Feeling seasick can turn a cruise from a fun vacation to a painful nightmare in just a few minutes. And here’s the thing: there doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason as to why some people suffer from it while others don’t. Some people who get sick in cars won’t feel a thing on boats while others who have never been motion sick before will succumb to the motion of the ocean.
That sounds pretty grim. Luckily, there are a lot of ways to deal with motion sickness – we’ve even got an article on that subject over here. It’s not an unavoidable problem, and most dedicated travelers can learn to conquer it… or at least learn to mitigate the worst side effects of it.
But there’s another question that exists in the minds of those who frequent cruise ships. What is seasickness, and why do so many people get it? Why do our stomachs hate those big, choppy waves so dang much?
As you likely already know, seasickness (and all motion sickness in general) is related to the inner ear. But it’s actually a bit more complicated than just that. It has to do with the inner ear perceiving different motion than the eyes. When you’re inside a ship, you’re viewing a relatively stable scene; your balance-sensing inner ear, however, feels that your body is actually moving a lot. Your inner ear and your eyes not agreeing causes your body to freak out, and the nausea follows that stress.
To be a bit more specific, the reason why your inner ears are so important in sensing motion has to do with fluid-holding canals and sacs inside your ear. This fluid gets sloshed around to give your brain a sense of how your body is moving. When your eyes don’t sense the same level of motion, your brain gets confused. It’s actually a good survival mechanism, but it’s definitely not convenient while on a boat.
Motion sickness can occur on non-seafaring vehicles as well, but it’s far more potent on ships. There are a few reasons for this, but one is due to factors outside of the body. Boats have a lot of scents that can make nausea worse: saltwater spray and diesel fumes don’t exactly settle most stomachs. This combined with the fact that boats naturally move more unexpectedly than other vehicles makes them cause much more intense motion sickness.
Seasickness isn’t the end of the world, but it can make a cruise much less enjoyable. If you’re worried about motion-related nausea, take some steps beforehand to make sure that your stomach stays settled.