Monday, July 17, 2017

See the World, You ARE able, Part 2

I have always been a traveller, so after many years of hitchiking and couch surfing and going to all-inclusive resorts, I decided (in the early 80s) to go on a cruise with a female friend of mine. We went on Carnival Cruise lines to the Caribbean and visited San Juan, Barbados, St. Kitts, Martinique and the Line's private island of Bequia. My memories of that experience are clouded, both by age and overindulgene at the time, but I do remember that we stayed in an interior cabin which was so small that we two "curvy" women had trouble moving around inside it. The washrooms were the size of the closets and were a challenge for both of us. Other than that, the ship itself and the cruise were what we expected -- sun and fun. What do I remember of our itinerary? The large size womans' store in St. Thomas and the wonderful shopping. Stuffing the hungover friend into a cab so I could see the beautiful island of Martinique and winding up in a restaurant surrounded by aquariums. Swimming ashore from a rubber raft to the not yet touristy island of Nevis. Getting off the ship in San Juan and having my  'no sea sickness'' patch fall off and becoming so sick that I had to sit in a restaurant that used to be a convent while the rest of the passengers went on a tour of the Fort. Not too bad an experience as the London Fog outlet was across the street and, even though I was ill, I could still shop. It was a very long time before I had the urge to cruise again and then I found Holland America Cruise Lines,

My husband, Darryl, and I had spent several years taking short trips to various U.S. cities to visit museums, art galleries, theatres, music venues and, alas, relatives.  As time passed, I became sadly aware that my mobility and energy levels were declining rapidly and that the actual physical effort to get places would have to change.  For instance, to get to Pearson Airport, we used to love hopping on the subway to Islington station and taking the Rocket to the Terminal for the price of a ticket or token.  Each of us just pulled our carry-on bag behind us and that was it.  Unfortunately, with my cane and arthritic hands, the transporting of even the smallest of suitcases and the challenge of the stairs and the airport distances were daunting, if not impossible.  The price of limos and cabs were out of the question since we live in the east end of the city and we have not yet won Cash for Life or Lotto 649.   My mobility challenges qualify me to get Wheel Trans and I soon discovered that they would transport me and my escort to the airport! I hope that the upcoming changes to this wonderful programme will not include the discontinuation of this valuable service.

 I also found out that I could order a wheelchair or other mobility solution from the airlines.  The airlines, if you notified them when you booked your flight, would be happy to make all sorts of accommodations for you.  They will ensure that you can board early and will even cater to most of your food requests.  I have bizarre food allergies and I can honestly say that I have not gone without food on any flight.  The only problem that we have ever encountered were the seats on an Air Canada flight overseas that were so small that we both had to order seatbelt extenders.  We have also found that it is worth the money to ensure that you have seats where you can either have no one in front of you or a seat where you can easily get up and walk around.  On one flight, our very knowledgeable travel agent, booked us in the last row so that I could stand up in the area behind the seats.  (Have I mentioned that I am accident prone -- a klutz -- and have broken my leg and torn ligaments shortly before two of my vacations and that I caught pneumonia during my travels?) 

We have also purchased a large, ultra lightweight suitcase with wheels rather than taking two small suitcases.  Why?  Not only does it cut down on how much you have to unpack and carry, but it costs less than paying for two suitcases!  Beware, the airlines keep the cabin temperatures at what I consider to be sub-zero C..  One of  the best purchases that I have made was the travel package on Air Transat that contained earphones, eyeshades and the best blanket all in a small pouch. And, don't be afraid to ask for a blanket.  Sometimes there is a small charge to buy one; however on a recent trip to Calgary on West Jet, the flight attendant became concerned when she saw me shivering with my sweater and a scarf pulled over my head and happily offered me a medical blanket.  Dress in layers and especially, DON'T WEAR SHOES WITH LACES.  So those are my tips on getting to your destination.

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