How do you feel about people on cruises who might be better off in a healthcare facility?

Hi all,

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?

15 Answers

I only hope that the passenger had enough mental facilities to enjoy the excursions. While it is obvious that the companion was there as a duty or obligation, discretion should have been the rule. I have met some elderly passengers and disabled folks on the cruises I have been on, and YES there should be a certain level of fitness or capability for each excursion so as not to unduly inconvenience other travelers, I do not know at this point what the cruise lines can do without offending someone, and these days it seems that no matter what you say or do, someone will get their nose out of joint.

I will always weigh the excursion with my capabilities, so no climbing, zip lines or marathon runs or hikes. If I have to stop, why slow down the group.

Could be the attendant ( read: relative still in the will ) was hoping for his charges demise. Wink

BAK1061 - I'm almost ashamed to admit that your comment made me laugh out out loud. Almost being the key word.

We are the first to admire folk who manage to enjoy a cruise even though they live with crippling disabilities. However, the situation you describe is entirely different, and has gotten to be a huge problem for the cruise industry to deal with.

A number of cruises back, a long one, there was a small group of us who met once a week and invited crew members to speak to us. One time we had the Staff Captain. He talked on this very subject. What often happens he said is that persons, with the financial wherewithal to cruise, board the ship without even an escort even though they are in advance stages of dementia or even alzheimer's. He said it is almost as bad as someone simply dropping them off at the gangway and letting the crew take care of them.

We had began to notice similar situations on some of our voyages, like being seated in the MDR at lunch or breakfast with people who were pretty much out of it and even had open sores. But it wasn't until the captain talked about the pertinent problem they are having that I began to focus on it.

Later, I ran into the captain and thanked him for the presentation and told him I learned quite a bit from it. He asked, "what did you get out of it"? I said, "I'm talking to my kids and instructing them to, when I get to the point I have lost control and my bearings, "drop me off at the gangway".

He didn't even grin.

With the price of cruising being low these days I can see elderly living on ships instead of assisted living facilities. In my decades of cruising I have witnessed disabled, very elderly passengers that have mobility problems, and some with cognitive issues. I have witnessed an elderly gentleman drop dead in the MDR on a formal night dinner (face down into his dinner plate and gone) I think it is great that they are living their life and getting the most out of it that they can while they can. Having said that, I also believe that when it becomes a safety issue like what was mentioned in the topic it is not rite.

In the topic above it sounds more like the care giver was trying to do harm, not help. If the older gentleman should get out, then a wheel chair or scooter, if incontinent then get him some depends. That care giver was pushing the poor guy beyond his comfort limits. Being jaded and cynical as I am, I'm sure the cruise was paid for by the older guy and he was left alone in the cabin in the evenings so the care giver can be out partying. To me this is clear Elder abuse.

I had read a review of an elderly couple where the wife had dementia and the husband would leave her in the cabin on port days for a few hours when he went ashore alone. One day she got out of the cabin and was wandering the ship, ship personnel took her to the ship doctor. When he got back to the cabin, the crew had packed for them and put them off at that port saying she could not be on the ship or safety reasons. So they had to find there own way back home (you would think they could have just not allowed him off in the ports so he would be with her at all times).

I hope that when the younger man get old he gets a care giver as understanding and good as he was.

I have been on two cruises where people have died while on the cruise. We have been on other cruises where passengers have suffered strokes and heart attacks. We have been on shore excursions which clearly state that they are physically demanding and passengers in wheel chairs sign up for them. The cruise lines do a good job warning passengers but they either don't pay attention or don't care that they are slowing up everyone else on the tour. Last year we had a passenger demand that a couple give up their front row seat to her because she had TWO wheel chairs, a cane AND a comfort dog. The couple refused stating that this particular tour was clearly listed as demanding and therefore there was no reserved seat for the handicap.

We are want to be understanding and help those who need help but they also need to know their limitations, too.

I think everyone should enjoy their lives to the fullest. The last cruise I was on was a 12 day venture...needless to say there were loads of "senior citizens" on board. The crew jokingly said this was a nursing home cruise. My concern is safety: If you have to abandon ship, how is all these people on hover rounds, walkers, etc. going to get off. These days there is no chivalary like the titanic, it is survival of the fitest. They say the employees will assist those in need, but I doubt it.

I'm afraid this struck really struck a nerve! The post by cruisingCM should have been directed to the so-called "caregiver". He was completely out of line. I now travel with a cane and before that took my elder mother on cruises for about 10 years. Mom had had strokes and was hard to understand, but she loved cruising. To give me a chance to talk to other people, I would choose a large table for the evening dinning. To me it was surprising with the number of people that changed tables. Still running into that problem to a certain extend with me cruising also. My friend & I are 70. I book easy tours so I won't be a burden to others, but it sure would be nice if others would show the same consideration to me, and not take the front seat in the bus. Most of the comments seem to be written by a bunch of selfish people. Remember that you too will get old. Show some compassion and take delight that handicapped people can get out and enjoy themselves. Is an hour of your time to be kind such a great cost?

amikaa - take a deep breath and rethink your response. Attacking me with your holier than thou "is an hour of time to be kind such a great cost" is completely uncalled for. You have no idea what we have had to endure over the past year in terms of health issues so save your self-righteous condemnation for someone who deserves it.

What exactly are you responding to? If it's my post, you missed the point of entirely. It is not a matter of inconvenience to me. The man's trouser zipper was down and he was exposed. He was incontinent. He soiled the motor coach seat. He was forced to sit in his own wet pants for the entire excursion. Would you want to sit in the seat he vacated after he soiled it? I don't believe so. The gentleman was a biohazard risk to anyone due to his bodily fluids not being properly contained. I was more upset over this man's dignity being trashed and your retort is uncalled for.

coasterking - my comment was prefaced with a comment much to the same as your's... enjoy life as you are able. I'm just not sure that the gentleman was enjoying much. I'm not even sure the companion was either. On the plus side, he was accompanied by someone. One the minus side, I'm not sure the companion had a reasonable expectation as to what the gentleman could really tolerate. :/


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