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The Truth About Cruising During a Storm (Review of 7 Days at Sea)

When I embarked a 12-night cruise sailing from the UK in December I knew that I was taking a risk.

I usually don’t take cruises that include more than a couple of sea days because I do get seasick but our cruise was scheduled to spend a full 6 days out at sea. 

We actually ended up having more than that due to the bad weather and I was not prepared for how bad the rough it would be. 

Our Cruise Itinerary – Through The Bay of Biscay

Our cruise was meant to begin with 3 days at sea, we were cruising through the Bay of Biscay and for those of you who don’t know, the Bay of Biscay is notorious for bad weather. 

Our cruise was heading to the Canary Islands and unfortunately, the only way to get there is through the bay.

canary island cruise from southampton

I had hoped that our sailing would be calm.

I recently asked you guys if you’ve had bad weather when cruising through the Bay of Biscay, 57% said that you had. That might sound like a lot but that means 43% of you didn’t have any bad weather, and I’d cruised through the bay before without any issues. 

I was quietly confident that we would be fine. 

To learn more about the Bay of Biscay, check out this post: Cruising Through The Bay Of Biscay: What to Expect (Real Experiences)

I was cruising on the cruise with 5 of my family members so I really hoped that we wouldn’t encounter any storms. It’s one thing feeling seasick and unwell myself, but I almost feel worse when others are feeling bad.

Our Cruise Started Well – The Sea’s Were Calm

When we set sail we quickly settled into life on board the cruise ship. We enjoyed great food, watched some amazing shows and I drank a lot of Pepsi Max.

For the first two days at sea, the weather was relatively calm and we could barely notice that the ship was moving.

On a normal sea day on a cruise, you won’t see things flying off the table or things smashing.

I’ve seen lots of videos that claim that cruise ships are like that but they really aren’t.

emma cruises on p&O ventura

When I’m on a cruise I often forget that the ship is moving at all.

I’ve been at dinner on cruise ships before where the ship has sailed away and none of us noticed until we left the restaurant. I used to play barbillads on cruises when I was younger and genuinely got confused why the ball would roll to one side very occasionally. 

I don’t want this to put you off cruising, but I do think it’s important to tell you the truth. Those people who say ‘you’ll never get seasick’ clearly just don’t get seasick, being seasick is absolutely awful and it is a risk you take when you cruise. 

The Bad Weather Started on Day 3

When we woke up on the third day of the cruise we really expected it to be like the first two days.

The weather wasn’t sunny or brilliant the first two days, but it wasn’t too windy and I knew that we were heading towards sunnier skies. 

The captain did make announcements saying that we would be encountering bad weather and at that point I took my seasickness pills.

I’ve cruised enough to know how magical those seasickness pills are, I have a couple of brands that I like and apart from making me feel sleepy, I don’t have any other side effects. 

cruise ship in storm view from balcony looking down at ocean

My seasickness definitely comes from my dad and he suffered a lot more than me on this cruise.

My brother, mum and me went to see a lecture in the theatre in the morning then went onto the main dining room for lunch. Dad was unfortunately not feeling well enough to join us. 

Our Cabin Location Wasn’t Ideal

Our cabins were located on deck 15 at the front and the movement was much more noticeable there than it was in the rest of the cabin.

My plan was to take as many seasickness pills as I could and to stay as low down in the ship as possible.

Generally speaking, you feel the movement of the ship less in the middle and lower down.

That isn’t much use though if you are feeling so seasick that you can’t get out of bed. 

My dad has been on plenty of cruises but he said that this was the first time he’s physically vomited from seasickness. Not nice at all!

Another family member of mine also was in a similar situation so only half of us made it to dinner that day. I was very happy that I was one of the people still standing, usually, if somebody is seasick, it’s me. 

Formal Night Was Rocky

It was a formal night and I decided not to wear heels because walking around the ship was getting difficult by this point.

When walking along the corridor you could feel the ship move which isn’t something you usually can do.

It was almost like sometimes it would get harder to walk, and then sometimes it would give you a power-up. 

It wasn’t like we were walking along at 45 degrees or anything, the ship just had a real rolling motion. It wasn’t a problem for me but I didn’t fancy trying to walk around in heels. 

The Ship Would Creak

When walking around the ship you would hear things creaking and cracking.

P&O’s Ventura is around 14 years old which may have something to do with it, I have been on much newer ships that made more noise though. It was an eerie sound.

One thing that I never got used to was the way that the doors would open and close themselves, particularly in the public toilets.

The toilet doors are heavy and the movement of the ship often meant that they would swing open and closed.

A common complaint I hear from cruisers who have cruised in bad weather is that they hear doors banging and things crashing around, luckily we didn’t experience much noise beyond a bit of creaking.

I did spend quite a lot of my time on the rough sea days asleep because the travel sickness pills make me sleepy and if you’re feeling seasick, being asleep is usually the best option. 

The Swimming Pools Were Closed

The swimming pools were closed because the water splashing around was dangerous.

Having big swimming pools on cruise ships means that the effect is multiplied and even the slightest movement can create big splashes.

Cruise ship pools are designed like this, which is why they have this big overflow area around the edges.

cruise ship in storm p&o ventura aft pool swimming closed

The P&O Ventura is the Sister Ship of The Grand, Star and Golden Princess Ships

We were cruising on the P&O Ventura who is the same design as lots of the Princess ships, these ships are brilliant if you like swimming as they have more swimming pools than any other cruise line.

They weren’t much use on our cruise though as they were closed at least 50% of the time, I never did get to go swimming. 

It goes without saying that if the ship had water slides or ropes courses, these would have been closed too. When the weather gets bad like it did on this cruise, the outside spaces are often closed off completely. 

p&o ventura gangway

The weather has to be really extreme for the cruise line to stop anybody going outside at all, but it is common to see areas like the promenade deck and top decks closed.

The smoking area on Ventura is by the main pool, so this bit remained opened the whole time, thankfully it was undercover! 

The Entertainment May Change on Bad Weather Cruises

Because of the bad weather, the shows in the theatre were changed. 

We were meant to see the theatre team perform but this was substituted with a lady singing, her name was Laura and she wore trainers under her dress so that she wouldn’t fall over.

Very sensible! 

p&o ventura theatre seating empty

Changes in entertainment is very common during bad weather, theres not much anybody can do about it though, the priority has to be to keep everybody safe.

If the passengers are struggling to walk in a straight line down the corridor, it wouldn’t be fair to make the crew jump around dancing. 

We Were Looking Forward to Docking The Next Day

The day wasn’t ideal but we knew that would would be docking in port the next day, or at least that was what was planned.

We would say to each other ‘it’s okay, we will be on dry land tomorrow’. Wrong. 

At this point 1/3rd of our cruise party were cabin bound, I was feeling okay but not brilliant and the remaining 3 were feeling totally fine.

It’s so strange how seasickness affects some people and not others, if you’re not affected by it at all, I am so envious.

Sleeping Was Difficult – We Saw Lightning!

Sleeping was definitely difficult that night, at around 3 am I saw lightning from my balcony so I decided to pull the curtains back and watch for a while.

There’s something magical and terrifying about a storm at sea. 

We Couldn’t Dock in Maderia – 4th Day at Sea

I am not a morning person so I wasn’t awake when we tried to dock in Madeira.

The first that I heard about it was when the captain made an announcement into all of the cabins saying that he had tried to dock the ship but due to the bad weather he wouldn’t be able to. 

Some of my family were already awake so they did see us try to dock, we got very close to Madeira before the captain made his decision.

In the below photo you can see Madeira in the background.

p&o ventura top deck emma cruises

I’ve been on cruises before where the schedule has been changed due to bad weather but it’s usually done further in advance.

The interesting thing with this storm was that we were fine cruising through the Bay of Biscay, it was actually after the bay that we encountered the bad weather.

Which I think goes to show how bad weather can happen anywhere. 

I had been looking forward to visiting Madeira and really wanted to get back on dry land but that is the risk you take when cruising. 

I Tried to Film a Cabin Tour For my YouTube Channel

I started the sea day by trying to film some footage of my cabin for a cabin tour.

It was difficult as the doors to the wardrobe kept opening and things like the curtains were swaying all over the place.

I’m not too sure I’ll be able to use any of the footage, it looks like the room is haunted.

We Were Cruising Over Christmas

Next we went on to the theatre to watch the movie elf, which is the best Christmas movie of all time.

We were on a Christmas cruise and were on the cruise for Christmas day, which was going to be another sea day, so I hope that the weather would calm down before we got there.

I can’t imagine much worse than spending Christmas feeling seasick. 

The ship was decorated with amazing decorations and Christmas trees.

p&o ventura christmas cruise decorations gingerbread

The decorations on the trees would be swaying back and forward and vibrating with the movement of the ship. 

Anything that is heavy on a cruise is securely fastened to the walls and some things even have extra supports like a chain. 

When I did eventually get up and headed outside I saw that the skies were partly blue, much bluer than they had been for the last couple of days.

I was optimistic at this point that this bonus sea day wouldn’t be as rough as the last day and I was right.

The sea definitely wasn’t calm, and nobody was outside but it was a dramatic improvement over the day before.

We Were Finally Able to Dock in Gran Canaria

The next day we did dock and it felt amazing to be back on dry land.

I knew though that our sea days weren’t over and I was nervous that Christmas day would be rocky, I also knew that we would have to sail back up through where we came. 

On Christmas day we were sailing between Lanzarote and Lisbon, we were perhaps a little more protected sailing here but it was like a normal sea day.

I was still taking seasickness pills at this point because I didn’t want to risk feeling unwell on Christmas, I actually did run out of seasickness pills later in the cruise which wasn’t something I’d ever worried about before.

Usually, if I feel seasick it’s for a day, if that, I’ve never taken the medicines for so long before and even though we had all packed lots of seasickness pills, we needed to get more.

We ended up buying them from a place you may not expect, the reception desk. Here they were 10 for £3.

Christmas Day Wasn’t TOO Rough (Phew)

I’m happy to report that Christmas day wasn’t anywhere near as rough as the days that had come before it.

It was a very wet day but thankfully the wind had calmed down a little.

I did brave going outside briefly to take the below photo, but it was very much an inside Christmas. 

p&o ventura storm at sea aft pool view

We had a big Christmas dinner in the main dining room and it was pretty calm.

The main dining rooms are located lower down in the ship and it definitely felt better being in here than up in our cabins. 

I’ve always been amazed by the crew who not only carry on working when the weather is rough, but manage to carry around those big trays of food. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody drop one, EVER! 

We didn’t know it, but at this point in our cruise we had already seen the last of the sunshine. We hadn’t seen the last of the storms though. 

We Docked in Lisbon, Our Last Port Stop

We spent boxing day in Lisbon and then had two more sea days to get back to the UK.

Stopping in Lisbon meant that we didn’t have to have 3 sea days again and I was happy about that. 

When we were in Lisbon the captain mentioned a storm that was taking hold in the Bay of Biscay.

I thought ‘here we go again’.

The captain let us know that we would be delaying our departure from Lisbon to try and avoid the worst of the storm.

We were originally meant to leave at around 6pm but this was postponed until 11pm. This was delayed even further when we had a medical emergency happen onboard. We didn’t end up sailing away from Lisbon until 2.30 in the morning. 

We were stood on the balcony waiting for us to sail away and kept thinking ‘it’ll be soon, lets just wait 10 more minutes’, we ended up waiting a couple of hours. 

lisbon at night, cruise port

I hoped that our late departure would mean we would miss the bad weather, but I wasn’t going to hold my breath.

I felt bad that I had bought my family members on this cruise and that they had spent so much of it feeling unwell. 

We Didn’t Book This Itinerary (and Wouldn’t Again)

We didn’t book this itinerary and I don’t think that I would have.

The original itinerary that we had booked was a Northern Europe cruise on P&O’s Aurora, this was cancelled and the cruise on Ventura was a replacement. 

We thought the idea of Christmas in the Canary Islands sounded amazing so we moved our booking across. 

I usually won’t book a cruise that has more than a couple of sea days and this cruise really just confirmed that to me.

Feeling seasick is horrible at any point, but when it’s day after day, it’s not good. 

We Did Feel Better as The Cruise Went on

My dad did start to feel a little bit better during the last two sea days. I took my mum and brother to the speciality restaurant Sindu but dad wasn’t feeling well enough to join.

If you are feeling seasick it’s always a good idea to avoid heavy meals or anything particularly greasy.

Avoiding alcohol definitely helps too. I had a glass of champagne when I got onboard and then didn’t have any other alcoholic drinks which I think did help me to feel fine on this cruise. 

Green apples and ginger are meant to help and I think that they do.

The apples take away that sicky feeling in your mouth and ginger if it’s in biscuit form is just yummy. 

To learn more about how to prevent and treat seasickness, check out this post: 13 Actionable Tips to Prevent and Treat Seasickness on a Cruise

Despite the bad weather, we did have a great Christmas, to find out how our Christmas was, including what food we had on Christmas day check out this video next. 

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