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News and Opinions about MS, Health & Disability

Before our Hawaii cruise, it was time to enjoy Oahu

Tahiti dancers in the Polynesian Cultural Centre's boat pageant.

Tahiti dancers in the Polynesian Cultural Centre’s boat pageant.

When I was a first diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, my life didn’t change but 14 years later it has – now my mobility is severely affected but my determination to enjoy life hasn’t changed. I see no reason to shut myself away and suffer; my need is to get out and live life as well as I can. Yes, I need a wheelchair to travel more than 10 to 15 yards but so what? In today’s world of improving (though by no means perfect) accessibility, a wheelchair is no reason to be held back.

A cruise in a wheelchair? Absolutely. Hawaii in a wheelchair? Of course.

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Just a few days ago, I brought you memories of a great cruise that Lisa and I enjoyed around the islands of Hawaii on board Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America.

Mention was made of our shore visits on Maui, the Big Island – two stops there at different ports, and Kauai but how could Oahu, the most populated of the islands, and the one containing Honolulu the state capital, be ignored?

Well, of course, it cannot; so back to Hawaii we go.

On arrival at Honolulu airport, we were greeted with leis of flowers.

On arrival at Honolulu airport, we were greeted with leis of flowers.

The Pride of America cruise actually starts and finishes in Honolulu so, to make the most of Oahu, Lisa and I arrived by plane three days before embarkation.

We stayed at the tremendous Outrigger Reef on the Beach hotel where, on our first morning, we enjoyed breakfast in one of its restaurants with no windows and the Pacific Ocean only a few yards away.

During our stay on the island we packed a lot in. This included visits to the Polynesian Cultural Centre, Pearl Harbor, Paradise Cove Luau, dinner at the Top of Waikiki, and coach tours that included passing the golden statue of King Kamehameha. Fans of the modern version of the TV cop show Hawaii 5-0 will be used to seeing that statue outside the Steve McGarrett team HQ in the series.

Polynesian Cultural Centre: Tonga's host.

Polynesian Cultural Centre: Tonga’s host.

The cultural centre features the traditions of many of the original Pacific islanders, including those from Tonga, Tahiti, Fiji, Samoa, the Marquesas islands and Hawaii itself plus the Maoris from New Zealand. Their skills are fascinating to see and experience and it is certainly not a place to rush through.

USS Arizona likes where she sank in Pearl Harbor.

USS Arizona likes where she sank in Pearl Harbor.

The Shrine Room at Pearl Harbor is a memorial to all who died.

The Shrine Room at Pearl Harbor is a memorial to all who died.

Another ‘must’ is a trip to Pearl Harbor, the US Navy base that was notoriously attacked by Japan on December 7 1941 – bringing the then neutral USA into World War II. I am a Brit and even I found our visit there to be emotional.

If you go to Hawaii and don’t go to a luau, you will have missed a treat.  It’s a series of entertainment spectaculars plus a great meal. There are a number of luaus to choose from and we chose the one at Paradise Cove. We were picked up by coach close to our hotel and that’s when the fun started as we were kept fully entertained by our guide. As I was in my wheelchair, when it was time to get our dinner from the servery, he told Lisa and me to stay at our table while he brought our food to us. It was absolutely perfect.

One night we decided to eat in the Top of Waikiki revolving restaurant. Having taken an elevator as far as it would go, we found ourselves one floor below the restaurant with the only access being via stairs. Seeing my problem, a senior staff member appeared and took us to another elevator that was actually inside the kitchen. Still, it got us to our table.

At the end of our three days on the island of Oahu, we boarded the Pride of America for our cruise.

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Sunny and warm outdoors on winter cruise

coast

There’s something rather special about choosing a December cruise in the northern hemisphere and wearing shorts, t-shirts and sandals – all without feeling cold.

Yes, in the northern hemisphere. Yes, in winter. But lovely sunny weather and not at all cold. How can that be? Well, Lisa and I were cruising around the Hawaiian Islands.

prideNow plenty of cruises start or finish in Honolulu and go to other places but we chose to take the only cruise around the archipelago, aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America (pictured right).

We sailed from Honolulu, the state capital on the island of Oahu, and visited three of the other islands during a week-long cruise. It was picturesque with both beauty and dramatic scenes including Kauai’s Na’pali coast (main picture), sunset at the 10,000 feet high Haleakala – a dormant volcano – on Maui, some smouldering volcanic lava at Kilauea on the Big Island (pictured below) and, spotted from our balcony, whales swimming free as nature intended.

There were a number of shore excursions including one to Kona, home of the famous and delicious coffee of the same name, and another that enabled us to take a voyage on a glass bottomed boat, allowing us to see underwater sights that I could not otherwise have seen.

smoking lavaBecause I need a wheelchair to travel more than a few yards, we booked an accessible cabin. It was huge, with a balcony to match and a superb accessible bathroom. It was everything we needed.

Most days we were docked portside but at one stop, the ship had to anchor and use tenders to take passengers to and from the shore. I was most impressed by the attention NCL paid to disabled passengers. I had to get out of my wheelchair to board and disembark the tender but the crew ensured my safety and comfort before bringing my folded chair on board.

At the other end, the same attention was paid as my chair, now unfolded and ready for use, was waiting for me on the jetty and one crew member ensured I was seated properly before we left the jetty. On our return to the ship, exactly the same service and courtesy was extended.

Last sunset before we returned to Honolulu.

Last sunset before we returned to Honolulu.

NCL specialises in what it calls Freestyle Cruising and that means that passengers choose when and how they wish to eat and be entertained; no need to pre-book, just turn up and enjoy. This may not be everyone’s preference but it is convenient when going on sunrise or sunset shore excursions.

Lisa and I both agree that the Pride of America cruise is the best way to see Hawaii as you get the chance to visit so many of the islands, each with its own contrasting character. Oahu is the gathering place, Maui is the valley isle, Hawai’i is the Big Island and Kauai is the garden isle.

The ship itself has, unsurprisingly, an American theme. It has 18 restaurants plus 11 bars and lounges, with a variety of entertainment, including Broadway shows. If you’re a lover of casinos, however, you’ll be disappointed. Gambling is not permitted in Hawaii or in its territorial waters, so there is no casino on board.

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Love the idea of cruising – or simply hate it?

royal princess

There are those who are hooked on cruising and others willing to give it a try but, at the other end of the scale, there are those who would not dream of setting foot on a cruise ship even if you paid them.

The reasons they give for not giving cruising a chance include fears for their safety at sea, heightened by some problems such as running aground and incidents such as engine failure or fires on board; health worries over norovirus or other infections in a closed space; rough seas in bad weather; and “being at sea for days on end”.

There is no need to dwell on the negatives except to say that, despite media ‘horror stories’, serious incidents with a ship are so rare as to be almost negligible. There is no need to be at sea for days on end, just choose a cruise where the ship is in a different port almost every day.

Yes, rough seas do happen but generally the ship will avoid the worst, even if it means changing the planned itinerary. Infections, also, can happen from time to time through lack of proper hygiene procedures being followed by other passengers. Cruise ship crews do their best to prevent outbreaks but no system is 100% idiot-proof.

club 6On the positive side, to many there is no better way to relax than by enjoying a great holiday where everything you need is provided without the detailed planning or stress of organising it all yourself. The major decisions you really need to make for a cruise are the destinations you’d like to visit, the price you are willing to pay and the timing that suits you best.

Committed cruisers know that cruises offer real value for money, a complete all-in-one package, excellent dining in a number of different restaurants, both family deals and ones restricted to adults-only, a wide variety of entertainments plus luxuries such as hot-tubs, sunbathing, even massages and other ‘pampering’.

There really can be no easier or relaxing way to visit a number of different places with the luxury of just unpacking and repacking your suitcases just once. You don’t need to traipse from hotel to hotel, unpacking at each one; on a cruise, your ‘hotel bedroom’ comes with you in the form of your stateroom.

Of course, the style and quality of what is on offer can vary not only between cruise lines but also between ships of the same line. I suspect that many experienced cruisers have their own favourites but others like to choose their cruises based on factors such as destination ports rather than a particular cruise line or ship. That really is all down to individual choice.

The fact that cruising is becoming an ever more popular holiday is clearly shown by new ship after new ship, often larger than ever before, being brought into service by one cruise line or another. But, don’t despair, if these huge ships seem too big for your taste; there are much smaller ones that carry fewer passengers and which might better suit your own desires and needs.

 

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