Yesterday, I discussed some of the pros and cons of cruising with diabetes. On the plus side, there is plenty of food to choose from on a cruise and it’s always available when you are actually on the ship. It’s also nice to take a semi “break” from stressing so much about blood sugars. On the negative side, traveling to different countries includes some unique food that have a mystery amount of carbs, food labels in different languages and units of measurement than you aren’t used to, and when you are out on an excursion there is the unknown schedule of when you will have your meal or the question if a museum will allow a bigger bag filled with low supplies.
Well besides all that food fun, there are also other aspects to cruising that pose some difficulties. The first obstacle I faced (besides TSA at the airport) was switching time zones. Amsterdam is 6 hours ahead of my Virginia East Coast time. Helsinki and Tallinn are one hour ahead of Amsterdam and Russia is two hours ahead of Amsterdam. I had to first deal with my red eye flight from Philadelphia to Amsterdam where we left Philly at 8PM and arrived in Amsterdam at 9AM (or 3AM EDT). Of course my basal rate is pretty much the same all day long except at nighttime, where it changes several times. Changing basal rates and time zones overnight sure was fun. I had read advice that it’s good to change time zones before you leave on the trip but I decided to rebel and wait until I landed in Amsterdam to change the clock on my insulin pump. Despite waiting until I landed to change my insulin pump’s clock, my blood sugars stayed pretty level, around 170 which I will gladly take while traveling, not too high but not too low where I would worry about getting low. Luckily the time zone changes from Sweden to Finland, Finland to Russia, Russia to Estonia and Estonia to Denmark weren’t as dramatic; only one hour each time and done over several different days.
Another difficulty with cruising with diabetes was trying to put in my Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) while the ship was moving. Normally, when I put in my CGM, I numb my stomach with ice. However, I didn’t have ice on the cruise ship (sure, I could have asked, but it seemed like more trouble than it was worth). So I had to put my CGM in without ice with the added fun of putting it in while the ship was moving. I changed my sensor several times and one time the seas were a bit rocky, which was extra challenging. However, it actually worked better than when I’m back home so that was a pleasant surprise. I have even tried putting the CGM in since coming back home without ice and it worked but it hurt more than when I was on the ship-must be something about sea air ;-).
Finally, I knew I couldn’t get through a trip without the lovely TSA causing some mischief. I thought I might be in the clear this trip because going through TSA in Richmond wasn’t too bad. We were the only ones in line so we cruised (haha no pun intended) through pretty easily. I even remembered to take my CGM sensors out of my bag so they didn’t get X-Rayed (not sure if that’s actually needed but those babies are expensive so I didn’t want any chance of causing any harm to them). Amsterdam airport, on the other hand, was a completely different story. The security isn’t until you get to your gate which is great if you have a Diet Coke to finish up from your cab ride but not so great when you are a Diabetic and they don’t start letting people through until an hour before your plane is supposed to take off. You might be asking yourself, though, that one hour seems like plenty of time, right? Well, when I went through security, I told them I couldn’t get the body scan, so I went through the metal detector and I got felt up, I mean patted down, like usual. Everything was fine but they focused on my insulin pump (like normal again). For some reason, the Amsterdam airport only had one person that could do the swab test on my insulin pump (the swab test looks for explosive material I believe? I have had it done a lot to my pump). And apparently this person was at the complete opposite side of the airport. I had to sit and wait for this lady to come swab my insulin pump for about 30 minutes and then I had to wait another 15 minutes for the results. Since I only had an hour to get through security before my plane took off, I was getting pretty nervous. It also didn’t help that they weren’t speaking English to me, so I didn’t even really know what was going on other than I had to sit and wait for someone. I did figure out that I was waiting for the swab test but no communication was given to me about it. With about 10 minutes to spare, I was able to make my flight but boy was I getting nervous!
It wasn’t all bad cruising with diabetes. I did mention how nice it was to get a semi “break” from it in my last blog. Well, I was also able to meet another T1D when I was in Russia! When we were in St Petersburg, we did a two-day excursion so we were with the same group both days. One girl in my group was a Type 1 Diabetic! I noticed her pump cord coming out of her back pocket. I never did say anything to her though and I’m mad at myself that I didn’t. I was a little scared to go up to her because I remember how I was at that age (around 15?). I didn’t want any attention brought to my diabetes at all so I didn’t want to put her on the spot. I did notice one time my pump was sending off an alert and I saw her check her pump. I still wish I had spoken up and said something to her but I guess it’s too late for that now. So hello fellow T1D if you find my blog and are reading this. 🙂
Overall, it was such an amazing vacation. Amsterdam was so pretty, the cruising was relaxing and it was such a great way to see so many unique cities. My blood sugars behaved themselves OK and while I’m sad to be back, I’m looking forward to getting my A1C Below Seven!