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Giving 7 Cruise Myths the Heave-Ho

Sometimes all the reticent cruiser really needs is a dose of the truth. Here are the cold hard facts behind some nagging cruise myths.

So you're dying to take a cruise but your spouse, friend, mother, etc. wants no part of it? Sometimes all the reticent cruiser really needs is a dose of the truth. Here are the cold hard facts behind some nagging cruise myths.

But, I'm claustrophobic.

Remember, today's newest mega ships are two to three football fields long. They're so big they carry more than 4,000 or 5,000 passengers and crew. Even I have mild claustrophobic tendencies, but never feel trapped on a cruise ship. If you're on a small ship, most hug the coastal areas and so land is always in sight. If you're on a big ship, you might be further out at sea, but you'll be distracted by all there is to do. Oh yeah, and all those ports. Book an itinerary that visits a port every day, or most days, if want to avoid long stretches at sea.


Cruises aren't safe.

Ships have security officers and CCTV cameras. Crimes against passengers are very rare; what the media tends to report on are the occasional suicide or the drunken yahoo fooling around who goes overboard. Otherwise, don't worry -- you can't just fall over a railing (they're too high) and since everyone on a ship is captive, so to speak, it's not an ideal setting for criminals to flourish as there's no where for them to run!

I can't be away from email.

You don't have to be. Just about every cruise ship out there has an Internet center and many have WiFi access, too. You can go online for a fee and email to your heart's content (granted at times, satellite service can be poor and thus the Internet connection -- French Polynesia comes to mind -- but generally connections will be decent). Many ships are also now wired with technology that enables cell phones to be used, including the fleets of NCL, Holland America, Silversea, Crystal, Regent Seven Seas, and Seabourn.


There won't be anything for me to do.

Fat chance. Today's big new megas have giant fitness centers, spas, movie theaters (and sometimes outdoor video screens), bustling pool decks, numerous restaurants and bars, and some, fun gimmicks like ice-skating rinks (Royal Caribbean), bowling alleys (NCL), rock climbing walls (Royal Caribbean), water slides (Carnival), and great lectures and classes (Crystal and Cunard). Of course, the ship will be in port often; if you're worried about being bored, sign up for an itinerary with no or few days at sea.

I'll get seasick.


It's not as likely as you think. The bigger the ship, the less likely you'll feel much movement. Of all my nearly 100 cruises, I can only recall about 5 or 6 when seas got a bit rough. Otherwise, it's smooth sailing. Most of the time you'll hardly realize you're at sea at all as you explore the ships' many public areas and diversions (see above). Ships have stabilizers (fins that jut out from the sides of the keel, under the water line), sophisticated navigation and technology systems, and ballast tanks (of water) that are continually redistributed to keep ships steady. A good rule of thumb is bodies of water cut by islands, fjords, archipelagos, peninsulas or any other chunk of land tend to be the calmest, since land acts as a barrier diffusing waves and storms. Cruising in Southeast Alaska's Inside Passage, landlocked North Sea and Baltic Seas, along the Italian coast, and the Caribbean tend to be among the calmest seas. If you're truly prone to motion sickness, avoid itineraries that cross wide, uninterrupted oceans of the North Atlantic or the Pacific.

What if I need a doctor?

The vast majority of ships have staffed infirmaries with a nurse(s) and a doctor(s) aboard to provide medical services for a fee. Though most of their cases involve seasickness, sunburn, and the like, they may also be required to stabilize a patient with a more serious ailment until he or she can be brought to a hospital at the next port of call or, in extreme cases, be evacuated by helicopter. Generally, big ships have the best-equipped facilities and largest staff since they're dealing with such a huge number of passengers and crew. Princess's Grand- and Coral-class ships, for instance, carry at least one and sometimes two doctors as well as two to five nurses, and are linked via a live video and camera system with U.S.-based medical centers. All Holland America ships can consult 24 hours a day (via phone or e-mail) with the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, and their Vista-class ships have a tele-radiology system that allows X-rays to be transmitted to a shore-side medical facility. (Princess's Sea Princess and Carnival's Spirit- and Conquest-class ships also have this system). Small ships generally don't carry onboard medical staff since they sail close to shore and can evacuate sick passengers quickly. Usually, some crewmembers have nursing experience.


What if I get that norovirus thing?

We've all seen the news reports or read about the occasional outbreak of the norovirus stomach bug on cruise ships. Truth is, as icky as it seems, the norovirus bug is more common than the common cold. The virus causes vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and general nausea that typically runs its course over a couple of days, and is brought on by simple contagion: One infected passenger comes aboard, leaves his germs on a handrail, and all of a sudden everyone's sick -- just like kindergarten. Though major outbreaks are rare, to avoid them (and the dramatic headlines) as much as possible, cruise lines have stepped up their already vigilant sanitation routines to further reduce the chance of transmission.

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