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. 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 or anxiety. Seasoned sailors and cruise ship passengers call this phenomenon “land sickness.” It’s an annoying and inconvenient holiday hangover, 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. 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.
  • 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, although this condition is very rare. 

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.