Traveling with a Chronic Illness: Cruise Edition

by Krissy Ward

     I have been traveling for longer than I can remember (almost 30 years) and have had a chronic illness for half of that time. I know first hand that traveling while fighting for your health is EXTREMELY difficult, but not impossible. It’s not like you can leave your sick body and just get a new one for your vacation. (But, that’d be AMAZING, wouldn’t it!?) So because of this, planning ahead for any trip, or for anything for that matter, is so much more important when you are chronically ill. 

     Traveling takes a lot of courage especially when you don't always feel well. People may question why we would even want to travel if we “feel that sick”. It’s why we do anything... we want to live DESPITE being sick. I KNOW that there will be consequences for pushing myself on vacay, but sometimes we have to step outside of the world our illnesses allows and just LIVE. 

     Like my previous travel blog, I will be giving you tips on how to survive a vacation, but this time, it’s the cruise edition. 


1. Be Your Own Advocate

You have to speak up for yourself. Only you know how you’re feeling. Make sure your cruise companions have a clear picture of what you can and cannot do to prevent any future disappointment. A lot of times, people with chronic illness struggle to explain our situation, we don’t want it to be awkward. Let everyone know upfront that you may have to leave once in awhile so there won’t be a “thing” later on. If you need breaks, a chair, a wheelchair, whatever it is, don’t be ashamed. This will make your trip more enjoyable for you. 


2. Wash Your Hands Regularly

Anyone with a chronic illness can tell you that being sick on top of a chronic illness is no joke! A cruise is like a playground for germs, so even if you have to run football plays and dodge germs like you’re Odell Beckham Jr, you do what you gotta do lol. 


3. Plan For Your Medication

I don’t take as many meds as I used to before I started smoking marijuana. But even then, you have to plan for whatever makes you feel better. Whether it’s telling your doctor to get the medicine in order or doing like I did. I ordered edibles and a rub from Dangerously Delicious Edibles (IG: @dangerouslydeliciousco) and organized them day by day like I would any other medicine. I had so many back spasms and issues on my cruise and the rub is the ONLY thing that works for me right now. Please let your doctors know in advance that you’ll be on a cruise and may need meds (or extra meds depending on the situation).


4. Be Realistic

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the idea that you’re on vacation, so you think your body will go on vacation too. Umm... no! You still have a chronic illness to take into consideration. As much as you want to climb Mt Everest and bungee jump twelve times in a row, ask yourself will you be able to do that? Is there enough time afterwards to recuperate? Will the aftermath ruin the rest of the trip? Plan the excursions with as much thought as possible. Look at the reviews. Is there a lot of walking to get to the excursion? You have to factor all of that in. Is the time of day good for you? Planning all of this will allow you to have fun for not only that day, but for the duration of your cruise. 


5. Expect Bad Times

When you have a chronic illness, it’s hard accepting your body’s limitations, period. It’s even harder when you’re on vacation. I hate to be the reason other people can’t have fun, so I try to keep up with everyone. That only makes things worse for me in the long run. I had so many breakdowns because I was so disappointed in myself.... for being sick. Weird right? I still struggle with accepting my limitations, but it only holds you back if you don’t. Cry if you have to and then move on. Take time to rest up and rejoin your cruise companions later. Take deep breaths and remember to enjoy yourself. 


6. Find Medical Right Away

The last thing you want to worry about when you need to get to medical is how to get there. What’s even worse is spending all that energy trying to find it when you need it only to find out they’re closed. It happened to me. Make sure you know where the important things are and their hours. It will save you a headache.... or two. 


7. Traveling To & From Port

Try to space everything out as much as possible. If you can fly into the city a day early before your cruise ship leaves, you won’t feel so rushed and it will give you time to recuperate from your flight. Make sure your clothes and shoes are comfortable. You may be in them awhile. Also, take advantage of wheelchairs! Don’t worry about the stares from people who don’t realize people aren’t born in wheelchairs, they USE them. 


8. Be A Friend To Yourself

In those moments when you’re feeling down, talk to yourself they way you would a friend. For some reason, we are so hard on ourselves. You did not cause yourself to get sick. It is not your fault. Speak kinder to yourself, especially in those moments.


9. Stay Hydrated & Eat Mindfully 

Yes, I know you’re on vacay, but you have to be mindful about what goes in your body. Some things can cause you more pain later on. Make sure you’re drinking enough water. You will be out in the sun the majority of the time, make sure you’re taking care of yourself first. 

     Although I had many breakdowns on this cruise to Turks & Caicos, I would do it all over again. I was very happy to experience these things, but very sad about my limitations and the physical pain just took a toll on me mentally and emotionally. But, I hope these tips find you well in your next cruise adventure! Be safe Warriors!