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Learn about Cruising and MS

By Laura Kolaczkowski · February 21, 2020

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. When the community managers at MultipleSclerosis.net asked me to write about taking vacation cruises while living with MS, I jumped at the chance. Actually, the truth is I can’t jump anymore, but I am more than happy to share several tips I have learned of how to make the most of cruising. Not everyone will ever take a cruise, or even be interested in doing so. But in case you are traveling by big boat, this is the first in a series of articles where I share some personal tips and tricks to make the most of your vacation.

Attitude is everything

don’t do well with large crowds, and it would be heavenly if we could cruise on a small ship with only a handful of passengers and a very attentive crew. Unfortunately, we don’t have access to a private yacht and instead cruise on the big liners, along with thousands of other vacationers. The good news is, there is still an attentive crew to attend to your needs and ways to avoid the crowd.
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A mix of different types of travelers

Our most recent trip was on the Norwegian Cruise Line ship Escape, and we were onboard with 5,000+ strangers. The mix of cruisers range from the young crowd able to party all day and night, to the more sedentary travelers like my husband and me who are content to just do very little and looking to relax.

You can (mostly) avoid the crowd

Fortunately, on most ships, you only encounter the massive crowd during embarkations/disembarkation (boarding on and off the ship) and can find places that are less crowded and chaotic if that is your choice. You can mingle with others at shows, bingo, and other activities on board following a schedule that runs from sunrise to well after midnight each day. For us, quiet time sitting on the balcony of our cabin is more our style.
Realistic expectations
The glossy cruise ship brochures highlight the good life of sitting poolside but the reality is with 5,000 people on board, and a pool with a capacity limit of about 100, getting a spot in the water is a tough if not impossible challenge. Often even finding a chair on the deck to catch some sun is difficult.

Finding quiet places on the ship

Alcohol tends to flow morning, noon and night, and can affect the social manners of many people who otherwise would be more considerate. Don’t be surprised if in busy places on board you feel like you are in Times Square in New York City as the ball drops at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Elbow to elbow crowds are not unusual during peak times, but it is also easy to find the quiet places on the ship where you can be out of the flow.
Cruise ships are small floating cities, and you can expect to walk a lot so pack good hiking shoes. Getting on and off the ship at the various ports usually involves navigating lengthy piers. Some piers have transportation while others require the passengers to travel by their own means.
View of docked cruise ship
NCL’s Escape docked at Harvest Caye, Belize

State your needs clearly

It is absolutely essential that you know if you will need any special accommodations before departing for a cruise, and you must state them clearly when you make the reservation.

Call the cruise line’s office of accessibility needs

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