An Accessible Cruise With Family, Canes, and a Scooter Was a Breeze

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by Ed Tobias |

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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.

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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.

Getting aboard

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.

accessible cruise | Multiple Sclerosis News Today | Ed Tobias sips a drink on board a cruise ship

Ed enjoys a mudslide on the deck of a cruise ship during a recent trip. (Photo by Laura Tobias)

Scooting around

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.

accessible cruise | Multiple Sclerosis News Today | Ed sits shirtless in a beach wheelchair in the Bahamas.

Ed gets some sun at a beach in the Bahamas. (Photo by Laura Tobias)

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.


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Comments

Allison avatar

Allison

Great Review and very informative.
Any other places that were not a cruise that you were able to go to.
What scooter do you have that weights 35lbs?

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Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Thanks, Allison. My traveling scooter is a TravelScoot. It folks up like a baby stroller and I've had it on trains and boats and planes. I usually keep it in the back of my SUV without having to fold it. It's sold only on-line at www.travelscoot.com. When I worked full-time I often traveled from home, in the Wash, DC area, to NYC. DC is very accessible but NYC, not so much. I put a couple of links in this column to earlier columns about traveling with the scooter. I've have a section in my personal blog www.themswire.com about traveling. I also have a chapter about traveling in my paperback/ebook "The Multiple Sclerosis Toolbox." I hope you do some traveling!

Ed

Reply
Lisa Cunningham avatar

Lisa Cunningham

Ed,
You are so right in that planning is the key.

I have had an accessible cabin for the 3 cruises that I have been on. The extra space was definitely needed as I use a power wheelchair. I did find that I had trouble with the thresholds on the Princess Cruises ship on the Alaskan cruise. I was using a small, lightweight chair that I travel with and had some difficulty. Also, the gangplank was very steep and the cruiseline employees had to brace my wheelchair so it didn't slide. I didn't have these problems on the Caribbean cruises when I boarded the ship at the home port and was using my full-size, much heavier power chair.

Overall, these were not insurmountable problems and I give the cruises an A+.

I look forward to a river cruise, like the Nile!

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Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Lisa,

Thanks for your note and the info. My wife and I did Alaska several years ago on Princess, the land-sea package. Back then I traveled with the larger Pride Go-Go. On and off the train was easy, using a lift. On the ship I had no problem but I think I remember the crew taking the scooter on or off at some ports and I walked the gangplank. That scooter was always a pain flying and I remember once, at a 5-star Marriott in London, a big guy had to carry it up six or seven stairs at an entrance because the hotel hadn't brought out its portable ramp.

Traveling can certainly be a challenge for us. I've looked into a river cruise but I've been told the river boats can't handle a scooter and, even if they could, they sometimes dock right next to each other requiring passengers to walk narrow planks to go boat-to-boat to get to the dock. If you're able to do a river I'd love to hear about it.

Ed

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Jeff Gullang avatar

Jeff Gullang

The frame and travel seat weigh less than 35 for the scooter I used on two cruises. https://getglion.com/product/new-snapngo/

There are a few more I looked at, Travelscoot, but went with the Glion one. Love it

Reply
Pam avatar

Pam

I just reached Diamond Plus (175 days) on Royal and have a few tidbits to share. 1) Take off front baskets as they take up too much room in elevators and it’s just easier without them. Instead, hang a bag or use a fanny pack. 2) Neck hangers for room key. I have a Coach one that holds my key, itinerary for the day and $ for casino. 3) A hanging pill bottle for those of us that take pills midday. I hang mine from my Coach neck hanger 4) A Thermos to keep a cold drink. I love Hydro Cell’s 5) An extension cord. 6) A nightlight. 7) I also fill up 2 weeks worth of daily pill containers. Got stuck out at sea once for a few extra days because of a hurricane landing in Miami.
As a Florida MS scooter girl, cruising is my only way to travel. I can take everything I need, do whatever I want, or don’t want. Most cruises I only get off the ship at the cruise owned islands. Hope this helps. Have fun and enjoy ;-)

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Pam,

Wow...that's a boatload of cruising!

Thanks for those tips, which are great. If it's ok with you I'd like to including them in the Cruising section of my personal blog, The MS Wire. I'd also like to include them in my chapter on traveling the next time I update my book, The Multiple Sclerosis Toolbox. Is that also ok?

BTW, where are you in FL? My wife and I spend 7 months of the year on the Gulf Coast in Punta Gorda.

Smooth sailing,

Ed

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Nigel Caswell avatar

Nigel Caswell

My wife and I have done a couple of small boat (75 passengers) cruises with my scooter etc, 1 round Northern Australia and one round the south island of New Zealand. We had a cabin on the same deck as the dining room and the level at which the tender loaded passengers for trips ashore which meant I could go straight on .to the tender. I would love to exchange experiences and find out which line you went on etc. Regards Nigel Australia)

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Nigel,

I'm glad you done some cruises. I think it's the best way to travel and we've never had a bad cruise. My wife and I have done about half a dozen, on ships ranging from 780 to 2,400. Most of them have been around Europe on Oceania, which is our favorite line. We used Princess in Alaska and the cruise I just wrote about was on Disney.

I've written a few column about my cruise experience. I linked to two of them from the column I just wrote and you can find others on this website if you do a search for me. I also have a section of my personal blog, The MS Wire, devoted to traveling and have devoted a chapter in my book, The Multiple Sclerosis Toolbox, to it.

Hope you have fair seas and following winds on all your cruises.

Ed

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Leanne Brougton avatar

Leanne Brougton

I have a potential cruise to Alaska coming up in May 2023 as a nursing school 40th reunion. I haven't committed yet. My husband and I did a cruise to Alaska 4 years ago. Husbands, parents can come along. We are thinking this is a holiday solution as I am not very mobile now. I used a cane last time but now a walker and wheelchair. I am thinking of getting a scooter. I no longer drive so it would give me more mobility around town. Yours and others advice has been very helpful.

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Leanne,

It's always nice to hear from you.

Scooter...scooter...scooter!!! My wife and I did a train/ship tour of Alaska several years ago, with a much larger and heavier scooter than my little TravelScoot. You can certainly rent a scooter for a cruise but I'd suggest checking out the TravelScoot (or something similar) that you can fold up. I've taken it on trains and boats and planes. If you go to my personal blog, www.themswire.com, you'll find a whole section that I have on traveling. There's also a chapter in my book "The Multiple Sclerosis Toolbox," which is available as a paperbook or an ebook on Amazon.

If you're going to do this cruise, book it now so that you can get an accessible cabin. They're much larger than a normal cabin and you'll be very glad you have one, especially if you're going to travel with a scooter. But those cabins are limited and go quickly, so don't dally.

Ed

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