All Aboard

I love to travel. I wish I had an unlimited amount of money AND an unlimited amount of vacation time to do it. Both are big hinderances to the actual travel part. My family enjoys taking vacations together. Even to this day, Sister K and I still share a hotel room with my parents. The only thing that altered this was the addition of Husband into the family. Now we get two rooms. I think Dad’s reasoning was always why would he pay for two rooms when we all fit into one. Sister K and I laugh about this when we hear about our friends whose parents don’t share rooms with them anymore. But my memories of all of us sharing one hotel room are some of my favorite vacation moments. Waking up Mom in the middle of the night for snoring, getting mad at Dad when he can’t do anything right surrounded by a small room of women, and the mountain of clothes Sister K and I accumulate on top of our luggage.

My family is talking about taking a big family vacation next summer. We haven’t taken one in awhile and next summer seems like an opportune time to do it. There is a catch though. We have more factors to consider now. We don’t allow Mom’s MS to inhibit our abilities on vacations but for the past few years we have been going to the same places that are familiar. The same city, the same hotel, the same environment. It limits the stress that can occur when you are dealing with the unknown of your surroundings. It lessens the need to stay two steps ahead at all times.

But, this time we are looking at something different. We are looking at a European cruise. We have never done a cruise but I think it could be very relaxing and simple for Mom. It’s difficult though because while we do not consider Mom to fall 100% into the handicap accessible category she does about 75% right now. This makes things tough because in our minds there are things she can do, but in reality with the way cruises and trips to various cities are designed it may not be the case. We also realistically just don’t know where she will be with her MS a year from now. Our hope is for improvement. The dream is to be walking without a walker. For now our immediate goal is to get her walking back on “Pinky” her 4 wheeled pink walker.

Dad told me I was going to be the one planning the vacation. I typically am the “planner” of my family but this time I have official responsibility. Normally I just self-appoint myself to this role. I have started doing some research. MS though adds another layer to the planning that I am not used to. Typically I would get online to explore and not think much about the landscape of places, how to get around or potential mobility issues. I am now finding myself asking these very questions. I have been told a cruise can be very relaxing, handicap accessible and Mom would most likely really enjoy it. I also know cruise passengers come in all shapes and sizes and they have assistance to accomodate those needs. I am sure it will all be fine. But these are just thoughts I am having. New concerns. New issues. New things I haven’t had to deal with before.

I have researched online about tips and advice on cruises and people with disabilities, specifically MS. There isn’t a ton out there from people who have gone through it. The information I have found doesn’t seem very relatable given the the unique aspects of MS.

So today I come to you for advice:
Do you have any experience vacationing with a disability or with someone who has a disability? Do you have any experience with this on cruises? Things to avoid, things to look for? And most importantly regardless of a disability, have you ever gone on a cruise- Do you have any recommendations?

9 thoughts on “All Aboard

  1. I have learned when they say “sure we are handicap accessible” to follow uo y asking specific questions about stairs, ramps and elevator access. Some places will say yes accessible, but then there are two flights of stairs to go up to get in-*smh* or the elevator is in the kitchen or delivery area and is actually a cargo elevator, not a life giving experience for one with MS. Have a fun vacation.

    • Hi There, This is a great idea. You are so correct in that their idea of something being accessible and the reality can often times be two different stories. Plus like you said it is not very uplifting of a life experience for someone with MS in that situation. I am definitely counting down the 365 days to vacation- Thanks for stopping by and commenting today!

  2. First and foremost determine and confirm cancellation / resecheduling / modification policy. Rule #1 about MS – MS does whatever it feels like doing. Over our two decades especially when my wife was less disabled and we actually tried planning … MS would just wait it’s time and rear it’s head in the 11th hour. I suspect it has to do with stress. We canceled or modified more vacations than we ever took as planned.

    Orangealien makes an excellent point about what is promoted ‘accessible’ is not always accessible. Always ‘boots on the ground’ while planning, check it out for yourself. Sit in the stateroom you will be booking for your Mom, use the commode, walk the route to dinning room, yada yada.

    I violated my rule only once for a trip to Disney World, trusting Disney. After all if you cannot trust Disney who can you trust. Well, it was a MS disaster. I have never violated my rule again. 🙂

    Vacations are no time for surprises. If the agent will not let you, then there is a reason.

    Caregivingly Yours, Patrick

    • That is a great point and something I will definititely look into also. You are so right that between the stress from the planning and other plans there is a good chance MS will “rear it’s head in the 11th hour. I like your rule and think it may be one we need to begin to follow too. Thanks for the tip!

      • Equally important DO NOT let anything stop you! Plan for the best, prepare for the worst. We’ve been doing this for almost a quarter century. Both life and MS go on. You just get smarter and better at dealing with it.

        Caregivingly Yours, Patrick

      • I love this! I was looking into a few things this weekend and getting a little overwhelmed so your comment couldn’t have come at a better time. “DO NOT let anything stop you!” Thank you for reminding me of this.

  3. hi,
    We went on a Carribean cruise last summer (husband has MS). My number 1 recommendation is to purchase or rent a wheelchair. Although my husband can walk, he gets tired quickly. The wheelchair allowed us to get through the airport quickly, including special consideration at TSA screening and pre-boarding. When we got to the cruise ship, there were long lines, but since we had the chair we were able to go to a special window and check-in quickly. Our room was in a ‘handicapped’ area of the ship – close to an elevator and close to the dining room. (Note – the rest of our party were in another part of the ship b/c there are only a limited number of special rooms available.)

    Also, you might look at FlyingWheels website. They specialize in travel for people with MS, and I notice they offer European cruises.

    good luck!

    • Hi Sammie, Thanks for these tips. I had actually heard about a company that you can rent wheelchairs from that will drop them off at the port and pick them up at the end. It is a good tip though to have one at the airport too so you can get through the lines easier. I was glad to hear the cruise was accomodating to your needs and especially with the check in process- a concern of mine as well. I had not heard of FlyingWheels but am going to take a look at it now. Thank you for stopping by and commenting!

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