Friday morning I had this fear, right after waking up, that my anxiety will hit me with force during the day. Because of this, I decided that it’s time to do something out of the ordinary in these days of COVID-19 uncertainty.
I booked a cruise to Tallinn, Estonia. Just a little one, about 6 hours with Viking XPRS, one of the ships of Viking Line. Despite the ship would go all the way to the Tallinn port and it’s terminal, I would not touch the Estonian ground. At least not on this trip.
The idea came with basically a three-point todo list. I had to…
- try and keep my anxiety and especially anxiety attacks away
- check out how accessible the Viking XPRS is with my electric wheelchair
- enjoy the limitless, lovely views of the trip through the waters of the Baltic Sea
So this was one of the three which was already guaranteed to be a success, since it was a 99% sunny day with clear skies and about 25 celsius and relatively calm wind,
The best parts of the trip view-wise are of course the departure from Helsinki and the arrival to Tallinn, both with a 30-min or so buffer.
I’ll just let the shots tell it all.
First of all I have to say, that what comes to the COVID-19, Viking Line had their instructions placed well, and there sure were a TON of hand sanitizers all around the ship. Hats off for that. Lots of people did keep the social distancing of at least 1 meters, but of course for some it seemed to be a too hard rule to comply.
When it comes to the accessibility, there actually was a lady from the staff, who happened to spot me on my way to do the normal boarding which I’m used to when I still walked normally.
She directed me to another gate, which had a faster & shorter route into the ship. She escorted me all the way to the cabin, which was on the 6th floor — the same where the passenger bridge brought us to.
The actual passenger bridge was OK for my wheelchair, with it’s few bumps. Should be OK for a manual wheelchair too, with or without a personal assistant.
Also the cabin corridors were suitable for letting the beast of a motor — actually two motors — of my electric wheelchair to sing a hefty 7 km/h speed. It really feels faster than it is, because of the narrow space. Not too narrow, to be clear.
The lock of the door to the cabin was opened with their app on my phone, and it worked like a charm. The door itself felt like it’s seen better days, since it almost didn’t want to stay open when opened to the widest position.
So, with a little help of my left foot, I stormed inside, over the little doorstep which should not be a problem for a manual chair either.
The cabin was quite dull-looking, and to be honest, you don’t need a cabin for a cruise this short. I still decided to have one, just to be sure that I had a personal space to go if my anxiety levels rise too high. Also it’s nice to have your own toilet which is accessible with the wheelchair.
In the end, I only spent about 1 hour of the 6 hours inside the cabin, with most of the time in the fresh air of the sun decks. Of course some of the time was spent inside the tax free shop and a restaurant/cafe/deli/whatever.
The part which required some physical work as well as some detective work were the doors to the sun decks. Part of them were sliding doors, which opened a few centimeters too narrowly for me to be able to go through.
But luckily a few of the doors were the normal oldschool type of doors, and could be handled either by me and my left foot (looked probably interesting), or with a help of some of the several helpful co-passengers who either held the door open, or were pushing my chair from behind.
The doorsteps of those doors were actually quite high, so if you have an electric wheelchair, you really have to have the skills (and electric power) to operate that challenging phase, probably with the help of a foot, arm or a fellow passenger (or an assistant). With a manual chair I imagine that it’s actually an easier task if someone just keeps the door open.
On the deck it was easy to roll around, since the surface was mostly obstacle-free around the ship’s 10th floor. On the 9th floor you couldn’t get from the left side to the right side without going through the doors. So 10th floor better. And talking about the surface, it was a bit wobbly as they tend to be on cruise ships, but not too wobbly for my driving.
Inside, the tax free was quite manageable with my chair, but included a few no-go corridors. However, i did enjoy the compact candy/chocolate area of it. No big liquor purchases for me — the other people handled that department. I’ve been 421 days sober since April 2019.
The Blue Deli was OK for a wheelchair. Didn’t stay there to eat though (chose a well-sized ham&cheese sandwich which I ate in my cabin), but at least the buying process and the space in the Deli itself.
When we came back to Helsinki, I disembarked the ship as the first one from our floor, and were outside the terminal in like three minutes. Easily manageable route with one lift and a couple of ramps.
So as a summary: With a little bit of help, a manageable ship to travel with a wheelchair, and if you want a cabin, the HB3 cabin is the correct choice. Also, you can book the assistant service in advance from Viking Line (I didn’t), if you want their help getting in AND out of the ship.
For more info about Viking Line, check:
Regarding the looming anxiety, it was a rollercoaster ride. Especially the windy parts of the trip, I felt some genuine good feelings while enjoying the sea, the magnificent views and the hot sun (yes, I did remember the sunscreen). This lasted for a noticeable part of the trip, both ways.
However, the anxiety did build up once my thought patterns turned to a direction which they should not, and I ended up severely distressed during our arrival to Tallinn. I did take my pills at that point, and so I was to become numb in almost no time.
The way back was much more calm inside my head, and remained so after the pill’s effect slowly made it’s exit. I did once again manage to concentrate to the views and spent a lot of time just watching the sea calmly, spotting some cargo ships and flocks of birds.
The combination of the wind, the sea and the lovely weather did end up as the most important part of the trip, since that combination was the one which at least partly got me to forget my depression for a moment here, another there.
So after this trip of enjoyment -> anxiety -> numbness -> limited enjoyment, maybe I’ll head back to the same ship some other day soon, and maybe that time I’ll actually go and visit Tallinn city, too. Never been there with this electric wheelchair!
While waiting for that, I also have some time to try to work out in my head what NOT to include in my thought patterns onboard the ship next time. If I could do that, it could be an anxiety-free trip, or at least there could be a limited amount of it included. High hopes, I say, but let’s see.