Cruising With MS: The Important Stuff
Vacation travel can present challenges for anyone. Life with MS also has its own challenges. Combine MS and vacation and you can get an entirely new set of challenges.
Cruising with MS
Not everyone will take a cruise, or even be interested in doing so. But in case you are traveling by big boat, this is a series of articles where I share some personal tips and tricks to make the most of your vacation.
When traveling, one of the most pressing concerns of people with multiple sclerosis can be access to suitable restrooms. I know for my own vacations I will often research the public facilities as much as the local landmarks I want to visit.
We recently cruised on the Norwegian Cruise line’s Escape, and I can’t sing the praises enough about their facilities. I was concerned because this ship is monstrously large, and has a capacity for over 5,000 passengers. The Escape is over 1,000 feet long (over three football fields for a reference) and not all activities are centrally located to your cabin. Even if I were able to dash, making the sprint back to my cabin for the restroom is not always the best option. I studied the deck plans in advance of making the reservation to understand the options for our own cabin and the location of the public spaces.
Showers can also be a concern when traveling. Our last cruise had a near-disastrous shower set up – it was a sliding door tub, with a very high side and I was unable to step into it on my own. I had specifically asked that we have a cabin with a shower, which it did. But, I wasn’t clear about the need for it to be a walk-in shower. The cabin attendant brought me a small step stool to get into the tub, but it was still a hazardous situation.
This time, I was very clear with the reservation clerk and ended up selecting a spa mini-suite, with a walk-in shower. The toilet area, although this was not a handicapped accessible specified room, also had grab bars next to and above the toilet, to use for assistance. It was perfect for our accessibility needs.
Our last three cruises have been aboard Norwegian Cruise Line ships, and I am impressed with the thoughtfulness that went into the design of their accessible restrooms in the public spaces. They are spacious and have grab bars installed in all the right spots. The doors open and close with a switch, and there is also a lock button instead of the usual door locks.
These restrooms are equipped with emergency pull cords and emergency call buttons that work well, as I once found out. I mistakenly pushed the wrong button, setting off the alarm. I thought I had reset it and went about my business. There was a knock on the door, and a voice inquired if I needed help. I assured them I was fine. To my surprise, when I opened the door, the attendant was still there. It turns out, as part of their safety procedures, once an alarm is set off, they must visually see that you are fine before they can leave their post.
Worries about the toilet and shower facilities on a cruise ship should not keep you from hitting the high seas, but you do need to do your research in advance. This includes being clear to the reservation clerk about your own needs for your cabin and understanding the public spaces as well.
Would it have been helpful to hear from others and their experiences when you were beginning your MS journey?
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