Prairie Place residents and staff celebrate during the Captain’s Ball on their “cruise.” Photo courtesy of The Springs at Monarch Landing.

A landlocked suburb about 25 miles west of Chicago might not be the most practical starting point for an ocean cruise but don’t tell that to the residents at The Springs at Monarch Landing

Thanks to an idea from Carlo Refugio, a resident assistant at Prairie Place Memory Care, 29 residents were able to embark on a cruise from the comfort of their own community, located in Naperville, IL. 

“[Refugio] formerly worked as a chef and activities director for a cruise line,” said Kyle Smola, assisted living manager. “He said that he knew that many of the residents formerly enjoyed traveling but are unable to do so now. So he wanted to ‘bring a cruise’ to them through a complete ‘itinerary’ of activities.”

The two-week “cruise” featured a variety of nautical-themed activities, ranging from the opening Captain’s Ball for residents, family and staff to live entertainment, games and even a luau complete with a pig roast. Activities included armchair travelogues, a casino night, themed meals and snacks based on their “location,” and movies. The passengers “disembarked” from Miami, passed through the Panama Canal, Galapagos Islands, Marquesas Islands, and French Polynesia, “docking” in Seattle with themed activities for every ‘port.’

By the time the cruise “returned” to shore, the passengers and their families had shared more than a few smiles and more than a few laughs. 

“I received so many emails of appreciation,” said Smola. “And I’ve never seen the residents happier; never seen them with bigger smiles.”