At the end of May came the time that my parents and I have been looking forward to – our annual cruise. And this year, I have been particularly excited as this year we booked a cruise around the beautiful scenery of the Norwegian Fjords. As the symptoms associated with my neurological condition had worsened somewhat over the past few months it did incite some anxiety. However, after the successful trip to Hay-On-Wye the week before our departure did lessen this somewhat; in fact, I almost felt like Stella after getting her groove back! The excitement for the trip returned, and the Queen hit ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ became my new anthem as I had a deep determination that nothing was going to stop me from enjoying this much-anticipated cruise, not even pesky symptoms such as trembling legs.
Of course, as much as a holiday is a brief escape from the realities of our everyday life, and our enduring physical surroundings, there is no break however when living with a long-term health condition however and all of its accompanying symptoms. There were many times during the cruise that I was overwhelmed by the painful sensations flowing throughout my legs, as well as fatigue dragging me under into its grasps. As a result, I ended up crashing in our cabin after dinner; curled up in bed in comfortable pyjamas and binge-watching a comforting television programme via Netflix. And one of the many reasons why I love to cruise is that sleep is so much easier to come by then when I’m at home, consumed by chronic pain, with the gentle (sometimes not so gentle) rocking of the ship.
At first there was the inevitable FOMO (fear of missing out) on all the evening entertainment on offer (as well as the embarrassment of knowing that there were young children out longer than myself!) but then I realised that I could push through the fatigue, pain and other symptoms to stay on and party through the night then inevitably I will end up missing out on more by being too unwell enough to venture off the ship and explore the beauty of Norway for myself (although granted I was able to enjoy some of the amazing scenery from our cabin with its panoramic ocean view). Also bearing in mind, however that one of the great benefits of cruising, especially with Royal Caribbean is that some of its entertainment can be enjoyed from the comfort of your cabin through its own broadcasting channel on the TV. So, I wasn’t always even missing out on the fun, and could do it in the comfort of my PJ’s! A spoonie’s dream! I did manage to take in one show during our week long-stay on Navigator of the Seas; the ice-show with amazing ice dancers, which I thoroughly enjoyed, the flashing of the strobe lights did trigger some episodes of vertigo however but with the recent mindfulness and meditation exercises I have been practising I was able to keep the anxiety under control and not react, i.e. panic when these symptoms arose.
I have written about the benefits of cruising when living with a chronic illness or disability previously so I won’t repeat the points that I have already made. What I will say however is that Norway is hands down the best cruise destination that I have experienced. Not only does it offer the most amazingly beautiful scenery but found the style of living of this spectacular country to be incredibly relaxing. We are so used to observe people rushing around here in the UK, constantly busy and in a hurry to get to somewhere so it was refreshing to be in a country which appears to be much more laid-back and life runs at a slower pace. As someone who is confined to a body that is continually weakened and tired by constant and incessant symptoms; always trying to keep up with the fast pace of the world around me, I welcomed and embraced this different lifestyle to our own.
In my opinion, I also believe that the Norwegian Fjord itinerary is the ideal choice for those considering their first cruise, or those travelling with a disability. As many of the ports are located within the centre of the city or town, therefore, when disembarking the ship, you are to explore the area at your leisure as all the local amenities are within easy walking distance. For me, I found this much less stressful than some of the other places we have visited on other cruises, especially those which require a shuttle bus to transport you from the port as it usually required some waiting around in large and claustrophobic crowds. Bergen, the first port of call we visited, did require shuttle bus transport from the port, however, the minibus for those with wheelchairs was ready waiting for us as we departed the ship which took the stress out, and as fatigue descended upon all of us and we were ready to wave goodbye to Bergen, the minibus was again ready and waiting for us right where it dropped us off.
The second port of call, Olden which greeted us straight away with its majestic and beautiful views is often a favourite for those who love to hike, but as someone with mobility problems I obviously unable to pursue such adventurous pursuits. I was not to miss out however, as a little land-train greeted us from the parking area where the ship was moored, which took us around one side of its lake before travelling down the other and back to the ship. A must for anyone who wishes to take in the beauty of Olden but has mobility difficulties or are in a wheelchair.
Unfortunately, when we arrived at the third port of call, I was too unwell to be able to venture off the ship to explore the cosmopolitan town of Alesund. But instead of dwelling on that what I could not do, I instead focused on everything that I had achieved during the holiday despite the wobbly legs and other symptoms that I was continuously fighting against. Thankfully, the day of rest was exactly what the doctor ordered and I found myself fit enough to go off ship and enjoy the wonderous city of Stavanger. Mum and I enjoyed the time to walk around this fantastic city and take in some of the more familiar shops such as H and M, Zara as well as observing the all-too familiar sights of McDonald’s and Starbucks! Although my favourite part of the day was taking a wander up to the old town of Stavanger to observe and appreciate the quaintness of its old cobblestones and the cities old homes. It was on this day that my stubborn streak regarding the use of the wheelchair, insisting that I didn’t need it and pushing through the pain. Of course, by the end of the day the pain was excruciating and in need of a long soak in one of the whirlpools aboard the ship, which only seemed to ease the pain for a short time. That would be a piece of advice for fellow cruisers – a mobility aid is there for a reason – to be used, so don’t become a martyr to the pain or other symptoms that may require you to use the chair. By doing so, you will be able to do and enjoy much more than if you didn’t use it!
To conclude the adventure of exploring the gorgeousness of the Norwegian Fjords, I would have to affirm that this has to be one of my all-time favourite holiday destinations, and that I am now a tiny little bit in love with Norway!