In the beginning of December, I was lucky enough to go on a cruise to Central America. It was an early birthday gift from family. I went with my mother. I had a wonderful time both on and off the ship but I thought I would discuss the trip so that those of you who may not have cruised before can learn what it’s like to cruise while having fibromyalgia and then maybe I can offer some additional help to those of you who have cruised but struggled to participate in all that you wanted to due to your fibromyalgia.
I feel like the easiest way for me to share this is in tips. For those of us that don’t like to read long pieces, or just want simple helpful hints, I think this is the best way to go. So, let’s get started.
1. Before you even get on the ship, there is so much that we need to prepare beforehand. You need to make a list of everything that you could possibly need during the trip. This includes bringing things that help you daily with your fibromyalgia. So, on top of clothing, toiletries, sunscreen and the like, you should also remember your medicine and supplements if you take any, a cold pack (as many rooms have refrigerators but maybe not freezers), a heating pad, etc. Everything that you plan to pack should go on a list. I made it easy for myself by writing out the list and have two columns after the item, one saying “trip,” and the other one saying “home.”
2. Within list making, it may be helpful for those of us that are foggy (which, admit it folks, is most of us) to really organize your list into categories. An added suggestion here is to, as much as you can, pack by category as well.
3. I learned a lesson on my cruise - I didn’t pack enough clothing. My mother brought small packets of detergent with her but washing the clothes was actually more of a hassle than a help. Make sure you have an outfit for each day of the trip. You can obviously wear bottoms (pants, shorts, skirts) with other tops but you’ll need a new top for each day.
4. Many people bring just the amount of medicine needed for the trip but I bring my entire bottle in the case that we, G-d forbid, need to spend a couple more days after the trip due to travel delays. Bottles generally take up less space than pill organizers anyway.
5. This one comes as a suggestion from MY coach. Be prepared to WALK a lot more than you are used to. Because being on my feet a lot can lead to a flare, my daily goal of walking is 3,000 steps. On each day of the trip, I walked between 8,000 and 12,000 steps and some of those days were days just on the ship. So, while you are doing all this walking and exercise that you are not necessarily used to, DO NOT forget to schedule BREAKS. On days at sea, I would walk around the ship with my mom but even during casual walks, I would ask to sit for a couple of minutes to just give my feet some relief and to keep from getting more fatigued. I worked hard to make sure that when we took a break, I had an opportunity to have my legs up.
6. If walking is difficult for you, you can make arrangements with the cruise to have a wheelchair or scooter available for you throughout the trip. I saw many people of all ages using wheelchairs and scooters. The ship is very large and for some of us, it’s too much on our body to do that much walking. You need to figure out what is the best option for you.
7. If you choose to book excursions (trips off the ship on days where you docked at another location), be aware that the excursion are listed by number and this number indicates a level of difficult, with one being the easiest and three being physically demanding. With the exception of one excursion, I chose only level one trips. In my experience, and keep in mind this is only one trip, there is a large difference between the levels. I chose a level two excursion for one day trip which emphasized minimal walking and I came back to the ship sore, swollen and exhausted. Obviously, you want to get the most out of your trip but not to the detriment of your body. Your health comes first.
8. With all the food onboard, allow yourself to accept that you are going to eat more than you usually do and will probably make less healthy choices because you can. A friend told me to expect to gain two to five pounds even with the amount of activity you do. She was right. While I often chose the healthier meal options, I had more difficulty saying no to dessert than I do when I’m home.
9. Preparing to go home. On the last night of the trip, you have the option to pack your suitcase up and leave it outside your stateroom for the staff to take down and then you can pick it/them up before you clear customs. If your suitcase is heavy or unwieldy, I highly recommend this option. Also, it will make your ability to leave the ship much easier as you aren’t dragging/carrying heavy things that could potentially cause a flare. So, use the checklist that you used to pack and put everything in your suitcase. Somethings you may not need to bring back so make a note stating that you threw it out on the ship. Place your checklist on the top of your suitcase and then you’ll be able to review it all when you get home.
10. Lastly, and most importantly, HAVE FUN!!! Just because we live with a chronic illness and chronic pain daily does not mean that we lose our rights to enjoy life. With these tips, you can have a wonderful trip because you planned for these accommodations before you even got on the boat. Despite some minor setbacks of my own, I had an incredible time. I didn’t miss out on anything that I scheduled due to my fibromyalgia.
This is just a simple list. I could have gone into more detail but honestly, I didn’t want you to feel overwhelmed by the list. If you have further questions, please feel free to drop me a line. I’m happy to schedule a session with you to talk about this or anything else that you might need help with related to your life with fibromyalgia and its co-morbid diagnoses. I look forward to hearing from you soon! Happy cruising! =)
I’m Kate Straus and I’m a Certified Fibromyalgia Advisor. I help Jewish women feel confident in their ability to practice their faith while navigating the ups and downs of fibromyalgia. I’m using the disease that at one time knocked me down, to help support others live life to their fullest.