Sea, Sunshine and Sights: Sailing on the Adventure of the Seas
I am sitting here at home reflecting on the most amazing few weeks I’ve just had on board Royal Caribbean’s MS Adventure of the Seas, sailing around the Med and stopping at some places I never thought I’d be able to see.Due to my complex disability I am no longer able to fly to these places for reasons of comfort and the risk of the mass of equipment I have to take getting damaged. I have a type of Congenital Muscular Dystrophy, causing severe muscle weakness, scoliosis and respiratory failure thus I come with baggage, a lot of baggage! A bit daunting but my list includes an electric wheelchair, manual wheelchair, shower chair, mini hoist, 3 ventilators and all the relevant batteries and chargers plus all the bits that might be needed in an emergency. One thing that made my trip was having a bed, identical to the electric profiling one I have at home, delivered to and installed in my cabin. I will be forever thankful to Wicked World Tours for granting me the amount needed to make the bed hire and delivery from Centrobed possible. Being able to sleep comfortably and well is an essential I would have had to forgo had I not been able to do this – even two days without it can lead to numerous health issues including pressure sores, reflux and back pain.
So to my adventure… The cruise offered me the perfect mix of rest, opportunity to meet some wonderful people and visit places that I’ve always wanted to see first hand. I travelled with my Mum and two carers, setting sail for 16 nights from and to Southampton by way of the Central Mediterranean.
The biggest day we had on shore was the excursion to a Rome that I had pre-arranged. We were picked up about 8am by our guide and driver Massimo. The vehicle had an electric lift at the back, it was an adapted minibus which meant I could travel safely and securely and there were seats for my companions at the sides. I cannot thank the driver enough for the wonderful day he gave us. We saw a lot of the side streets that coaches would have difficulty negotiating and had a running commentary on the sights, the history and plenty of anecdotes along the way. We stopped in the Coliseum area and visited the Forum and the Coliseum itself. It was incredibly eerie and gave me goosebumps as I sat there imagining the roar of the crowd and the history that surrounded me. We saw some beautiful architecture from Roman times through to the Renaissance and also some built during the Mussolini era. All in all an incredible experience that I never thought I would have.
Other stops were Gibraltar, Barcelona, Villefranche, Livorno, Cagliari then back to Spain to Malaga and Cadiz then finally Lisbon. I was able to keep my energy levels topped up enough to go onshore at every opportunity and then explore the boat and take part in activities on days at sea. The ship had great wheelchair accessibility, even with a big chair like mine and the staff/crew were always willing to help where they could. Our waiter was an absolute star, he had taken note of what I needed help with at dinner from my companions and without being asked, would prepare my food in a way that was easy for me – even down to placing my fork where I could get it with my limited reach.
This cruise was a truly wonderful experience with a lot of fun and laughter along the way. It has made me think a lot more is possible, that there is so much more to explore and cruising is a great way for me to do it.
The wheelchair accessible cabin I booked was bigger than a standard one. It had wider doorways and a ramped access to the bathroom. One of the twin beds was taken out to accommodate the rented profiling bed and with some furniture rearranging we had a reasonable space for hoist transfers. The bathroom was a good size with a roll-in shower. The toilet was slightly higher than a standard and there was a drop down grab rail on one side. Both the bedroom and bathroom had emergency pull cords and telephones.
We managed very well in a new environment. I took two carers that were already trained in the Sarah method and my Mum helped where she could. We had a rough plan of a day on/day off rota with some days requiring everyone pitching in at certain times such as showering and days off the ship. We had a lot of laughter along the way but considering we were away from home there was nothing that we couldn’t manage albeit with some improvising which I think most disabled travellers find sometimes.
In terms of the rest of the ship, there were wheelchair spaces in the Theatre and the Ice Rink. For those with scooters and bulky chairs there was an area designated in the buffet restaurant but it was more for convenience and I found I could get to any part of the cafe. I tried to take part in everything and even had a shortlived flutter in the Casino where there were several lowered Roulette and card tables. The staff were always happy to assist if asked, for example, in the shops and at the Guest Services desk – it did not feel like it was too much trouble.