Cruising with an Artificial Limb
Modern cruise ships can be one of the most pleasant ways to see the world. Your hotel travels with you, along with excellent food, beverages, entertainment, interesting people, exotic ports of call, and world class, sometimes duty free, shopping.
As a relatively new amputee, you may think twice about leaving the safety and security of your own familiar surroundings. Developing confidence in your ability to travel starts with small trips out of town and builds on your own successes. Once you are walking reasonable distances comfortably, check with your doc and prosthetist for clearance to travel overseas. It’s time to celebrate your new found freedom and your sense of adventure with a short cruise.
Cruises come in all flavors. Pick one that’s an easy flight away, has a good reputation, and is within your budget. Like many other forms of travel, a great cruise rewards those who plan well. If you have a trusted travel agent, go see them and ask questions. A good travel agent may cost a bit more than bargain hunting through the internet, but their experience and scheduling is worth it in peace of mind.
As you begin your packing, include the extra items you will need for your prosthetic limb. If you are a lower limb amputee, you will need several days of clean socks. If your limb needs adjustments, as when wearing shoes with different heel heights, take your hex wrench. Socks can be washed in the sink, in shampoo, and air dried in your cabin. If something on your limb is prone to break, and you have spare parts, take them. Common sense prevails here.
During the warmer parts of the year, travelling in walking shorts or short sleeve shirts (for prosthetic arms) may give you an edge in dealing with security at airports and when going through security before boarding the ship. Your situation quickly becomes obvious to TSA and cruise line security, moving you on a different path without explanations from you. For those wearing pants, choose pants with legs wide enough to allow you to pull them up over your socket for TSA wipe and sniff testing. Although cruise lines do screen before boarding, and re-boarding, they are not generally as stringent as airport TSA screening.
For lower limb amputees, and everyday activities at sea, wear the shoes you are most comfortable walking in. Wear shoes that are not likely to slip on sloped boarding platforms. If your cruise ship has formal dining nights, companies like New Balance, and others, sell shoes which are built like walking shoes but work well as formal shoes. They also come in brown and black. These are much easier to walk in and require fewer plantar and Dorsi flex foot adjustments than traditional dress shoes with regular heals.
After boarding the ship and locating your cabin, be sure and meet your cabin steward. They have the responsibility of looking after your room, cleaning it, making the bed, replacing items in the bathroom, and many other duties to make your trip more pleasant. Some cruise ships may have a few handicapped accessible rooms. Ask the cruise line or travel agent prior to booking. If you have reasonable mobility, a positive attitude, and are good at making things work out, you will do just fine in a regular room. It’s always a good idea to tip your cabin steward when you first meet them. Start off this relationship by telling them you have an artificial limb. If it’s a lower limb, ask them if they can find you a small metal,or plastic stool that you can put in the shower. The shower in your room will most likely be very small. Getting in and out may require a bit of ingenuity, even with that new shower stool. Where there is a will…..you can find a way.
Pool and hot tub use. The easiest way to get to and from the ship’s pool area is to walk, using your prosthetic leg, sit close to the pool or hot tub and slide your leg or arm off right before getting in. Have a dry towel close by when you get out. Those with prosthetic arms may prefer leaving their arm in the room for simplicity.
Cruise ships often visit several ports during the journey. These are usually scenic destinations, with good shopping, restaurants, planned tours and plenty of walking involved. As a newer lower limb amputee your leg may be going through frequent changes in size, usually getting smaller as you go through your day. Depending on what type of suspension system you are using, planning for these changes is a good idea. Before getting off the ship, be sure that you have a few extra prosthetic socks in your pocket or purse. Enjoy your day ashore, but monitor your legs overall comfort while walking. If you sense that your leg is getting overly sore, and sock adjustments aren’t improving things, getting a cab back to the ship might be prudent. Remember to pace yourself.
Also remember to include any medications you need to pack, before your trip. You may want to put a second medication set, along with extra prosthetic socks and a change of underwear in your “carry on” bag. Luggage is sometimes delayed for hours before getting to your cabin.
Although not related to amputees, making a color copy of your passport and drivers license and packing these away in your suitcase will help if those documents are lost during a trip.
Bon Voyage and enjoy getting out and exploring the world. Celebrate your life as an amputee. Your new found freedom is just the beginning of many exciting adventures that await you.