This guest post is from a good friend and BigD club member, Max Smith. Max and his wife Carol went on a holiday dialysis cruise last October. Read on…
It was in Sydney on Sunday 12 October 2008, we boarded the P&O ship Pacific Dawn to begin the trip of a lifetime, an eleven night south pacific cruise to Vanuatu and a number of small South Pacific islands.
Prior to my commencing dialysis, Carol and I had travelled to many parts of the World but our most memorable holidays were those we spent cruising. We both thought those holidays were over for ever until I joined the Dialysis Escape Line Australia (DELA).
I applied to travel on a cruise to Vanuatu, having read about it in one of DELA’s brochures posted to home and the dialysis unit. After a quick process, our application was successful and in early October our tickets arrived. My dialysis requirements had been faxed, by the NUM of my unit, to Nancy in South Australia. Everything was set to go. Whilst I have dialysed away from my unit in the past, I was still apprehensive about the conditions for dialysis onboard the Pacific Dawn.
From the time we got on the plane, everything was extremely well planned by the DELA team. The coach transfer from our plane to the ship was well done. We had priority boarding so there was no need to stand in long queues. This was a blessing for me because I had experienced oppressive conditions on more than one previous occasion.
We were onboard the Pacific Dawn by 11:30am after travelling from Melbourne. Lunch was available in the café bistro immediately and we settled into shipboard life very quickly. At 2:00pm I went to meet the Nephrologist (Dr Alan Parnham) on board for the cruise and found four brand new dialysis machines up and running, connected to a portable RO water supply. Five new machines had been purchased with money raised by DELA through donations and fund raising functions. I was amazed that so much work had been done so quickly.
It was here I met the technician Joel; he was onboard to look after all the machines for the voyage. Joel is a very capable young man and very friendly. Enzo was there along with the two nurses, Di and Tony, who would look after the 12 dialysis patients. I later met the NUM Mada Brinkman a very warm and friendly person. The entire nursing staff were very capable and made dialysis onboard the ship as good as I would normally have.
The ship sailed at 4:00pm and we glided through Sydney harbour, under the bridge and past the Opera House. The sun was shining and it was a wonderful opportunity to take photos and video to show family at home.
We had three straight days at sea with gentle winds and plenty of sunshine before arriving at our first port Luganville. It was here that we first saw rain. At times it was torrential and then it would stop and the sun would come out. The weather did not stop the locals from setting up stalls beside the ship. There were dancers and singers as well as the usual hats, tee-shirts and wood carvings. The ship’s daily news paper advised on what was suitable to bring back on board. Some groups went on tours around the island by car, others managed to find high-quality restaurants to have lunch.
Our second stop was Wala, a small sandy atoll with beautiful clear crystal blue water like you see in all the brochures. The water temperature was about 24°C and many people went snorkelling. The locals had small outrigger canoes to take visitors for a ride and the ladies had their hair braided for a small fee.
A visit to Port Villa was next. The temperature was in the low 30s and humidity was 90%. The locals were lined up in vans to take people on tours around this beautiful area. One of the most spectacular sites to visit is the cascade waterfalls about 45 minutes drive from the ship. Duty-free shopping is a must here, particularly for liquor.
Mystery Island and the Isle of Pines were wonderful but what struck me most was the hospitality of Enzo his wife Maria and his team. We had dinner on our own some nights but frequently chose to dine with all the others because of the family-like atmosphere.
Mada and her nursing staff made everyone feel comfortable and the dialysis sessions of a morning included my choice of meal for breakfast along with anything else required. Dr Alan Parnham made sure everyone was well and dialysed appropriately. He was always available for treatment. We made friends with another couple who dialysed at home and we shared many experiences. We will continue to stay in contact with this couple and others.
On the cruise, you can be as busy or as quiet as you like and there is no pressure to do either. The food was wonderful with plenty of choice for the fussiest eaters. It is a wonderful holiday for the patient and partner, everything is done for you. Once you unpack you cases you can sit back and be waited on.
On leaving the ship back in Sydney the priority treatment continued through immigration and customs before meeting Nancy who was waiting to board the next cruise with 12 new patients.
I can’t speak highly enough about the way in which we were treated. For Carol and me it was our dream holiday come true. It just proves that life can continue to be full and enjoyable even on dialysis. You don’t have to stay at home forever. Thank you to everyone involved for making this opportunity possible. Our trip of a lifetime lived up to our expectations thanks to DELA.