Monday, February 16, 2009

Cruising Against Cancer

Sometimes it seems there’s a ribbon color for every conceivable cause. One of the most well known is the pink ribbon representing breast cancer. Did you know that a lavender ribbon stands for all cancers?

Like many families, ours has been touched by cancer. I’m probably one of the last people that a lot of folks would picture having a tattoo. Yet, last year I had a lavender ribbon tattooed above my ankle as a tribute to family and friends who have been touched by this horrible disease.

Healing happens in parts. My tattoo was a part of my healing. Now I’ve moved on to the next part which is an urge to be proactive and to use my skills to help others in some way. I’m using my training and experience as a travel consultant to create a group cruise for all participants to enjoy while it serves as a fundraiser to help fight cancer.

Everyone is welcome to join us! Our cruise is set for October 25- a Mexican Riviera cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas. "Mariner" is a beautiful ship, a whimsical and fun place to spend a week's vacation. She’s a perfect choice for our first Cruising Against Cancer fundraiser. A donation of $100 per cabin will be sent to the American Cancer Society (ACS). ACS raises money for research, provides cancer education and helps individuals diagnosed with cancer and their families.

We purposely picked an accessible ship. It’s one I’ve sailed on myself. We have a limited number of accessible cabins for wheelchair users and those needing adapted bathrooms. Reservations will be available to be made on Friday, February 20. However, we are beginning to take waitlists today. Those who are waitlisted will have priority reservations on Friday before new inquiries.

More information is available at Cruising Against Cancer. I hope you’ll join me. Let’s make a difference... an eventual future without cancer. And let’s have fun doing it. I’m looking forward to cruising with you!


Sunday, February 8, 2009

Plan and Just Do It!

Written by guest blogger, Eunice Spooner

I remember my first "almost cruise" oh so well. It was spring in Maine, 2003 when I was notified that my college was sponsoring a cruise to Norway. I was delighted until I discovered it was not wheelchair accessible. Not to be discouraged, I caught the travel bug anyway and was convinced there must be a way to travel again. After all, for the past 20 years as a quadriplegic I had been helping my three sons finish high school, graduate from top-rated colleges, marry and reward me with five grandchildren. Wasn’t it time for me to do something for myself?

I searched for wheelchair travel and after some planning I was off on a cross-country flight to Vancouver for a 7-day Alaskan cruise with a caregiver. The cruise was fantastic with beautiful glaciers, a train ride to Whitehorse, and a catamaran ride to see humpbacks! I did, however, learn to check the airline cargo area ahead of time and to arrive at the departure city a day in advance.

I was "hooked" and six months later in 2004 I was again headed cross-country to San Diego for a 15-day cruise through the Panama Canal to Miami with stops along the way. While planning ahead of time, which is so important, I found there was an accessible van in Costa Rica that provided options on what highlights to see.

Hawaii was the destination for 2005 with a 15-day cruise from Los Angeles. On this cruise I learned to reconfirm one’s excursion reservations. The first port had coaches but the cruise line overlooked the fact that I needed one with a lift. It only happened once on that cruise as the cruise line had learned a lesson, too.

Winter in Maine may be beautiful, but a Caribbean break is certainly nice. In 2006 I took two cruises with my family to the western Caribbean. I had a hard time finding wheelchair accessible tours on the internet but I did find something even better – Vicki at Connie George Travel. I could hardly believe I had found such a goldmine of experience! I make a suggestion of a place to go and ended up with a number of options from which to choose. Planning a cruise had never been so easy and so much fun!

In 2007 I cruised from San Juan to Manaus, Brazil and back in 24 days, stopping at 10 ports. This was a back-to-back cruise (booking two cruises to make for one longer vacation) resulting in eight of the ports being visited twice. There was so much to do that repeat ports were no problem!
In 2008 I was another decade older and passed the 26 year mark of wheeling. Four cruises with family included the Caribbean and a cruisetour of Alaska. We also fit in a ten day trip to Disney World which made one of my sons and granddaughters very happy!

Advanced booking, I discovered, has added benefits as I plan for 2009 and 2010. I have learned over the years that keeping up-to-date packing lists are valuable, but the most valuable asset is an excellent travel agent - Vicki!

Eunice Spooner caught the “travel bug” as a student of Colby College and became a world traveler. Despite a life-changing auto accident at the age of 44, Eunice finished earning two Master’s Degrees, raised her sons and was busy as a teacher. Retired and with less responsibilities now, she keeps busy with again exploring the world.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

More Power to Ya

The panic call came Friday night. “We’re 70 miles from home and we forgot my husband’s power cord for his power chair.”

Our clients (we’ll call them Mary and Al) were overnighting in Baltimore and then flying to Houston Hobby Airport the next morning where they were going to overnight again before transferring to the port of Galveston to board Voyager of the Seas on Sunday. The added overnight stay in Texas before the cruise buys time (thankfully).

What are the options? Should they have someone break into their house to get the power cord and have it overnighted to the Houston hotel? Should they go out at night in an unknown city to a medical supply company if there’s even one open on a Friday night? Or do they risk waiting until they get settled in Houston and try to get to a medical supply company that’s open on a Saturday? Perhaps we should see if a medical equipment rental company can deliver one to the ship?

How long will Al’s power chair operate without a charge?

Granted, some of the options are better than others. Having someone break into my home wouldn’t be top on my list. But at that time, we’re considering options. I call the hotel which gives me the name and phone number of a local medical supply company. They don’t answer their phone. I use the hotel’s zip code along with “medical equipment rental” to search on the internet for additional companies.

Mike answers at the fifth company I call, Northshore Medical Supply. I explain to him that Al needs a two-prong power cord for his Invacare power chair and that these are clients who will be traveling through Houston on their way to a cruise.

Mike explains that the power cord needed for this and many (but not all) newer scooters and power chairs are the same power cords sold in office supply stores for tower “desktop” computers.

He sounds very familiar with power cords, but 30 years of often misquoted information tends to make me a bit skittish so I ask about their Saturday hours and location “just in case,” but Mike assures me that it will be much closer and therefore a lower taxi cost if Mary runs out to the closest office supply store once they get settled at their hotel.

I call the client back and relay the good news about how the cord is a much more available item than many of us realize. And I give her the “back-up plan” which is to arm her with Northshore’s telephone number, address and Saturday hours. I think they are happy that our Access Travel Team has a specialist monitor messages during “off times” when we have clients traveling.

I was happy to call Mike yesterday to thank him. Word got back to us that the clients obtained a power cord and were ready to have an incredible week of pampering.

If you are ever in need of buying or renting equipment in Houston or you need equipment repaired, I’d suggest contacting
Northshore Medical Supply at or 713-451-4462. They seem like a service-oriented family business. Oh yeah- they are open until 4pm on Saturdays and they’re about 15 miles from Hobby Airport.

~ Connie
and the Access Travel Team