs (chains) of an airplane parked on the bow and it went partially overboard before the remaining chains stopped it. We were once on the ‘Vision of the Seas’ doing the Baja Bash (North from Mexico) when we were taking green water over the bow. It looked like the opening scene of “Victory at Sea”. I’ve never seen anyone get seasick on a Navy vessel, but it seems like the bigger the cruise ship the emptier the dining room in rough weather. People who frequent small ships seem to rarely get sick.

    I did fly with a guy who had been a Navy P-3 (land based) pilot who was prone to motion sickness. He was mostly OK in the air, but refused to get on a ship. I actually went to work at AA thirteen years later than he, but I retired with more flight time. I told my wife he was a ‘seagull’ ... you had to throw rocks at him to get him in the air. (;-)

  • The Drake passage seems to be very unpredictable. It was like a lake both going and returning. Another Ponant ship that had a slightly different schedule was not so lucky. We have never been seasick on any of our "small ship cruises". We did have one trip that had a number of seasick passengers. This trip was on the PONANT (sail). It was very rough leaving the Bay of Naples. Could hear sick passengers in the cabin next door.

  • My first trip abroad was a study tour to the USSR in 1969. We took a Soviet ship (The T.S. Estonia) from London to Leningrad. I describe my quarters as "steerage." There were four of us in a cabin with 2 bunk beds. The trip across the North Sea was quite turbulent. I was not sick, just a little queasy, but many of my fellow travelers were not as fortunate. I spent a lot of time on deck. (I did another North Sea voyage in 2008 on Holland America -- quite a different experience!). In 2015, I also had a smooth trip on the boat (not sure whether it was a hydrofoil) from Positano to Capri.

  • edited April 2021

    “in the cabin next door.”. I guess if you are totally ‘involved’ that may be the only choice. But, before you get to that point you should get outside with a view of the horizon. If you are getting tossed around inside with no fixed reference point you are much more likely to get seasick. I think that might be part of the ‘big boat’ thing. On a big boat you often do not have a view of the ‘outside’, where on small boats you can often see out both sides from the same place. Having an outside view can stabilize your gyros. With a little luck we will do the Drake Passage next January. We will see how it works out.

  • On the hydrofoil from Capri to Sorrento, there were quite a few sick folks, but I was napping.

    My first cruise was on the Queen Mary returning to New York from Southampton (50+ years ago). I was sick one night, but it may have had more to do with the 10 cent beer you could buy back then.

    Our most recent cruise was Holland America Canada-New England. No seasick issues that I could tell.

  • cathyandsteve: We often end up with a balcony, but we actually prefer an ‘ocean view’ because Eloise sleep walks. When we have a balcony, I have to barricade the balcony door at night. One night in Barcelona I caught her just before she got on the elevator ... problem was I was naked so I could not let go of the door to the room. She became cognizant after I yelled at her a few times. This was one time it was good to have a room near the elevator.

  • I have never taken a cruise so I am far from being an expert. I have, however, been on some small sailing boats and motorized pleasure boats. I wholeheartedly agree with NancyCohen about the use of ginger for thwarting off nausea. It also works great as a homeopathic treatment for sore throats and inflammation due to mild arthritic conditions. I prefer the crystallized ginger since it is like a hard candy and dissolves very slowly. I always take some on trips.

  • Car sick as a child and sea sick as an adult. Awful experience. Have used a pressure point wristband and survived cruises in the Baltic and Mediterranean seas. Still plan to avoid ocean cruises.

  • Ah, I forgot about the seasickness pressure wrist bands. Our daughter used to get seasick on the ferries over to France, we got sea bands for her and they worked great. She was the same on planes and they worked on those too. The bands have to be placed in exactly the correct place on the wrist which is explained on the packaging. A great alternative to medications.

  • Did anyone ever take the Bluenose between Bar Harbor ME and Yarmouth NS across the Bay of Fundy in the winter in the 60's or 70's. That was an experience!

  • We extended our trip to India by a few days at the end so we could have a day trip to explore the Jewish Heritage of Bene Israel (the early Arrival, Settlement and current community in the Raigad District). We hired a private guide and traveled by van from Mumbai. We ended up spending more time than planned and it was getting late. The guide suggested that rather take the ferry back across the Bay of Bombay to Mumbai, we take a speed boat ( it was more like a dinghy). That 1 hour ride was the most terrifying ride - the current was very rough, the boat was small and we were drenched. The waves crashed over the boat. It wasn’t until we approached The Gateway of India and I saw land, that I realized how seasick I was. I jumped off the boat, dizzy, nauseous and drenched... but as soon as I had 2 feet on land, I was fine. It was an experience for sure.

  • I made 2-10 month deployments on this 598 foot ship to the Western Pacific. Only once did I and most of the crew get seasick and that was when we were at the tail end of a Typhoon and had to fight off massive waves. Couldn't sleep, eat, or work for 2 days. Good thing the head (restroom) was close by. Actually, my shipmates and I found being out at sea fun as we played tennis and volleyball in the hangar deck. It was challenging trying to land on your feet after a ball stuff when the ship was rolling all over. It was fun being able to almost walk on the bulkheads (walls) and slide down an entire set of steps if you timed it right with the waves. Our lone "civilian" cruise was to Alaska from Vancouver. It was mostly calm but one day we had to cross the "Pacific" where it got rougher. Many of the folks were nervous about what to expect but I can say that dinner that night was relaxing as the dining room was so much less crowded then usual and it was nice to look out and see the seas again. We also went on that ferry ride from Cairns to the Barrier Reef and it was a most enjoyable trip especially knowing that in an hour we would be snorkeling Down Under !

  • My first assignment after the Academy was aboard a small, old, diesel powered destroyer escort. I reported aboard during a ship visit to Denmark and as the most junior officer aboard got last pick of bunks in the JO bunk room. It worked out fine- a few weeks later during our return to Key West we were being chased by a serious hurricane. It was amazing to stand on deck near the stern and look up at the huge swells about to crash down on us - but instead of breaking over the ship the swells just lifted us up like a cork- it was a real roller coaster ride. As for my bunk- the mattress was so worn out it had a deep depression in the middle- it was like sleeping in a canoe. The mattress kept me from rolling out of bed while the ship was rocking and rolling. Other officers had to literally "strap in" to keep from rolling out of bed onto the deck as the ship took heavy rolls!

  • So Sam, I thought when you started this thread I might at the end of it feel like risking a small ship cruise but NOPE. I can get motion sick in cars, planes, boats and standing on dry land if my sinus congestion is bad enough. Literally thought Hong Kong was a floating island. Good luck to the rest of you.

  • We have been on the Bluenose but during the summer. However, our Voyage of the Vikings from Copenhagen to NewYork treated us with the west side of a hurricane from Halifax into New York. We rocked and rolled but managed to stay in bed. My husband and I have been very fortunate to have avoided seasickness. We have cruised many times. We eat green apples and ginger. We also use the wrist bands. I liken the motion of the ship to riding the subway. Spread your feet a little wider apart and hold on.

  • Well, ships have improved over the years, but as I've been only on relatively small ones, I've had my share of discomfort.

    My first trip to the Caribbean I mistakenly had not eaten and on a little ferry from St. Kitts to Nevis in choppy waters, I remember kids getting sick. and moved b/c yes, that gag reflex can kick in.

    I had a poor cabin location, first cabin stern end as I recall, on a P&O cruise to Channel Islands and Ireland; the ship was 700 guests and cabin never stopped moving. That trip I stubbornly refused to medicate. I remember going on deck to lean over the rail, and a staff member told me it happens to everyone the first time. Our itinerary was changed due to poor weather. Worked out fine b/c we had extra time in Cork and lost the dreaded Day at Sea.

    A National Geographic cruise Lisbon to Bordeaux greeted us with seasickness meds and ginger candy at Reception and I did not hesitate this time. I do recall holding on for dear life when I went to upper decks. I've since become a ginger fanatic: herbal teas are useful also.

    Then fall 2019 I was fortunate to take a marvelous Azamara cruise Venice to Athens, again 700 guests. This time I chose a perfect midship cabin and felt very little ship movement; was also assured ship had state-of-the-art stabilizers. And the Mediterranean was blessedly calm.

    Still not sure I will be rushing back to cruising anytime soon. Maybe I can ease back in with a river cruise.

  • Great post MarketArt!

    I saw on the news tonight a small ship being tossed around off the coast of Norway. Just watching it made me dizzy. I immediately grabbed some ginger.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

  • We went to the Antarctic on Le Boreal in 2012. This was the grand tour to the Falklands, then South Georgia and finally the Antarctic. The Captain was charming and had a very droll sense of humor. As we left South Georgia for the multi-day crossing to Antarctica, the Captain announced that he had some good news and some bad news. He lead with the good news: the forecast for when we'd be crossing the Drake Passage more than a week later was quite good (and it was). The bad news: we were sailing into a force 10 gale. I like to relate this to non-sailors who frequently imagine that this must be the worst not knowing that the Beaufort scale goes to 12. So 10 isn't that you are going to die... He made his announcement so that those who were using the motion sickness skin patches could start using them before we hit the bad weather. They apparently work really well since the main dining room (they'd closed the casual venue of deck 6) was well attended and the wait staff was very capable under the circumstances. Table cloths were wetted down. One accommodation to the weather was keeping the window curtains closed. Since the main dining room is on deck 2 and we were in 10m/33' waves, seeing them crash over the windows probably wouldn't add to the ambience. We were in the "cheap" suites, mid-ship on deck 3. The most expensive cabins were high on the ship...ironically not the best place to be in heavy seas. The ship had an open bridge policy at all times, so I spent some time there. Quite impressive to see the bow rise, fall, and plow through the waves with the spray washing over the bridge windows. While we had always believed ourselves to be immune to sea-sickness, this trip confirmed it so our standard has became "if it doesn't throw us out of bed."

    Bottom line is that the Ponant expedition ships can handle the weather and, with meds if necessary, most people seem to be able to as well.

  • Took a cruise to the Caribbean on NCL. Left port onto our first stop in Key West. The Gulf of Mexico was an absolute nightmare as the weather was horrible. The ship was pitching back and forth as one of the stabilizers was disabled for a time. Almost all the passengers were seasick. No one could eat dinner that night, Crew were passing out Dramamine and ginger. My husband and I didnt get seasick but were queasy and could not ear.
    I swore I would never take another cruise but we did. We did take two more cruises to Hawaii and Alaska and had no seasick issues.

  • When we had the bad weather on our Iceland cruise, the glassware in the bar at the back of the boat was smashing off the shelves. The staff did not seem that bothered.

  • Portolan
    . . . . The ship had an open bridge policy at all times, so I spent some time there. Quite impressive to see the bow rise, fall, and plow through the waves with the spray washing over the bridge windows. . . . .

    Little known fact (or not?): most ships including the largest Navy ones, aircraft carriers, have "windshield" wipers on their bridge windows. :D

  • British
    When we had the bad weather on our Iceland cruise, the glassware in the bar at the back of the boat
    was smashing off the shelves. The staff did not seem that bothered.

    A fact that you could have kept to yourself until after my Iceland trip!!! :D:D:D

  • We did a "behind the scenes" tour on one of our cruises. Alan, when I saw your post about the windshield wipers, I remembered this picture from the bridge.

  • From the Ponant ship Le Lyrial. There are those windshield wipers.

  • Sam, it was only one day!

  • On my previously described passage from South Georgia to Antarctica:

    Ready for rough weather (handrails on both sides of corridor narrow enough to use both at the same time)

    Bridge with clear view screens (spinning circular glass) and wipers

    View from Main Dining Room before they closed the curtains

Sign In or Register to comment.