Tourists are often in the dark about safety.

Tourists are often in the dark about safety.

Life is a beautiful gift, as we travel and experience more of the world, we appreciate all the beautiful moments and people we’ve shared it with. More often than not, this is a realization that we can experience and take action now while we’re still alive with energy rather than stacking up regrets of why we didn’t do more with our lives. Today, all I have are those memories, and I cherish each one of them.

People often ask me what led me to my specialty of working with and assisting mature travelers with special needs and those who have disabilities. Honestly, if you are alive, not everyone has disabilities, but everyone has unique/special needs. Merely speaking, savvy travelers care and want safety, comfort, value, and uniqueness while tourists do not. Every day, I hear excuses as to why people do not want to spend quality time with their loved ones. Reasons range from the sublime to the ridiculous. Traveling can be the most rewarding time in your life, and even if you have disabilities, almost any situation that arises can be handled with proper planning.

In the past, I was a travel agent working with a quota-based company selling travel, not helping my clients arranged a vacation that is unique as they are. This was not me! Now I am with OASIS and SIGNATURE TRAVEL NETWORK that stresses education, compliance with ASTA (American Society of Travel Advisors), taking care of our clients’ particular needs and disabilities. They even offer proprietary software programs to find exceptional value and amenities for my clients. We are not quota-based.

My passion is to get to know you and work with you to plan a vacation that will bring you memories to last a lifetime. My specialty is working with and assisting mature travelers with disabilities and those who have special needs and disabilities. Why? Because I am like you, and I understand the little things that make your holiday unique. Leading groups around the world, I have experience in most unthinkable situations. I have found that knowledge is one thing, the experience is another. The little things that can save you or create a nasty problem. It is all about getting to know you and planning for your needs. This is what I do!

A medical emergency with my husband 20 years ago was the impetus that led me to my passion for helping others while traveling. I very quickly realized that travelers need an ADVOCATE during an emergency. This was to be our last cruise together. At that time, oxygen had to be ordered for each leg of our journey. Today you have oxygen concentrators and so much more! In the seventies, I worked in the travel industry, so thinking like a tourist, I decided that I knew everything. WRONG! There was so much I did not know. I found myself in a third world country alone with a dying husband. Like everyone else, we boarded a cruise ship for a weeks’ cruise. After visiting Roatan, my husband found he had a problem breathing. This was something the medical staff on board the ship could not handle.

According to the American College of Emergency Physician guidelines, ships must have medical staff on call 24 hours a day to take care of the crew and passengers.  Honestly, I have been on riverboats that only have a nurse, and if something happens, you are taken ashore to local hospitals or doctors’ offices. On the destination ships that I have been on, we had a doctor available he was another passenger.

I have seen some ships be able to offer kidney dialysis and chemo. The medical equipment is very different on each ship. Remember, ships are registered in foreign countries, and let’s face it; medical equipment is expensive; in my opinion, you get what you pay for. 

Safety comes with a price tag.  So does a professionally trained staff and crew. Some cruise lines hire crews from other countries and teach them to be firemen, security, and they also work as waiters, room attendants, etc. While others have unions and hire a professional crew member. 

Safety comes with loyalty and training. Experience, qualified staff, and crew will seek out the companies who offer them the best benefits, wages. These wages come out of the cruise’s lines of income.  

Safety comes at a cost. In my opinion, some cruise companies take safety more seriously than others. I have to admit there are some companies that I would never travel on again. We will start with the company that hired 25,000 new crew members in January 2019.  I have been on other cruise companies years apart and found the same crew members.

I was a tourist. And like many tourists, I was in the dark about safety. I did not even think about the hospital onboard.  Big mistake! Now I see things in a different light. 

Take it from me, a widow and a mother of a murdered child. Yes, it can happen to you, my son was an emergency doctor sleeping, and he was murdered; the killer never met him. Today, instead of hugging my son, I am waiting for the criminal trial to start. Folks, those beautiful memories of the times that we spent together are all I have of my husband and son. Yes, even the time when I ended up in Belize with a dying husband begging me to get him back to the US. The doctor onboard the ship was afraid he might pass away onboard, so we were required to disembark in Belize or be airlifted off at the cost of $50,000.00.

Never assume that travel insurance will cover you, as there are many types of travel policies. You need to find the one that will and know what to do in an emergency.  Today they even have COVID insurance.

What was I thinking about booking a cruise that was taking my husband to third world countries? Panic set in now what do I do? Fortunately, I can think on my feet was able to get my husband back, and he died a short time later. It was the little things that made the difference. However, in my husband’s condition, I should never have taken him on this itinerary and cruise ship. If he would have died in Honduras/Belize, there are a lot of things you have to do to get the body back to the states, and it takes money and knowledge of who to contact and what to do. This does cost a lot of money, depending on the country. You need to know what documents and information are required to collect life insurance or travel insurance. And you need to know this BEFORE you go.

You need to have an advocate who can help you in case of an emergency! That is what I do. With my long-time expertise and industry knowledge, I know which ships to recommend and/or land destinations that will provide the best experiences based on your interests and special needs. Also, I have destination specialists around the world that have the latest information

Savvy travelers – you’ve worked hard to achieve success so you can enjoy the ultimate luxuries in life. What is YOUR dream destination? Everyone’s personal preferences and interests are unique; your vacation should be the same.

My goal, as your advocate, is for you to feel safe and secure and to enjoy your travel experience, knowing that it will be comfortable, hassle-free, and filled with beautiful and happy memories. Discover how travel can open many doors of opportunity in your life. The trip can help you create a new life’s purpose, experience new cultures, and people, and expand your worldly knowledge.

I know that TV ads are misleading for every vocation, and I have to say a lot of these professions have boiler room salespeople. They are not your advocate; their job is to sell and make a quota.   

Now, there are a lot of people who simply do not care as long as they think they are getting a deal.  Cheap versus – Safety, comfort, value, and uniqueness.  You all know someone like this do you really want to travel with them?

Do not settle; design a trip that has everything in it that you want to do and make sure it is within your budget. This is your money, time, and holiday. Make each one special as if it is your last trip together.

Also, I enjoy escorting groups, and I enjoy public speaking aboard cruise ships and other venues – highlighting customs, cultures, and current events to choose destinations. I offer good old-fashioned customer service. My passion is to help you plan and design the destination vacation you’ve “always dreamed of!” 

Let me be your advocate. 

Sara Susanne Raney
Expert in Travel Advice & Consulting
Travel Designer for Tripadvisor

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