An Accessible Cruise With Family, Canes, and a Scooter Was a Breeze
It’s not easy going for a cruise when a scooter and a couple of canes come along for the trip. I’ve done it with success a number of times in the past, and planning helps a lot.
My wife and I just returned from our first first cruise since the pandemic began. It was also the first cruise for us with our son and his family. Much was the same as before the pandemic, but some things were a bit different. A few small speed bumps also appeared that hadn’t happened on earlier cruises.
Cruise planning starts early
One of the keys to an enjoyable cruise is snagging an accessible cabin. These cabins are larger — sometimes a lot larger — than a standard cabin of the same class. That allows room for a scooter or a wheelchair in the cabin, which for safety reasons aren’t allowed to be stored in the passageway.
These cabins also have a roll-in shower with a hand-held showerhead and a pull-down seat. On this cruise, the cabin had something I’d never used before: an automatic cabin door that opened with the swipe of a keycard when entering or the push of a button when exiting. And it remained open long enough for me to easily roll in and out.
But you need to move quickly to get one. Out of 875 cabins on this ship, fewer than a dozen were accessible. Smaller ships may have only two accessible balcony cabins, plus a few more inside. An early reservation is key. A travel agent who is familiar with the cruise line and handicapped cruising can be a big help. The website Cruise Critic has a forum full of additional tips.
My wife and I drove to the port of Miami, where dropping off our luggage curbside at the terminal was a breeze. I didn’t even have to get out of the car. The parking garage had plenty of spaces available, but there were no curb cuts to allow me to drive my scooter off the curb and alongside the large bus that shuttled us to the terminal.
Fortunately, my scooter weighs only 35 pounds, so it wasn’t a big deal for the bus driver to lift it off the curb. I also had to manage four or five steps to get on and off the bus, which was difficult but doable.
Check-in at the dock was quick and simple and included an on-site COVID-19 test. After a swab and 20-minute wait, we were aboard. (Prior to arrival, everyone had to provide documentation of being fully vaccinated.)
Once on the ship, we had a short wait until our cabin was ready, and our bags were waiting at the door when it was.
It was a breeze getting around the ship. All of the passageway doors are automatic, and there were no difficult thresholds to cross. However, while many restrooms were marked “handicapped,” none had automatic doors. Strange!
Another problem I found was that none of the three swimming pools were accessible to me. I can usually get into a pool if I can drive my scooter to a chair and use my canes to walk to and from the pool’s edge. On this ship, however, the distance was either too far or I had to walk over wet and slippery tiles to reach the edge. No swimming for me.
It was easy to drive my scooter along the gangplank to get on and off at our two shore stops. On one of them, an island owned by the cruise line, beach wheelchairs were available to get me onto the sand. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to push them into the water, so again, no swimming.
Since this was a short cruise, we didn’t have any formal shore excursions. We’ve done them on other cruises, and I’ve found that a travel agent is a big help in determining which excursions I can do, which I can’t, and which I can do with the help of a hired driver and guide. A guide allowed me to take a gondola ride during a cruise to Venice and a tour of the ruins at Ephesus, Turkey.
Overall, it was a ball
We had our son, daughter-in-law, and two grandkids with us for this trip — their first cruising experience — and we had a great time. Making it even more fun, the other grandparents and an uncle were along. Sometimes it seemed as crazy as Christmas.
If you’ve cruised, I’d like to hear about it in the comments below. You’re also invited to visit my personal blog at www.themswire.com.
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