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This Alaska Cruise Something Special


During the weekend, we spent some time with a dear friend whose days of traveling by air are over. He had a leg amputated last month, will say good-bye to the toes on his other leg next week and has assorted other medical issues that wouldn't allow anyone to fly…even if he wasn't in his 80s.

So what's our friend talking about doing?

Going on a cruise ship to Alaska.

He's hoping it will happen because he know it's possible, and it's possible because cruise lines have made it that way. As we Baby Boomers age, the number of people with wheelchairs, walkers, canes, crutches and similar special needs is certain to increase, and don't think people at cruise lines haven't considered that.

While all cruise lines welcome people who have difficulty getting around, the conditions vary from ship to ship. When Norwegian built the Epic, it included 41 cabins that are wheelchair accessible. That's a good start. Princess ships generally have stateroom doors wide enough for only collapsible wheelchairs, but you can be sure that will change when its two new ships arrive in 2013 and 2014. Others have wide corridors to accommodate wheelchairs and some have sliding doors to staterooms.

The bottom line is (using wheelchairs as an example), it's all over the map. As a result, people like our buddy need to do their homework — or have a travel agent do so on their behalf — to make certain there are no surprises.

Even if he never gets off the ship, the fact that somebody with his physical ailments can go on a cruise to see Alaska glaciers calving is nothing short of amazing.

Just like he is.

Celebrity Millennium
11 nights
October 22, 2012
Ensenada, Kilauea Volcano, Hilo, Kona, Lahaina, Honolulu
Balcony: $1,249
Cost per day: $137

Cruising with Care for Handicapped

Full disclosure: If what you are about to read sounds like a plug for the company involved, it isn’t intended. We do not know the company or the principals. We personally have not used the company’s product (thank goodness). Our cousins have, and that’s the reason we’re passing along their endorsement.

The company is called Care Vacations. The business is providing physically challenged people with the tools they need to navigate their way around a cruise ship. Lyle and Marilyn, our cousins, qualify. They also love cruising.

“We’ve used them four times now,” says Marilyn. “We’ve never had a problem. When we get on the ship, the scooter is waiting for us in the stateroom.”

This company is not the only one in the field. Searching the Internet turned up another, called Scootaround. Both provide mechanical mobility — Care Vacations seems to specialize in the cruise business, as opposed to travel in general. It also provides respiratory equipment, patient lifters, shower chairs and even hospital beds. It’s been around 20 years and services 20 ports in the U.S., three more in Canada and select ports world-wide…and it has the authorization of all major cruise lines.

People with disability issues have a tough enough time being able to travel, so anything that makes it easier is welcome, no matter what the cost. For Marilyn and Lyle, being regular Care Vacations customers also delivered a bonus…no, not a frequent-user points bonus.

Last year, they booked a Royal Caribbean cruise on Jewel of the Seas, through New England and into Canada. Embarkation was at Cape Liberty in New Jersey. Their flight from central Wisconsin had a stop in Detroit and ran into weather problems. The ship left at five o’clock. They arrived at 5:45.

Not only were they able to work out compensation with the cruise line, but Care Vacations gave them a full credit for their scooters. That’s how companies like this build customers…for life.

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