Disabled Cruising, Then and Now

As I alluded to in my profile, my very first cruise was in 1983 on Carnival's first new-build, the Tropicale, then in her maiden season. When I first approached my Mother and Stepfather with the idea of taking my brother on a cruise they were, to say the least, taken aback. In those days, only rich old people took pleasure cruises. And wheelchair-bound hemiplegics didn't go anywhere except the doctor's and physical therapy.
But, being all of 22 years old, and invincible and stupid - I prevailed, (did I mention I have always been a fairly good salesman?), and off we went.
On the big day, we drove to San Pedro and boarded (after 3 hours in line - after all there were nearly a thousand people) this behemoth of a ship (47, 000 grt, I think).
After getting aboard we went to our 160 s.f. stateroom, which, of course (remember this is nearly a decade before the ADA) had a 22" door to accommodate a 28" wide wheelchair. A little quick thinking on my part, and we did a standing transfer from the wheelchair to the desk chair in the stateroom, then drug my brother in and transferred back to the wheelchair. Whereupon we discovered the bathroom door was both 22" narrow, AND had a 3" lip. So, for the next 7 days, this became the 2-3 times daily ritual.
Oh, to be young and strong again.
And every other doorway on the ship had that same 3" lip. And their were 3 or 4 steps down into the dining room, with no ramp. This last is actually what sold me on cruising. Our first time to the dining room, upon seeing the wheelchair, the Maitre d' snapped his fingers and 4 busboys came running, to lift my brother, and his chair and carry him down the steps. For the next seven days, 3 times a day, we were met at the door by staff, waiting to carry him. Now, THAT is service.
Needless to say, we had a great time, despite it all.
Now, fast forward to 2007. Me and my brother cruised Hawaii on NCL's Pride of Hawaii. Upon arriving at the dock, we were escorted to a special line for handicapped passengers, and got on the boat in about 30 minutes. Whereupon we found our wheelchair accessible cabin, with a 36" doors at the entry and the bathroom, about 300 s.f., nicely arranged for easy access. And the various home medical items I had arranged to rent got to the stateroom before we did. In a week, I found one door with a lip, and there were ramps into every dining room and lounge that needed it, as well as a section of the main theatre where wheelchairs could park and see the stage.
Over the course of many cruises from 1983 to 2007, we have seen a steady evolution of ships to become ever more accessible. Cruise lines seem much more cognizant of the needs of ALL passengers than hotels, airlines, or any other segment of the travel industry. Combine that with the level of service on even a budget cruise, compared to lackadaisical hotel staff, and downright hostile airlines, and it is easy to see why, when potential clients with various disabilities ask me about the best vacation choices I nearly always recommend cruising.

No comments :

Post a Comment

Thank you for sharing. Your post is awaiting moderation.