Our recent cruise to Turkey and the Greek Islands or Dialysing in an Active Volcano

by Mike & Pam Pitcher (SCKPA committee)

(Mike is on HD having previously experienced PD and a failed transplant. Pam is classed as Mike’s carer)

Cruise Dialysis (owned and run by Lisa Parnell) was started and developed by Lisa when she responded to a request to help find a suitable holiday providing dialysis.  Realising this was a potential business opportunity, she started her own limited company to offer world-wide dialysis cruises. Some are accompanied by Lisa and/or a member of her team, for others she just organises the bookings. In all cases she will liaise with your local renal unit to ensure your information, as passed to the on-board dialysing team, is as up-to-date and comprehensive as required.

This was the second time we have booked through Cruise Dialysis and, as before, the on-board treatment and service provided were excellent and Lisa was with us ensuring that all went well. Mike was one of nine passengers requiring dialysis during the week and every effort was made to ensure that the sessions did not conflict where possible with on-shore tours. This was all explained in the briefing meeting just as soon as the emergency life boat drill had been completed after setting sail for Istanbul.

We had chosen a class of suite (called a stateroom which is probably American for a cabin) with concierge service as we were travelling with a wheelchair and needed extra space and help as necessary. On two occasions when Mike was dialysing over a mealtime, Marvin our concierge provided a personal breakfast and dinner service to his bedside.

We flew to Athens then took a taxi to Piraeus where we boarded Celestyal Crystal. Our 7 nights cruise and trips included:

  • an overnight stay and day in Istanbul with a boat trip and a tour of Sultan Ahmed Square, the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia
  • day in Çanakkale with a visit to Troy and its museum
  • tour of the Palace of Knossos in Crete
  • visit to Santorini where the ship moored in the caldera of the super active volcano
  • evening stay in Mykonos with a stroll along the sea front

The photo shows Celestyal Crystal moored at Santorini with one of the tenders taking passengers to and from the island. Apparently volcanic activity was recorded in 2012 but then died down again. However, monitoring equipment has moved by 9 centimetres since being installed around 2010.

The dialysis suite was located on the 4th deck with two adjacent cabins with beds and machines for three people to dialyse at the same time. The medical staff included a senior consultant nephrologist, charge nurse and four dialysis nurses. At the briefing meeting with the dialysis team, medical records were discussed and a rota agreed for which sessions each patient should attend. The staff were very friendly and when off duty were only too happy to provide wheelchair pushing services and assistance where needed.

There were no pre-set dining arrangements. We could choose between two restaurants, buffet, speciality restaurant and BBQs on the open deck. The cuisine was excellent and service friendly. We had an all included drinks package however Mike, being on HD, rather missed out!

On board there was a range of activities to suit all tastes:

  • an early morning walkathon
  • quizzes and competitions
  • dance lessons
  • musical interludes and recitals
  • lessons in Greek cuisine
  • beauty treatments and spa
  • swimming pool (cold!) and Jacuzzi
  • small casino
  • lectures on Minoan and Greek culture
  • captain’s cocktail party and meet the officers
  • late evening extravaganzas in the main lounge

We would recommend the accompanied holidays in particular for people cruising for the first time as they provide that extra reassurance that everything will run smoothly. Two things to watch out for:

  • get your insurance sorted out well in advance but remember if you are on PD or HD you are probably on a waiting list. This could make it difficult or expensive to get insurance. You may elect to come off the transplant list just for the duration of the holiday
  • if you are returning to the UK by air and need special assistance, research what the arrangements are at the foreign airport. Frankly this was the only part of our holiday where we experienced any trouble and we should have researched “special assistance at Athens Airport (departures)” much more thoroughly.

We enjoyed our week and were relieved that the Santorini volcano remained calm during our visit!

Holidaying >>