A Week of Heaven on Earth
When I think of vacation, I think… escape to relaxation, enjoyment of new places and activities, time with family and friends, nice food that I don’t have to cook, and rejuvenation of mind and body. Prior to 2004, I had never been on a cruise. My idea of a cruise was “luxury”, “the rich woman’s vacation” and “exotic”. The opportunity for me to try a cruise presented itself when I was asked to be a speaker in 2004. I also talked with the travel agent about activities on and off the ship including accessible excursions. I learned about this enormous ship (1/5 mile long). As someone living with MS for 27 years and using a scooter for mobility, I considered the fatigue factor. But I was excited about this exciting opportunity.
When my husband and I finally got on the boat, I was amazed; it was a true luxury resort and hardly feeling any movement. Our first activity was a lifeboat drill! “Oh no, I hope this is not the Titanic!” Then off to get a bite to eat and head to our accessible room. It was perfect. Then the fun began with exploring the ship, program registration, and our first dinner with our fellow MS cruisers. What a delight to share conversation with a stranger, yet almost instantly connected because of the multiple sclerosis.
As the week progressed, that bond grew with swimming in the pool, learning and sharing at education programs, shopping, more eating, and sightseeing together. By the end of the cruise, I realized one of the best parts of this cruise experience was being with this group. Sharing the formal education at sea and informal so many other times: the week was a memory I will never forget. Truly a week of heaven on earth… entertainment on and off ship, friends, education, exercise, pool, shows, programs, shopping, delicious food, beautiful sightseeing.
Some tips I learned that may help you to make the plunge (and yes, this year we plunged on our 5th cruise!)
- Use your energy wisely! Even if you walk very well, consider renting a scooter. If you’re stubborn and don’t think you need it, the ship has plenty of wheelchairs you can borrow for a bad day or excursion off the boat.
- Check out all the excursions and the symbols for physically activity guides before the cruise, and ask your travel agent or cruise line about accessible trips and check at the shore excursion desk while on the ship! You may need to ask…ask…ask and then don’t be afraid to explore and explore….As an example, one opportunity I did on that first cruise was a submarine ride 90 feet down. I really wanted to see the fish and beautiful Caribbean water without being in because I am unable to walk on sand and get in and out of the water easily! A friend wanted to do that trip, too. He helped push me in a wheelchair to the dock. I am able to walk, so got on the boat took the ride to the sub and mastered the steps in the sub. Then the fun continued seeing colorful fish, coral, turtles, and even sharks up close. This year I finally got in the ocean on a boat excursion and snorkeled in the Caribbean and swam with the stingrays!
- What will happen if you get sick? Well, I did get a small infection on my first cruise and was treated by the ship’s doctor. It was like a mini ER and worked fine.
- Think about joining the MS cruisers in March 2010! Yes, it is a more than average expensive vacation, but it is indescribably special. You will have experiences beyond your wildest dreams. You will develop deep bonds with the friends you’ve made on the cruise. For more information, visit www.funcruiseforacause.com or call 888-826-9660. As Nike says, “Just do it”
Michelle Keating RN, OCN, MSCN
I've been cruising with MS friends for the past 8 years. It's very beneficial to be able to talk with others who are experiencing the same trials and tribulations, and all of this takes place in a fun environment. Cruise ships are great for people with disabilities and Royal Caribbean has been outstanding. Fun Cruise and Travel has been awesome with their dedication and determination to help people with disablilities.
An MS Nurse With MS
Cherie is not only a registered nurse who happens to have MS, she is also one of about 500 nurses world wide who is classified as a Multiple Sclerosis Certified Nurse by the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers (CMSC) and the International Organization of Multiple Sclerosis Nurses (IOMSN). She has been an RN since 1973, was diagnosed in 1994, and received her MSCN Certification in 2003. For the past ten years, Cherie has operated a home based Patient Advocacy business helping people identify the questions needed to be asked of their Health Care Team. Additionally, she fields questions from people with MS all over the globe when it comes to symptom management, side effects of medications used for Multiple Sclerosis, and diet and exercise tips for the person living with a chronic illness.
Married to David for 34 years, she has two married adult daughters who live within an hour of her and has three grandchildren. Cherie and David enjoy sailing, theater, travel, and time with the family. You may be able to meet and speak with her on the MS Cruises. She has traveled with Fun Cruise and Travel for 6 years on 12 cruises and has experienced varying levels of disability on each that were graciously accommodated. Whether it be Power Chair, Scooter, crutches, cane or fully ambulatory, this Agency has made travel comfortable and possible for this family.