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Traveling with MD - Cruises, Airlines, etc - Need Advice

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Old 06-29-2008, 09:23 AM   #1
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Traveling with MD - Cruises, Airlines, etc - Need Advice

My wife and I REALLY want to go on our first cruise ever, before it's too late. I'll have to get a scooter or chair first. That's already in the works. We already don't camp anymore and haven't been on a vacation for 3 years. I'd like to do this while I can still transfer myself (although with difficulty).

Has anyone with MD been on a cruise?
Has anyone with MD been on a commercial airplane recently?

How did you make out? I'm terrified to try but I'm sick of sitting home and I'm willing to face the fear. We are not rich but I think we can scrape up the funds to do this.

Can anyone offer "Do's & Dont's" for cruises and airlines?

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Old 06-29-2008, 10:40 PM   #2
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Re: Traveling with MD - Cruises, Airlines, etc - Need Advice

Hi Mark!
Sorry I haven't written in awhile...I lurk often, but have kept pretty busy with some genealogy work lately. Grab a cup of coffee and have a seat, I'll try to make the long story short version of this. At the end of 06 we planned a family trip to DisneyWorld. #1 destination for wheelchair travelers! We flew Southwest and I have nothing but praise for their entire staff and setup! Top notch..perfection! We took my powerchair and I was able to pre-board and took the chair right up to the plane door, and hobbled my way to my seat. They took the chair from there, I looked out the window and saw them loading it. Upon arrival in Orlando, we were the last off the plane and they brought the chair right to me at the door of the plane. I labeled the chair with all my info and also hooked around the headrest the instruction manual to the chair and info on the batteries. I doubt you will have any problems with batteries as all new chairs come with the self contained gel battery types that are all FAA approved etc.

Sadly this is where the trip turned bad for me. During the flight I had a burning in my chest and just all around didn't feel good. I was sure it was just nerves from the buildup of planning the trip and it was finally happening. Got there, unloaded and hit the Magic Kingdom. Had a blast, but still not feeling great. Next day sent the hubby and kid on with out me as I just wasn't well. Ended up calling the hotel desk for EMS because I couldn't breathe. I spent the next 4 weeks in ICU with pneumonia and was intubated. Missed the entire trip and they had to come home and leave me there by myself. It was horrible. After that length in the hosp. I lost ALL muscle control. I was literally a limp noodle. The trip home was with Continental. (By the way if traveling with mobile oxygen, the only 2 airlines that allow portable O2 are them and Delta - all airlines also do not allow you to use their O2 in flight) This flight, we gave them my chair at the gate and transferred to one of their manual chairs and I got my own skycap to push me around and to the plane. They then plopped me on a isle pusher chair thingy and got me to my seat and hubby picked me up and put me in my seat. (this chair is not very big by the way, ya know the bench you use at the gym for bench presses? well it's about that wide) I could barely keep my neck up...I was literally a noodle! Same process when we got off the plane. They did damage my chair. SOmething heavy dropped on the arm and bent it. Placed a claim on the damage and they made good on it. Just a little bit of a hassle, particularly because I was bedridden at this point.

The airline portion of the trip was a good experience for me, even with the obstacles we faced. The hotel was also excellent. They got me the extra pillows I needed because I sleep upright due to breathing problems. They also provided a pottychair adapter for the toilet. Very accomodating! I recommend taking a few items for trips that will help make life easier: your reacher! also one of my biggest issues in going anywhere is the potty. I can't get on/off it by myself. I found this item called the Travel John ( removed ) I can now go to the bathroom independently! Wear slip on type shoes to help with getting through the security checkpoints easier/faster. Keep all your meds in your carryon.

I have never been on a cruise, but I'd be sure that they have accessible rooms. I know my chair is wide for alot of doors and would think that would be especially true of a cabin.
My advice...plan it all out, look up all the info you can in advance so you don't have any surprises, make sure you request accessible room and let them know your needs and go! Go have a blast! You and your wife deserve it!!
Good Luck and God Bless!

(PS - it took about 8+ months of physical therapy and lots of hard work, but I recovered from the trip. I am not necessarily the way I was pre-trip, but close enough. I can no longer even take small steps or stand for long periods without assistance. I use the walker to transfer to the restroom and have an adjustable bed that helps me get in and out of it. But by the Grace of God, I'm here to tell you about it)

Last edited by moderator2; 06-30-2008 at 05:37 AM. Reason: posted commercial website

Old 06-30-2008, 07:44 AM   #3
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Re: Traveling with MD - Cruises, Airlines, etc - Need Advice

Oh, I forgot to add that you also need to contact the airline 24-48 hrs. in advance to make sure they know you are coming so that they have the necessary materials to crate the chair or scooter.
Happy Vacation!

Old 06-30-2008, 11:41 AM   #4
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Re: Traveling with MD - Cruises, Airlines, etc - Need Advice

Hi Mark

Your message is quite timely as my husband and I just recently returned from a two week cruise in the Mediterranean. I am in a different place in my LGMD progression than you are, but hopefully my observations/suggestions will help a little. Most of the large cruise lines have ships that are very accessible. For the most part, you will be able to access almost any part of the ship, with a few exceptions. There are accessible cabins on each ship, though there are a limited number. Elevators can sometimes be a challenge trying to get a scooter or a wheelchair off and on only because of the number of people who use the elevators.

One question you will want to answer is whether you intend to do any shore excursions in the ports you visit. Here you will find limited accessibility, especially for shore excursions you arrange through the ship. Also, you will want to know whether any of the ports you travel to will require you to "tender" into the port, which will make a big difference in whether you are able to access the port.

On this most recent cruise, we avoided the ship's tours and opted to arrange for our own private drivers in each port. Most of the ship's tours take participants in large motor coaches, which I am not able to climb on easily. Through private tours, we were often picked-up in a car and could tailor our experience to fit our specific needs. While the cost was sometimes a little more, it was well worth it for us. Of course, there is no obligation or requirement to take shore excursions as there is always plenty of things to do on the ship.

( removed )

Hope this is helpful.

Last edited by moderator2; 06-30-2008 at 02:29 PM. Reason: disallowed website

Old 06-30-2008, 12:00 PM   #5
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Re: Traveling with MD - Cruises, Airlines, etc - Need Advice

Tracee & Kelley,

Thanks so much for the info you've given. I pretty much assumed I would make reservations many months in advance and make it clear to the Airline and Cruise Company that I am handicap (did I mention 5 times that I was handicap?) Then remind them again a week before.

I'm looking at a 7 day Caribbean cruise with 3 stops and 4 days at sea. There's one "tender" situation but Holland America's Ship "Westerdam" (the one were eying) has modern tenders with wheelchair lifts. And the ship has 30 Accessible rooms, with balconies no less, not the small interior rooms. I hear that Holland America just spent tens of millions updating their fleet so they can boast accessibility.

I also heard how it's better to make your own excursion arrangements with a handicap lift van on the islands. I'd probably book these way in advance as well.

if you think of anything else please post it. Thanks again,


Old 07-01-2008, 04:33 PM   #6
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Re: Traveling with MD - Cruises, Airlines, etc - Need Advice

Hi Mark,

Traveling with a disability can be a challenge, but it is worth the struggle. My husband and I are booked to go on our third Alaskan cruise in September, which will entail flying to Seattle from our home in central California. One of the first things I would recommend you do is book your cruise as early as possible. As you are aware, cruise ships have a very limited number of accessible rooms, and many of the cruise lines do not require a doctor's note in order to reserve them. Able bodied folks sometimes request these rooms due to their larger size. It's frustrating, but that's what happens.

Although my experience is based solely on Princess Cruises, I believe that all of the major cruise lines will go out of their way to make sure that you have a wonderful vacation. With Princess, you are able to request some cabin modifications if you are not able to book an accessible cabin. I am not using a wheelchair at home yet, and will be staying in a regular cabin, but I will ask for a toilet seat riser and a shower chair. I will be taking a travel chair with us to use in port, as I can no longer walk any distance (I have Emery-Dreifuss MD). I agree with Tracee that elevators can be an issue due to crowding, but there are usually several available on each deck. If you enjoy swimming, make sure that at least one of the ships pools has a lift. The cabin stewards are fabulous, and will do whatever they can to fulfill any requests.

As far as flying goes, my experience has been that you are better off flying out of a large airport, rather than a small regional airport. Many smaller airports do not have gates that are at the level of the door on the plane, so you walk/ride down a ramp to the tarmac, then have to climb up several steep steps to get into the plane. There are handrails on both sides, so if you can still pull yourself up a few stairs, it's not impossible, but (at least in my case) it's not pretty! I know that there is some kind of lift available for those confined to wheelchairs, but due to the small size of the planes cabin, it's not an easy process to get into your seat. Even if you fly out of an airport that uses regular ramps, there is no guarantee that the airport you are arriving at will be doing the same. For this reason, I feel larger planes and airports are the way to go.

I know that you are looking at the Carribean for your first cruise, but I hope that you will consider heading to Alaska sometime. One of the best things about an Alaskan cruise is that everywhere you go, the scenery is gorgeous. You can see plenty of marine life (whales, otters, dolphins, seals, etc) while in route from port to port, and the glacier viewing can be done right from your balcony. Sea days are never boring! My experience with shore excursions has been good, and as long as you notify them in advance, they are usually able to accomodate your needs. Like Tracee, I have had better experiences with private tour operators, rather than booking through the ship.

Sorry that this post is so long, but hope that it helped. Have a wonderful vacation, and watch out for all those yummy desserts and tropical libations!


Old 07-03-2008, 08:51 AM   #7
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Re: Traveling with MD - Cruises, Airlines, etc - Need Advice

I don't have MD, but i had 2 failed spinal fusions and it left me disabled. I also have been checked now for MS.
I have a lots of nerve damages which prevents me from walking.

In fact going on a cruise - the best vacation for disabled people. I am not sure which cruise line you use, but I wouldn't suggest to go on Carnaval or even any of Royal Carribean lines: too many kids and youngsters. Big lines to elevators and very crouded.

We love Celebrity cruise line, Holland America is excellent also. They the most accomidating lines for people in our position. They have special rooms (bigger rooms) to accomidate people on wheel chairs.

When we purchased tickets through our travel agent, she asked for a wheel chair. The minute we left car on a peer, a gentlemen from cruise line took me on wheel chair and my husband with our friends in a special line for disabled people only and in 10 minutes our papers were done and he took us to our room. We did not wait in NO lines at all. No matter where I went - wheel chair always available. In fact they gave me one and we kept it on our balcony or room.

I had my wheel chair even in port - they allowed to use it on a ground too and on tours. This was the best vacation; I was nervous not knowing how this will work for me - was not trouble at all. And it was totally free, all included.
Only if I wanted to rent a scooter, than it would cost me money, but i was OK just with wheel chair.

I strongly recommend you to try, I am sure you will be very satisfied. The only thing: stay away from the lines I mentioned earlier unless you have small kids and they will have more fun on"kid's" lines. IF not - go with less hectic lines.

Best of luck to you!

Old 07-03-2008, 11:56 AM   #8
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Re: Traveling with MD - Cruises, Airlines, etc - Need Advice

Malvasia -

Thank you for all the valuable advice! I DO want to see Alaska and actually almost went many years ago but it fell through . It's still on my list! And I'll be flying out of Detroit International...huge Airport.

Maldova -

Thank you as well! Holland America is the line we are considering with a 7-day, 3-stop, 4 days at sea, cruise. We don't want too much on-off-on again. We want to enjoy the ship and some relaxation. I will be taking a scooter but I can walk short stairs, steep ramps or curbs though. I can't get up those with my own legs.

Thanks again to both of you. The advice really helps and puts me at ease.

Last edited by michigani; 07-03-2008 at 11:58 AM. Reason: added info

Old 08-09-2008, 06:35 PM   #9
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Re: Traveling with MD - Cruises, Airlines, etc - Need Advice

Never been on a cruise. However, I've heard that most cruise ships are very accessible and as such are popular vacation options for senior citizens and disabled people.

Traveling by plane with my wheelchair is not fun, mainly because the chair is large and very heavy, which can cause problems. With a scooter, I imagine it will be very easy.

You will be first in, last out.

You will be able to ride your scooter right down the jetway to the door of the plane, at which point you will have the option of walking to your seat or being pushed there in the aisle chair. They will take your scooter down the stairs or else down the elevator (depending on weight) and put it in the baggage compartment.

After everyone gets off, you'll wait for them to bring your scooter to the plane door and get on it there.

It's good that your wife will be travelling with you so that she can pester the ground crew if necessary, if they are taking a long time to get your scooter.

Old 12-01-2008, 01:18 AM   #10
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Wink Re: Traveling with MD - Cruises, Airlines, etc - Need Advice

We just got back from a Disney Cruise and it was wonderful. Accessiblity wise the rooms are great. Weird though, they didn't have accessbile public bathrooms on every floor. So you had to wait for elevator to get the handicap potty, then wait for the able bodied family of 4 to get done in the potty, etc. you know the drill. By then I had already peed my pants. We actually had to buy diapers to line my pants, because of the public bathroom drama. We spent a lot of time in the public areas. The toliets all seemed really low. My husband had to literaly lift me off of them, not ADA. We requested a riser for the room which helped when we were there. I didn't get off the boat anywhere but Key West, but my family did.
We drove to Florida on the advice of my wheelchair salesmen. He said he had received chairs in boxes from the airlines. They had tried to take them apart for storing and then couldn't get them together. We were scared to risk it since I spend all day in my chair.

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