Cruising With MS

I believe I’ve had Multiple Sclerosis since 2005 but the official diagnosis came in 2014. MS usually affects the young but, when it happens to a senior, they call it late onset MS. Yes, I am a senior.

I’ve been on several cruises since my diagnosis, so I consider myself an expert. My MS symptoms are typical and include:

  • Weakness on my left side
  • Loss of sensation in my left foot and partial on my right
  • Drop foot of my left foot
  • Occasional weakness in my left hand
  • Fatigue
  • A body that runs hot
  • Using a cane away from home

Taking a cruise with MS requires planning. Remember, you aren’t like everyone else. Healthy people take things for granted. Think of your pre-MS days. Leading your life today takes a lot of planning.

Get a Wheelchair When You Arrive at the Pier

You will arrive at the pier in some sort of motor vehicle. If it is a cab or shuttle, let your driver know ahead of time that you need a wheelchair when you arrive. If you brought one, that’s fine. If you didn’t, you still want one. Your cane or walker will make embarkation a miserable experience.

In a wheelchair, you may feel self-conscious rolling past all those patiently-waiting travelers.  Suddenly you realize that this wheelchair is going get you on the boat in record time. Do your best to suppress the grin and try to look miserable. Someone from the port staff will push you to the ship. Someone from the crew will push you on board. Tip them both to show your appreciation. Don’t forget that you want to use a wheelchair to get you off the boat as well. Ask someone at the ship’s front desk about getting one.

Ask Your Travel Agent About Handicapped Bathrooms

There aren’t usually many designated as handicapped and they are in high demand. At a minimum, try to make sure you get a shower and not a tub. On our last cruise, we received an inexpensive upgrade from a balcony to a family suite. Families mean kids, and kids mean bathtubs. For people without MS, all tubs are alike. My MS made me feel like I needed a ladder to get in and out of the tub for a shower.

Consider the Size of the Ship and the Location of Your Stateroom

Modern ships only get bigger and bigger. For healthy passengers, they are like a giant amusement park. For those of us with MS, it’s a struggle to get from one place to another. Everything takes longer. You will quickly bookmark all the nice comfy chairs around the ship because you will need them. The same goes for the restrooms.

Our last cruise was on a very large ship. My wife Ro rented me a scooter. The scooter company brought it on board, and it was waiting for me in our room. It was affordable and was better than walking. There are some important things to know about using a scooter on a ship:

  • Corridors are narrow and sometimes blocked in the stateroom areas
  • It is difficult to move around in a stateroom that has a scooter in it
  • Stateroom doorways are narrow, making it difficult to enter and exit
  • It is dangerous to use them in crowded areas of the ship
  • It is difficult to park the scooter if you want to go short distances on foot

Enjoy Your Cruise

Don’t rate your cruise based on the things you cannot do. You get to see new places, meet new people and eat outstanding food. You may not go on shore excursions but, a lot of people will remain on board with you. You and your new friends will have the ship to yourselves.

Suddenly, I’m ready for our next cruise. Let’s go.