I’m a wheelchair user – this is what my trip to Antarctica looked like

Written by Travel Adventures

On January 2023, I set sail on a 22-day Holland America cruise from Santiago, Chile, ending in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The cruise included four full days in Antarctica and the crossing of the Drake Passage.

I chose Holland America because, based on my online research, their tender system seemed more accessible than other cruise lines. I also wanted to see some of South America on the journey – I hadn’t been there yet. With this cruise, passengers don’t put a foot (or a wheel) on the continent, but you do get to see it and experience it. It was the best solution I found to be able to experience Antarctica in an accessible way.

I’m not able to travel independently, as my muscular dystrophy affects my strength, my balance, my endurance and my breathing. A friend (who happens to be a nurse) came with me for this trip. She would help me with some of my equipment and make sure my needs were met.

Kristin on the deck of her Antarctic cruise

Kristin on the deck of her Antarctic cruise

I always try to be as independent as possible; luckily, my friends understand and support that. But there are times when I need assistance, whether it’s navigating my wheelchair over rougher terrain or getting my ventilator on the back of my wheelchair. When I travel, my friends are there to assist me, help with transfers, or do anything else I need to make the trip smooth and enjoyable because I wouldn’t be able to do it without them.

Wheelchair users often have difficulty regulating body temperature as we can’t move around very much in our chairs, but there are several steps to take that help with this. A wheelchair cosy was very helpful in regulating my temperature. It’s like a less bulky sleeping bag for your legs that’s made to fit into the shape of a wheelchair. The one that I had was waterproof and lined, which allowed me to be outside on deck and enjoy everything that Antarctica had to offer.

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