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More than 23 million people will set sail on cruise ships this year. And while cruising offers the ultimate in luxury vacations-from five-star dining to around-the-clock entertainment-the ships are also known as “floating petri dishes” due to the close quarters. But with some preplanning and onboard precautions, you can reduce your chances of illness.

  1. Regardless of your itinerary, be sure that everyone traveling with you is current on routine vaccinations. Since other passengers may be from countries outside the U.S. that do not require the same vaccines, outbreaks of diseases like chickenpox and rubella (German measles) do occur. Check with your doctor to ensure you’re current on vaccines like measles/mumps/rubella, varicella and seasonal flu.
  1. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Travelers’ Health destination pages to see if there are any special vaccination requirements by location Some cruise lines have their own vaccination requirements, so check their website as well.
  1. Before leaving home, review your health insurance policy to see if it covers you while onboard and in foreign countries. If not, consider purchasing travel health insurance. You also should ensure your policy covers medical evacuation should you need to be transported to another location for treatment.
  1. If you’re being treated for a chronic condition, continue your medication and diet regimen onboard. And play it safe by having extra medications in your luggage in case there are delays, as well as a copy of your medical records should you need to see a physician during your trip.
  1. If you’re prone to seasickness, talk to your doctor beforehand about medications that can help elevate the symptoms. Also beware that some common medications like antidepressants, painkillers and birth control pills can worsen the nausea of seasickness.
  1. The most common onboard illness is norovirus, characterized by nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The best precaution is frequent hand washing with soap and water or a hand sanitizer that’s at least 60 percent alcohol. This should always be done before eating. Also wash hands after using the bathroom, changing diapers and touching things that others touch such as handrails. As an extra precaution, avoid touching your face as much as possible.
  1. During shore excursions, especially those in developing countries, take great care when it comes to eating and drinking. Only eat cooked foods that are served hot and only drink beverages from sealed containers with no ice. Also avoid eating fresh fruit and vegetables unless you have peeled and washed it yourself with clean water.

By doing your homework prior to the trip and taking a few onboard precautions, you greatly increase your chances of smooth sailing.

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