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Taking older parents on their first cruise- what should I consider?


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My husband and I are fairly experienced Norwegian cruisers, but my mother just mentioned (wistfully) that she would like to go on a cruise some day. So hubby and I are thinking of taking them on an Alaska trip on the Norwegian Sun out of Seattle (because we wouldn't have to fly and the smaller ship just seems more approachable for them). They're 81 and 79. Both of them have had some falls in the last year, luckily no serious injuries. Dad has a cane and sometimes a walker. We'd get them a balcony cabin not too far from the elevators. Should we get a handicapped room? What else do we need to keep in mind?

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10 minutes ago, Shellbelle28 said:

My husband and I are fairly experienced Norwegian cruisers, but my mother just mentioned (wistfully) that she would like to go on a cruise some day. So hubby and I are thinking of taking them on an Alaska trip on the Norwegian Sun out of Seattle (because we wouldn't have to fly and the smaller ship just seems more approachable for them). They're 81 and 79. Both of them have had some falls in the last year, luckily no serious injuries. Dad has a cane and sometimes a walker. We'd get them a balcony cabin not too far from the elevators. Should we get a handicapped room? What else do we need to keep in mind?

Rooms near elevators are a good idea. Even the sun is a big ship and walking will be required. They need to be very careful with walking due the raised thresholds throughout the ship and including the cabin bathrooms. Cruise ships are different than hotels and you wouldn't want to deal with a nasty fall at sea. Medical care is available but it is not the same as care at home.

 

NCL will rent a wheelchair for the duration of the cruise for a fee or you can use their "on demand" service at no cost where an employee will come to you with a wheelchair and take you from point a to point b.

 

 

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A handicap cabin will have less furniture in it, and the shower will have no threshold, it is a roll in type.  The floor of the bathroom will get wet. 

The SUN has some really nice balcony cabins, and there are a couple of aft ones that are really big. 

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If you can afford it, you might want to book all private excursions for just your family.  That way you will have your own transportation to minimize walking (a small vehicle can get you closer to entrances).  You can set your own schedule and pace and won't need to worry about keeping up or waiting for anyone else.

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I cruise with my DM who is 91. We are scheduled to leave on the Escape next week.  Mom is pretty mobile but uses a Rollator walker onboard for "security" walking and also for storage - carrying a sweater or reading material in the basket/seat so she's not juggling a cane and carrying items and although she's never used it as such, you can sit and rest using the seat if tired.  They are inexpensive - $80 or so delivered and may be covered by your parents' insurance.  Airlines gate check them as they would a stroller or car seat.  

Request wheelchair assist at booking for embarkation and disembarkation 

Consider their ability to get from the passenger drop off point through security to the wheelchair assist waiting area      Same for how far wheelchair assist will take them at disembarkation

although weather is variable,  consider when you are planning to sail and the average/usual sea conditions

consider ports without tendering as that can be difficult for seniors

familarize them with deck layouts and elevator locations before you sail to save them unnecessary steps.    Enlarge the ship map beforehand or ask guest relations if they can enlarge on a copier/printer onboard

if a special diet is needed, such as salt free, let them know at booking.  The staff is very accommodating- usually reviewing the menu options the night before

Travel insurance and check the pre-existing conditions clause, if applicable 

pack extra prescription meds just in case and know the generic name as brand names differ by nation - we found that even in England at an emergency dental appointment.   I knew the med was a calcium channel blocker because the brand name was unfamiliar  

most importantly, enjoy your cruise and the family memories you will cherish! 

 

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we took my MIL who was 80 at the time, on the Pearl to AK. She has a fused ankle with very limited mobility. It happened many years ago so she is used to walking with a limp. She had no issues and most all AK ports are docks (no tenders) it is a great place to do a first cruise. You can also sit on the balcony and watch the scenery go by. We did our very first cruise on the Sky and was upgraded to one of the Penthouse Suites on Deck 10 aft. They are large enough for 4 people - two in the bedroom and two on the sofa in the living room. These older ships do have bigger - they also have smaller bathrooms. For a first cruise I think they would love the smaller ship (as opposed to the Bliss and Joy). The Jewel would be my next choice - but it does the one way NB and then SB Vancouver to Seward. 

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I took my parents on their first cruise when they were in their late 70's. Get travel insurance for them.

 

Both had problems with water retention because of the salt and need to change to a salt free diet. Only on the cruise never had a problem with it before or after.

 

Both were sea sick the first day, but we had a room on the 14th floor and the front of the ship so I would suggest a room in the middle and down lower if possible.

 

Both still talk about the wonderful cruise we gave them so go and make nice memories.

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Are you stopping in Juneau? You can rent a car very inexpensively and drive them to the major attractions

like the Mendenhall Glacier. We walked to a local hotel and picked up the car. You could do the same and

circle back to the cruise ship dock and pick them up. The cost of the car for the day was the same as if

we took the transfer shuttle to the glacier (for 2 people) so in your case you have 4 people and you would

come out ahead.

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16 hours ago, Shellbelle28 said:

My husband and I are fairly experienced Norwegian cruisers, but my mother just mentioned (wistfully) that she would like to go on a cruise some day. So hubby and I are thinking of taking them on an Alaska trip on the Norwegian Sun out of Seattle (because we wouldn't have to fly and the smaller ship just seems more approachable for them). They're 81 and 79. Both of them have had some falls in the last year, luckily no serious injuries. Dad has a cane and sometimes a walker. We'd get them a balcony cabin not too far from the elevators. Should we get a handicapped room? What else do we need to keep in mind?

 

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Verify that they have the right documentation and that it is up-to-date - for Seattle RTs a passport may not be required, but with folks that age do they both still maintain their Driving Licences or replaced them with non-driving gov't-issued ID cards? Do they have their birth certificates on hand? Plus, if you wanted to take them on the White Pass train or a bus tour or drive a rental car into Canada, they'd need passports (at least the card version) or NEXUS.

 

Remember that even though the cruise is to Alaska, you have to visit Canada on at least one day - if anyone gets sick there, or needs medevaced and the closest hospital is Canadian, even excellent US coverage won't be valid - insurance needs to cover Canada as well as domestic travel.

 

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It will be an enjoyable holiday for your parents.  We are in our mid 80s and continue to cruise whenever we can.  Long flights are a bigger problem for me so we take cruises which involve shorter flights (driving would be wonderful but too long a distance). We are Platinum and enjoy priority boarding which makes a big difference. I use a cane onboard and get a wheelchair for getting on and off the ship. When we were in regular cabins we were early for meals to avoid the crowds. To make things easier, we finally switched to the Haven because of access to the restaurant. comfortable chairs, lots of snack foods, library, hot tubs and the helpful service for any extra services we might need from the butler.  I have one cruise booked and hope to continue for a few years yet.

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A couple of additional thoughts from a 80+ traveller.  I love the garden cafe but avoid it during busy times.  We are past the age of the pools and so so for hot tubs.  Lounging on the pool deck on a nice day is enjoyable.  The pubs are fun but preferably earlier in the evening before they get busy. Make sure they have any meds with them and that they are in the carry- ons.  I don't recall any ports in Alaska requiring tenders and there is lots of places to see within easy walking distance.I wouldn't book a handicap cabin as they usually sacrifice room size for a larger wheelchair accompanying bathroom. The Alaska cruise is marvellous but sometimes a little on the cool side so make sure to have your parents bring some warmer clothes just in case.

23 minutes ago, lazydaz said:

It will be an enjoyable holiday for your parents.  We are in our mid 80s and continue to cruise whenever we can.  Long flights are a bigger problem for me so we take cruises which involve shorter flights (driving would be wonderful but too long a distance). We are Platinum and enjoy priority boarding which makes a big difference. I use a cane onboard and get a wheelchair for getting on and off the ship. When we were in regular cabins we were early for meals to avoid the crowds. To make things easier, we finally switched to the Haven because of access to the restaurant. comfortable chairs, lots of snack foods, library, hot tubs and the helpful service for any extra services we might need from the butler.  I have one cruise booked and hope to continue for a few years yet.

 

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Have you considered renting wheelchairs (assuming someone could push them) or scooters for them?  Or you can bring your own from home (rented or your own).   It's not only the ship to consider getting around on, some of the docks are very long and if there is any walking around in port it may get very tiring.     I don't know about the Sun but some rooms actually have a bath tub in the bathroom.   Would that be acceptable?    A handicapped room would definitely be a possibility (especially if scooters were involved) if in fact the ship you are considering still has them available.   They are bigger to get around in and are  more user friendly in the bathroom.  

 

Here is NCL's Special Needs page for your information:    https://www.ncl.com/faq%2523special-needs     

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Chaperoning two octogenarians? Get the premium drink package. You’ll need it. 🤪

 

SO and I do a land trip yearly taking her now 86/84 year old parents to the homeland. It’s a labour of love but there will be moments of hate. The liver lubrication takes the edge off.

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Try to go when kids are back in school. Our Alaska cruise in July seemed like 50 percent kids on board. And half of them were running wild.  I  am twenty years younger than your parents, and those kids turned me into  "grumpy old man" at times.  I know I will avoid going on another cruise while school is out if possible.   It is not a big deal, or game breaker, but something to consider. 

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My mom (72) has been asking to do a large family cruise. I convinced her and my dad (75) to do their own first to 'scope it out' and see if it was realistic for them. They'll be leaving out of NY, so no airport transfers to worry about. Heading down to Orlando and the Bahamas for a week long trip.

 

They'll be in a handicap accessible room, mom has more mobility issues than dad. She'll be using a wheelie walker seat thing similar to what someone else mentioned above. The cabins are small, so having the handicap room will give them a bit more space with the walker and cut down on steps and ledges to have to navigate. I figure by putting them in a handicap room it will also alert the staff that they may need some extra help in the case of an emergency too.

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Did a family cruise for my Dad's 90th birthday.  He moved more slowly, but didn't have trouble.  He was in pretty good health.  Going on a girl's trip with 91 yr old Mom this month.  We'll schlep the luggage and watch how long we're keeping her walking and allow for breaks on shore excursions.  Also in good health.

Travelling with you will probably be easier than alone.

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Bless you for taking your folks, they will love it. We are in our 70s and take my 91 yr mom with us. Make it clear that going on port excursions is up to them. Mom enjoys staying on ship and people watching sometimes.

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