Let me start off by apologizing for the length of this post... also, qualifying that I am NOT referring to dialysis-at-sea or anything like that. I think those are fabulous. When someone becomes chronically ill, it should not ever mean that they become tethered to their home, never to travel again. Heck, if that were the case, my husband and I would not be cruising as much as we do. Let me also state that I am a healthcare professional and fully support people living full and fulfilling lives in spite of their physical or intellectual health issues.
No, what I refer to is some thing that we experienced on our last cruise... let me share some details excerpted from one of my recent blog posts.
Recently, I witnessed a rather disturbing chain of events while on vacation with my spouse. As I previously shared, my husband is disabled following a stroke in 2014. After a year of rehabilitation we resumed traveling, mostly cruising. We purchased a collapsible scooter to make getting around the ship and some of the ports a bit easier. In all honesty more often than not he walks around the ship using a quad cane and enjoying his independence.
A big part of cruising revolves around taking excursions upon reaching port cities. We've applied a measured approach as to our activity. If either of us is not up to it, we simply cancel a tour rather than grit our teeth and soldier on through it. We don't prod each other into overdoing something. This approach has worked well for us because we exercise good judgment and respect our physical tolerances. But just the other day, we witnessed two gentlemen join one of our excursions; one of whom should have been in a hospital or skilled nursing facility. Even the untrained eye saw how much he struggled and more than a handful of fellow passengers were distressed with what was going on. However, his traveling companion (be him friend or relative) appeared to be oblivious or unaffected by the situation and continued to push him.... literally.
He pushed him up the stairs of the bus, pushed him into the seat (which was directly behind us), and pushed him out of the bus once we arrived at our tour destination. Mutterances such as "come on, do it" or "just keep going" were clear enough to hear. As the older man passed our seat, a number of us saw that he was incontinent and his blue jeans wet and the zipper left down. Another gentleman traveler pointed this out to the companion who only responded with "yeah, it's a bit too late for that". It was not a matter of misunderstanding what had been pointed out, he spoke clear, unaccented English. It broke my heart that the man just did not appear to be mindful of his companion's physical state, nor that his dignity was suffering a massive blow... even if he may have been too confused to realize it.
Once seated in the row behind us, the older man's labored breathing, congested cough, and incontinence were cause enough for me to alert the tour guide of my concern. She made an inquiry prior to departing the terminal but the companion insisted he was doing the right thing because he was told "he needed to get out and keep active".
We ended up changing our front row "reserved" seat because the gentleman kept grabbing at the back of my seat and pulling himself up, yanking out chunks of my hair in process. Plus, listening to his cough and semi-coherent mumblings were disturbing my husband.
The point of my blog is completely different than this forum... but another aspect of discussion on this experience is whether there should be a line-in-the-sand where cruise ships and excursion tour operators are responsible to maintain a safe and enjoyable environment for all passengers, including those who seem oblivious to their own condition? I think incontinence qualifies as one of those lines. After this tour, that seat required disinfection and possibly replacement.
So, what do you think?