By Arul John
WHEN Mrs Josette Georgin, 72, learnt she had kidney failure, she thought her travel dreams would end.
She told Associated Press (AP): 'The day the doctor told me I would need dialysis, I thought I wouldn't be able to travel any more. To have dialysis, it's like being in a prison without bars.
'But then I discovered dialysis cruising.'
Dialysis cruises are like normal cruises, with one major difference - each cruise ship is fitted with complete dialysis units and has its own team of doctors and nurses.
Mrs Georgin has gone on nearly all the dialysis cruises organised by French travel agency Gerard Pons Voyages (GPV).
The Bordeaux-based firm works with luxury line Costa Cruises (Costa) to offer 15 dialysis cruises annually.
Costa offers some of the most popular itineraries, and three ships that have onboard hospitals spacious enough to host a temporary dialysis clinic, reported AP.
Each of the cruise ships has four dialysis units in a fully-equipped dialysis clinic, providing rare mobility and precious freedom for the dialysis patients.
Mr Jean Christophe Pons, one of GPV's dialysis cruise managers, told The New Paper that the firm has been handling dialysis cruises for nearly 20 years.
Medical team onboard
He said GPV also works with German firm Fresenius AG, a company known worldwide for manufacturing dialysis units, operating dialysis centres and coordinating dialysis sessions for travellers.
Fresenius installs the dialysis machines before each cruise in the onboard hospital, the generators are plugged in and the specialist technicians, doctors and nurses stand by for the patients.
Mr Pons said: 'Since 2005, we have welcomed between 450 and 500 dialysis passengers, not including this year's figures. We welcome 12 such patients per cruise and they can come with their friends and family.'
Each passenger must submit a detailed medical record, and the records are submitted to Fresenius for approval before their bookings are processed.
Extra care is taken to schedule treatment around excursions, and the onboard crew also takes care to integrate the dialysis patients into the regular crowd.
Mrs Georgin, told AP: 'When I'm onboard, it's very luxurious. I forget that I have dialysis. I am on vacation and the dialysis is only a small part of the trip, four hours, three times per week.'
The dialysis cruise market generates 800,000 euros ($1.6 million) annually for GPV, nearly 12 per cent of his firm's total annual revenue, reported AP.
Mr Pons said each onboard dialysis session costs abut 355 euros.
The largest provider of dialysis services onboard cruise ships is Florida-based Dialysis At Sea Cruises (DSC).
Ms Patricia Debroux, the firm's marketing manager, told The New Paper the company began 30 years ago when two married couples travelled all over the world together on countless cruises.
She said: 'When one of the individuals went into renal failure and had to begin dialysis, they decided to bring a dialysis machine onboard the cruise ship.'
The firm follows each patient's exact dialysis prescription and special dietary needs, and also holds orientation meetings before each cruise to introduce patients to their fellow dialysis travellers and the medical staff.
'Where else can a patient go on vacation and have their dialysis unit go with them?'
This article was first published in The New Paper.