Caregiver Cruise

2016 Caregiver Cruise to New England and Canada!

We know it can be difficult to travel when your loved one has memory impairment, but we all still need a vacation! Both the individual with a dementia diagnosis and their caregiver are able to attend the cruise, making the program possibly the first of its kind in the country. Insight provides supervision during excursions, and respite at sea, giving cruise participants the opportunity for a vacation in a safe environment, in the company of others who “get it.” In addition to the many benefits a cruise offers – the chance for a vacation, seeing new sights, a getaway – the caregiver cruise provides families with a sense of normalcy.

One caregiver shared: "It was just fun to be with other people because at home I’m pretty isolated and this gave me an opportunity to be with people, be entertained, go to the shows, just relax and enjoy things - without my husband and with my husband."

Check Out What We Did!

We made daily posts here with trip highlights and excursions so you can feel like you've cruised along with us!
We departed from Baltimore on Thursday, May 26, 2016, and returned Saturday, June 4, 2016 with stops in Boston, Portland, Bar Harbor, St. John, and Halifax.

Day 9: The Home Stretch!

Day 9: The Home Stretch!

June 3, 2016

Today was our final day on Royal Caribbean’s mighty Grandeur of the Seas! We have spent nine wonderful days visiting Boston, Portland, Bar Harbor, St. John and Halifax. We have eaten non-stop and have collectively gained the weight of a small country. We got to know some of the Royal Caribbean staff a little better, and we have really appreciated the service they have provided us while on our Caregiver Cruise.

Our final day at sea was filled with trivia in the Schooner Bar, Line Dancing in the Centrum, lunch in the Gatsby Dining Room, and a rousing edition of “The NOT SO Newlywed Game” which featured the couples pairing off against each other. After everyone was on their own this morning (recouping from a late night of dancing at the 70’s and 80’s Dance Parties), the group gathered in the Schooner Bar. We enjoyed the round of trivia, which we have progressively done better each day. Then it was off to Line Dancing where Christi, Susan, Steven, and Mary all joined in. Mary even ended up getting a private lesson from one of the other cruise passengers! Apparently her general lack of The Cupid Shuffle knowledge was evident and screamed out for help. Some of the other guys watched and commented on the different dance styles.

We headed to our reserved conference room where we did round one of The NOT SO Newlywed Game. We went around to the group and asked them 10 questions (12 if you count the bonus ones) about various things either they’ve done with their spouses or what they think their spouses would say about them. We do have to say, this group is pretty darn funny! The things they came out with!!! We tucked away their answers for later and headed off to lunch. Once we sat down, everyone agreed they wanted ice cream for lunch! Alas, the fun police intervened (Joel) and told everyone they had to order real food first. But by the time dessert came, spoons were in hand ready to go!

After lunch we headed back to the conference room and met all the spouses. Everyone was lined up facing their spouse and we now asked their spouses the same questions to see if we could get a match. Every answer was assigned some points and a winner was crowned – Tanya and Steve Bodzin! The questions ranged from “where was your first kiss” to “what type of flower would you consider your spouse to be when they woke up in the morning” to “If I could tell my spouse to STOP doing something, it would be….” And so on and so forth. Some of the answers were quite endearing. You really had to be there to see how much these guys love their wives.

Then reality set in - we are leaving tomorrow. In addition to his many duties aboard The Grandeur of the Seas (which include Shore Excursion Director, Gangway Monitor, Guest Services Manager, Senior Services Coordinator) Joel gave the departure orientation to the group, told everyone what they had to do, where they had to be and when, and how to prepare your luggage and when to put it out. A lot to remember, but Royal Caribbean makes it pretty easy for us. Now the test – to leave with everyone we came with!!!

Finally it was our farewell dinner. After spending nine days with our servers in the dining room, the Dining Room Manager and Executive Chef called all the staff up to the grand staircase so they could receive a standing ovation from the guests for their outstanding service. It really is amazing how they are able to feed all these passengers and do it all so well and with a smile. We loved getting to know our servers and wished them all good fortune in their lives. We will miss them!

As you know, we have been featuring some of the Royal Caribbean staff throughout our updates, mainly so you can get an understanding of what they mean to us on our trip, but also how hard these people work to ensure they are meeting and exceeding our expectations, and the sacrifices they make to work on a cruise ship. Our final feature is the FABULOUS Natalie Laviea. Natalie is our Group Coordinator Extraordinaire!!! We could not have made it through this trip without her help. Natalie was our on board group coordinator who helped us with everything. She got us the wristbands for the group to identify them as needing assistance because of memory problems, getting us the pager so if someone ended up lost on the ship, we would be paged right away, setting up the conference room and even came to a couple of our activities and HELPED play some of our games. Anything we needed, Natalie was our woman. If we had an issue with an excursion – Natalie was ON IT!

Natalie has been working for Royal Caribbean for 17 years! She LOVES her job and it shows. They call her the Royal Caribbean Google as she knows everything and everyone. Natalie and her husband both work on The Grandeur of the Seas (he is the Communications Director). She is originally from Trinidad and Tobago. They reside in Dover, Delaware where they have two sons, 23 and 25, who both just graduated from college, one with a bachelors and one with his masters! Natalie was telling us that her and her husband have 6-7 month contracts and then get two months off. Their schedules coincide so they can be together both on and off the ship. While they are at sea, they have help from Natalie’s mom and sister who help with the kids. Now that their kids have finished school, Natalie and her husband are hoping to move back home in the next couple of years and settle down to “land life.” Natalie truly is remarkable. We loved every moment with her and we are going to make certain that she is on board for our next Caregiver Cruise!!

We truly hope the caregivers and their loved ones enjoyed their time with us on our Caregiver Cruise. By the end of the day, our group had become pretty well known aboard and many of the other passengers came up to us wanting to know what it is we do and when we tell them, they are absolutely amazed and say they have never heard of taking these folks on a cruise! We tell them, at the end of the day, they are people. Yes, they have a diagnosis of dementia, but after spending these last nine days together, they are SO much more!! We are so thankful that we are able to provide this opportunity for the individual with the diagnosis and their loved one to be able to travel, enjoy time together, and also be with others who understand what they are going through. To not have to worry about what other people might think if someone starts eating with their hands at the table, or needs to go to the bathroom every 15 minutes. We just roll with it. And for a couple of the group members, they told us that this is probably the last time they will be able to travel with their loved one and how this will be one of their greatest memories.

It has been a pleasure for us to get to know these people they way we have and to be able to help them make these memories. But more importantly, we are so thankful to be able to help them to do the things that everyone else can do, and enjoy it! Why would we take these people on a cruise, many people ask? The real question is, why not?

We’re getting better at trivia!

Doing a little line dancing!

A few of us just watched!

And some of us had private lessons!

Getting our answers ready for the NOT SO Newlywed Game!

Let the games begin!

Congrats to our winners Tanya and Steve!

Enjoying our final dinner.

Many thanks to the fantastic staff!

Many thanks to Natalie, our Group Coordinator!