Photo: Elaine, her husband and two friends during their cruise

Around the world in 120 days: a once in a lifetime cruise

Could I really travel the world in a wheelchair?

The bright lights of New York, the emerald waters of the Panama Canal, New Zealand, China, Japan… Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see all these places? I have MS and most of its assorted symptoms. I’m in a wheelchair and my husband, John, is my full time carer. So how could I possibly visit these places?

Expanding horizons

Life in a wheelchair can limit our horizons. But what if the chance came along to see the world on a cruise ship? To leave Southampton, set course westwards and keep going until, four months later, you arrive back in Southampton.

There’s a fully accessible bedroom travelling with you. There’s no unpacking and packing at each destination. There’s oodles of food and drink. Could we really do this? We decided we could! A few people thought we were mildly insane to undertake such a trip with all my health issues (not only MS: I’m also a transplant patient with diabetes) but the reaction was mainly positive.

Preparing to travel with MS

The months before departure flew by in a flurry of activity - paperwork, insurance, wheelchair ‘MOT and service’ and packing. We tried to take everything we didn’t expect to be able to buy on board. What if we were seasick? What if we got stung or bitten? What if we couldn’t go to the toilet? What if we couldn’t stop going to the toilet?

The day of departure finally arrived. I would have denied it if asked, but I felt quite nervous about what we were undertaking. MS is so unpredictable. Could I really cope for a whole four months?

MS-friendly accommodation

The ship was elegant, our room was spacious and the bathroom fully equipped with plenty of grab rails. Just as well really - falling off the toilet in a rough sea was not on my to-do list!

We loved the experience of being at sea. Simple pleasures such as watching waves crash against the ship, seeing the sun rise and set over the water, trying to spot dolphins, flying fish and whales. There was always something to see.

Wheelchairs versus kerbs

Our only disappointment was the very poor organisation (and overcharging) of onshore outings for wheelchair passengers. Port information leaflets for wheelchair users were provided, but it is only when you get wheels on the ground that you find out what it is really like. Nobody tells you about the kerbs that are 12 inches high!

Finding friends in unexpected places

The trip was challenging and amazing in equal measure. I’m proud of what we did. We stroked koalas in Sydney, went on safari in South Africa and made it to the top of Table Mountain.

We made new friends (Jo and Dave) who were in the same circumstances as us, so that’s at least two people who didn’t let MS stop them from seeing the world. Whether you’re planning to sail around the world or just booking a short weekend away check out our tips for travelling with MS.

About Elaine: Elaine was diagnosed with MS in 1991. She’s 64 and lives with her husband and carer John. Their approach to life is ‘do what we can, when we can’. Read more from Elaine on her blog.