If you’ve ever taken a cruise before, you might have experienced motion sickness. First-time cruise ship passengers might be surprised to find that the swaying, dizzy feeling that comes with spending time on board a ship doesn’t always abate once they’re back on dry land. There are many different types of vertigo you may experience. Upon disembarkment, perhaps you can’t quite gauge the distance between your foot and the floor, or you bump into objects. When you sit down, you discover you’re holding onto the arms of your chair to ease the rocking and swaying. You might also experience fatigue, tinnitus, headaches, ‘land legs’ (like sea legs but after disembarkment), or anxiety. Seasoned sailors and cruise ship passengers call this phenomenon “land sickness.” It’s an annoying and inconvenient holiday hangover from your cruise ship vacation, but with a few simple tips, it’s fairly easy to tackle the symptoms.
What Causes the Feeling?
Scientists don’t know exactly what’s behind this disconcerting phenomenon. However, researchers are starting to believe it’s due to a breakdown in sensory processing. When you’re on board a boat, there’s a disconnect between your body and your eyes. Your body feels movement that isn’t related to what you’re seeing and takes measures to adapt to its new normal. However, when you step back on land, your body has to adjust again, and this can take time. Some people adapt to life at sea better than others, and this might exacerbate the unsettling feeling.
How to Fix Land Sickness
The only thing that’s guaranteed to work is simply waiting for the feeling to pass. After a day or two, your symptoms should abate. In the meantime, there are a few things you can do to help ease that disconcerting “land-sick” sensation.
Get plenty of sleep: A night of quality sleep can help your body heal and reset. Skip the booze, and head to bed early.
Take a walk: If you can do so safely, some gentle exercise will do you a world of good, improving circulation and hand-eye coordination.
Try a home remedy: In some cases, natural remedies can be helpful. Some people swear by ginger’s vertigo-easing properties. However, ginger ale won’t cut it as there’s just not enough of the pungent root in each drink, so stick to candied or fresh ginger. Other people like to use acupressure wrist bands, the seasickness remedy that many believe helps with post-cruise vertigo. Luckily, these aren’t a prescription, so you can get them over-the-counter.
See your doctor: If symptoms persist, see your general practitioner. Your doctor might describe a sea-sickness remedy, or perhaps a relaxant like Valium. If this doesn't work, you could be suffering from a longer-term condition called mal de debarquement syndrome (MDDS), or vestibular migraine, although this condition is very rare. Symptoms of MDDS include a constant rocking sensation and loss of sense of balance, even when on solid ground, like after jumping on a trampoline. The MDDS Foundation describes this balance disorder as “imagine always feeling in motion.” In such cases, vestibular rehabilitation or other treatment options that target the vestibular system may be recommended.
Some veteran cruise-goers cite another solution, and that’s to book another cruise. This is a somewhat drastic and expensive way to tackle post-cruise vertigo, but it's a great excuse to plan another vacation.
Please note that while these suggestions can be helpful, it’s important to consult with a medical professional for medical advice for personalized recommendations and guidance, especially if your symptoms persist or worsen.