Boomerangst: Turning Dilemmas Into Discoveries – Travelling with Dialysis

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State Room -- Image from Easy Access Travel

Here, tips for finding special accommodations for travellers with disabilities and health issues


Q. My elderly Mom wants to travel out of the province of Ontario, but she’s on dialysis and thinks that it’s not possible, or else quite dangerous. But I’ve heard of ‘dialysis cruises’ in the United States.  I’m wondering what options there are for Canadian travellers who have to do dialysis on a regular basis (ship/train/plane). And are there any hotels with special accommodations for guests on dialysis? How should she be prepared in terms of supplies? Is there anyone out there who can help people figure these things out and make arrangements?

Shiona, Hamilton


A. You’re in luck. There are actually a couple of options depending on the type of dialysis your mother needs and her overall state of health. When I got your submission, I contacted Debra Kerper, the U.S.-based owner and founder of Easy Access Travel, who has spent the past 20 years planning individual and group trips for people with disabilities and health issues.

She recommends you contact a company called Dialysis at Sea, which is the largest provider in the world of dialysis services on cruise ships. They work with three cruise lines: Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruise Lines and Holland America. Debra says they’re a long-standing, well-respected company with a reputation for great service.  Dialysis at Sea has been providing their specialized health services since 1977 so people on dialysis can join their families on cruises and see the world, confident that their medical condition will be well looked after. Their patient to medical staff ratio is reportedly two to one. You need to realize, of course, that the dialysis fee is in addition to the actual cost of the cruise itself, and obviously the longer the cruise the higher the dialysis fee. To give you an idea, the dialysis fee would be roughly $2,000 for a seven-day cruise. There are also medical records you need to provide and those are outlined on the company’s website, along with answers to a number of other questions you’d probably want to ask.

If your mom has the kind of dialysis where you self-administer the procedure, then she has another option. Debra can organize a land trip and put you in touch with dialysis centres at locations nearest to your hotels. She’s not aware of any hotels that offer the services in-house, but Debra has organized lots of trips for dialysis patients, most recently to Hawaii. The way it works is this: she makes initial inquiries to nail down the closest dialysis centre that will take short-term patients and then she forwards all the contact information to you so you can take care of the details yourself. This makes good sense, since as Debra puts it, “I don’t want to be responsible for relaying medical information. I leave that up to the patient, or a family member.”

“Dialysis is often a lifetime commitment,” acknowledges Debra. “It’s not a short term thing like many other treatments. But it’s wonderful to know there are options out there so people can still travel with confidence and enjoy the world.”

Send Diane a brief description of your dilemma, along with your first name and where you live, to [email protected]

A professional journalist for more than 25 years, Diane Sewell has written for some of the top newspapers and magazines in Canada and is a baby boomer herself. Her new blog “Boomerangst, Turning Dilemmas into Discoveries” is interactive with readers and focuses on life issues – like aging, dating, second marriages, sex, death, family and fashion. Diane will use her expertise to find the right expert to help solve your predicament, unearthing kernels of truth and quickly getting to the heart of the issue.