Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris

Coping with Seasickness


Don’t let a fear of seasickness scare you away! Over the years some of our travelmates have missed their dream vacation due to a fear of seasickness. Of all those that traveled in spite of their fears, only one passenger said that seasickness really affected her enjoyment of the trip. Still, that same passenger talked about repeating the trip because she enjoyed it so much overall! Even if you are prone to seasickness, you will not experience it for the entire voyage – soon you will acquire your “sea-legs” or sea conditions will improve and you will feel better. The key to avoiding seasickness is to take action before you become sick.

Motion sickness occurs when the parts of the inner ear that help control balance (including the semicircular canals) are stimulated too much, as can occur when motion is excessive. It can also occur when the brain receives contradictory information from its motion sensors – the eyes, the semicircular canals, skin, and muscles. For example, if you’re riding in a car and reading a book, your inner ears and skin receptors will detect that you are moving forward. However, your eyes are looking at a book that isn’t moving, and your muscle receptors are telling your brain that you’re sitting still. So the brain gets a little confused. Things may begin to feel a little scrambled inside your head at that point.

The waters close to land, among sea ice, and in shallower depths are generally calm, so seasickness should not be an issue. Rougher seas can be found while traveling in the open windswept ocean, but most of our ships have an excellent stabilizing system to reduce motion in these areas.

Do your own research on medications

As with all medications, do your own research and consult your doctor before taking any drugs even if they are over-the-counter, especially if you are taking other drugs. We are not recommending any of the prevention methods below but are providing this list simply so you can do your own research. We received and observed mixed anecdotal reviews on each of these methods.

Read more about motion sickness at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.

What over-the-counter drugs are available for seasickness?

Dramamine or Gravol (dimenhydrinate) and Bonine (meclizine)

These are antihistamines that work well for some if taken as a preventative, well before symptoms occur. These work by blocking histamine receptors (these receptors are found in a lot of sites throughout the body, including the brain’s vomiting center). Antihistamines cause drowsiness, which can be good if you are sick since going to sleep is simply the best remedy. Dimenhydrinate and meclizine are chemically different and one might work better for you than the other.

Stugeron (cinnarizine)

This is also an antihistamine. It is reported to be the most effective of any non-prescription and possibly prescription drug. Although widely used outside of USA, it is not FDA approved, but is available from or over the counter in Europe and Mexico.

What prescription drugs are available for seasickness?

Scopolamine transderm patch

Transderm Scop or “the patch” comes in the form of a spot band-aid that is placed behind the ear. One patch can be continuously worn for up to three days and should be applied eight hours before sailing. It is also now available in time-released capsules. Side effects include dry mouth, hallucinations, anxiety, sedation and dilation of the pupils (which can affect vision and induce the user to wear sunglasses). Follow your doctor’s directions closely. An extra patch may be handy in case one happens to fall off. This is the most popular remedy used by our participants. Read more about Scopolamine.

Phenergan (promethazine)

Phenergan is a well-known motion sickness medication, available in pills, suppositories, and injection administered by a doctor. Phenergan has some serious side effects. The primary side effect is drowsiness (some people find that it knocks them out for 24 hours or so), but it can also cause confusion, disorientation and dizziness. While some people find it very effective, the possible side effects make it less attractive. Read more about promethazine.

Zofran (ondansetron)

This medication is used to prevent nausea and vomiting caused by surgery or cancer treatments. Zofran blocks the actions of chemicals in the body that can trigger nausea and vomiting. It is not commonly given for seasickness so some doctors may be hesitant to prescribe it. Ask your doctor about side effects. Read more about Zofran.

What alternative drugs and devices are available for seasickness?

Relief Band wrist band

This is worn like a wristwatch. It produces a small neuromodulating current that potentially stops peristaltic waves in the stomach, ceasing nausea and vomiting. Read more about ReliefBand.

Acupressure wrist bands

These have a button permanently attached to the inside of a stretchy band that is placed over an acupressure point on each wrist. They are worn like a sweatband. They are available at your drug store and online. Read about some examples, Seaband and BioBands.


Ginger is considered a light remedy that may “settle your stomach.” It comes in many forms. Crystallized or candied ginger can be kept in your pocket as a snack. Ginger teas can be sipped while relaxing on the ship. Ginger tablets, ginger powder, and ginger gum is also available. All forms of ginger can be found at specialty and health food stores.


This is a drug-free, all natural product consisting of a unique blend of pure essential oils. It was formulated to calm the queasiness associated with surgery and may also sooth motion sickness. The user simply takes a few deep breaths of the aroma for immediate relief, repeating as much as needed. It is available in online stores. Some report positive results from its use. Read more about QueaseEASE.


This is a highly concentrated herbal oil that is applied to and absorbed through the skin just behind each earlobe. The active ingredients then travel to the inner ear, calming symptoms. Within five minutes, All Natural Motioneaze begins working to relieve the symptoms of motion sickness. We have not heard any feedback from our travelmates about its effectiveness; please let us know your experience. Read more about Motioneaze.

What are other ways to prevent seasickness?

  • Seek out breezy areas with fresh air.
  • Take preventative drugs well before departure or entering rough seas so it has time to work, they are not effective after you are sick.
  • Eat bland foods to keep something in your stomach. The old standby is crackers but a food high in protein has recently proven better than carbohydrates for reducing nausea.
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and greasy, spicy foods before and during your voyage.
  • Sign-up for a cabin in the middle of the ship and near the waterline or sit in the part of the boat with the least motion. Avoid enclosed areas where you can’t see outside.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Don’t read.
  • Keep your head and body as still as possible.
  • If you are outside, keep your eyes on the horizon to help sync your eyes and balance system.
  • Reduce sensory inputs by lying down with your eyes closed (this is a great time to listen to your personal listening device!) or take a nap. This is often the best remedy.
  • When all fails – remember conditions will change and you will feel better soon!