As a Peer Network Facilitator with BCITS, Nancy Lear is an integral part of our continuing endeavour to expand our ongoing peer initiative. Empowerment of peers is a very central element of the program and sharing experiences supports that goal in a very practical way. In this three-part story, Nancy will describe the planning and experiences of her first cruise. Please note that BCITS does not endorse any of the companies mentioned in this travelogue.
Pick your time, your budget and explore online
I had decided to go somewhere hot during fall and a cruise was going to be a part of that trip, somehow. Dates that worked for me were late September, early October. I had to coordinate this time frame with the two caregivers I was travelling with. Once these logistics had been established I asked myself: “What do I want to see/explore?”
I combined a Google search with an article I had come across in the Huffington Post. In the article Spain was declared winner of the ‘Top 10 Budget-Friendly Destinations’. I had been to Spain previously, a fantastic experience, so it was an easy choice. I was heading to Barcelona, the capital of the Catalan region, and a leader in the European and Mediterranean cruise sector.
After deciding on Barcelona, I researched online which cruise ships offered a one-week cruise sailing option from Barcelona. I decided on a 7-day Mediterranean Cruise stopping at five ports-of-call; three stops in Italy – Naples, Rome, Livorno; two stops in France – Cannes, Marseille, and two days at sea, offered by Norwegian Cruise Line. Norwegian has an informative accessibility page on their website.
During my search for “accessible cruises” I came across Sage Travelling, a husband/wife team, specialising in planning accessible European trips. Since this was my first cruise, I decided to use their services. They did book my wheelchair accessible stateroom, but I ended up booking my electric bed myself. I may do the entire booking myself next time.
Choosing the right cabin and social tone
The Epic, the name of the cruise ship I chose, is amazing and very impressive. After watching promotional videos on YouTube, I decided on a wheelchair accessible balcony stateroom (stateroom is cruise ship lingo for a cabin). It had plenty of space for all my medical equipment and backup supplies plus the usual suitcases for myself and my caregiver. My second caregiver had an inside cabin, just a few doors away, which she equally enjoyed.
TIP: Both staterooms were located at the back of the ship. They were quiet, comfortable and reasonably close to an elevator. However, I had not counted on the effects of motion sickness. Even though I did not physically get sick, the experience of a ‘moving’ sensation was noticeable to me for much of the cruise and it continued to some extent after disembarking. I now know that a mid-ship stateroom will be a better choice to avoid this effect.
TIP: Apart from it being accessible, I also chose the Norwegian Epic for its ‘freestyle cruising’ concept. Different cruise ships have different dress codes and can be a lot more formal. On the Epic there was no set time to dine, no assigned table, and casual attire dress code for both day and night made it a very comfortable first-time cruise! There is an option to dress up for special nights out.
Part 2 will be published in a few weeks. Make sure not to miss it and sign up for an email notification using the “Follow” button at the bottom of this page.