Even with the best of intentions, however, there can be culinary landmines. I could order, for example, a fresh fruit or seafood appetizer, salad with reduced-fat dressing on the side, an entrée either from the night’s specials or from the grilled selections, and sorbet for dessert. But then our waiter would come along and plop a platter of goodies on the table for all to share.
This had never happened to me on any other cruise, and I didn’t notice whether the other tables in the dining room were receiving this same special treatment. I happened to be seated at a particularly fun-loving table filled with common interests (cooking) and circumstances (Type 2 diabetes) and complicated only by a tangle of English and Spanish that our waiter stepped in to unravel when needed. The rapport that existed among all of us — including the wait staff — could have contributed to camaraderie that lent itself to special treats.
In any case, if you are regularly presented with food you didn’t order, you could decline it, ignore it, take a taste (or more), or discreetly ask that the special treats be stopped to help you stick to your meal plan.
Medical needs on board
Ships have medical facilities, but they are usually not equipped to provide treatment for anything beyond minor illnesses or injuries. If something serious happens, you will be stabilized and transported to a hospital on-shore. There is a charge for medical services, and most insurance policies won’t cover those fees. Consider taking out a special policy that would reimburse you for medical expenses incurred while on your vacation.
Be sure to take enough medicines and supplies to last you throughout your trip — plus extra for “just in case.” The ship does not have a pharmacy.
Because I let the cruise line know, via my travel agent, that I have diabetes, there was a sharps container in my stateroom (although I had not specifically asked for one).
As mentioned before, handicapped-accessible facilities are available on most ships, although you might need to stick with the newer ones for the best accommodations. Aside from staterooms and public areas that accommodate wheelchairs, some have TTY (to enable people who are hearing impaired to make and receive phone calls), assistive listening devices in the auditoriums, and Braille signage. In addition, service animals are usually welcome. Again, let your travel agent know what services you need, so the cruise line can make accommodations for you.
Be forewarned that some cruise lines require that people with certain handicaps bring along a companion for assistance.
While there isn’t much that can’t be accommodated on board, hemodialysis is not available on the majority of cruise ships. However, First European Cruises’ Mistral does have dialysis machines, according to information from www.cruisecritic.com. And a company called Dialysis at Sea provides dialysis services on some cruises. Call (800) 544-7604 for more information, or log onto www.dialysisatsea.com. Keep in mind that these services may not be covered by your medical insurance. Another option is to arrange for dialysis ahead of time at ports of call. Your home dialysis center may be able to help you set this up.
It can’t be said too many times: Tell your travel agent about any special accommodations you need, so that he can help you select the best ship for your needs.
Choosing your cruise
Because ships come in all “flavors” — from party ships, to those that cater to children, to those that emphasize more “grown-up” activities, choose your cruise according to your lifestyle and interests. If you want to do some research before contacting a travel agent, there are plenty of books available that compare the different cruise ships traveling to specific areas. The aforementioned www.cruisecritic.com has lots of information, from ship reviews to informational articles and even a message board where you can connect with others who are sailing on the same ship or at least the same cruise line.