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Thread: Cruise Review - Royal Caribbean

  1. #1

    Cruise Review - Royal Caribbean

    Our 11-day cruise with Royal Caribbean from Vancouver to Hawaii was much better than Gilligan's three-hour tour. Vancouver was friendly. The ocean was bigger than I thought and Hawaii was wonderful.

    Preparation
    This was my first trip since my SCI, so I was concerned about some aspects of traveling. I did my homework before we left, but I learned a lot on the trip too. For example, I asked everyone about the type of wheelchair I planned to take. I have a rigid-frame manual chair. The back folds down and the wheels pop off, but it doesn't collapse to become thinner. I considered buying a collapsible chair. I asked the airline, the travel agent, and the forums here. Everyone said it didn't matter. They were wrong. It mattered. A collapsible chair could have been kept in the airplane cabin. Mine had to be gate-checked. I was automatically excluded from many excursions offered by the cruise line because there wasn't room for the chair when vans were used to transport guests to the excursion activity.

    I owe chasb a big thanks. He suggested that I take cold medication with me on our vacation. Sure enough, I caught a cold. Thanks to the medicine, my symptoms were controlled and didn't ruin the trip.
    Transportation

    I took a plane, a taxi, a bus, a cruise ship, a tender ship, and a truck. As a quadriplegic, several of these transportation options wouldn't be available to me or would be much more difficult if my brawny husband didn't lift or carry me when it was necessary or more convenient.

    I used an aisle chair to board the plane for my first few flights. I was worried because I heard several bad descriptions of the experience. It wasn't anything like I anticipated. When you use an aisle chair, you board the plane before other passengers so no one is staring at you. Remember that you are in control of the situation. We insisted that my husband perform the transfer. If airline personnel must transfer you, explain how to do it correctly to prevent injury to you or them. Once, I saw an older woman transferred to the aisle chair. Two airline employees were assigned to the task. One grabbed her armpits and one reached for her feet. Her companion quickly halted the attempt and performed the transfer himself.

    The number of accessible taxis in Vancouver was amazing. A driver confirmed that they are common because of the number of older tourists that visit the city.

    The bus wasn't accessible. Without my husband's strength, I would still be sitting on the pier in Honolulu. On the other hand, there are worse places to be stranded.

    The cruise ship used a pier at three ports of call. A tender ship, a small ship used to ferry passengers from the cruise ship to the dock, was needed in Maui for two days because the water wasn't deep enough to enable the cruise ship to get close to the dock. Boarding a tender ship in a wheelchair is better than any amusement park ride. First, you are placed on a flat "elevator" that travels s-l-o-w-l-y down a short flight of stairs to the boarding platform. In front of you, the tender ship is bucking like a bronco in the rodeo chute. Two to four men, hopefully very strong men, lift you and the wheelchair into the tender ship. When you reach the shore, several men lift you out of the tender ship. It's a good idea to make friends with these guys.

    Unfortunately, the sea was rough on our second day in Maui. Although AB passengers boarded the tender ships, wheelchairs were not allowed to board. Obviously, I was disappointed. To be fair, they closed the tender ships to all passengers for a short time and repositioned the cruise ship, searching for calmer waters. Tendering was resumed for AB passengers, but an announcement was never made to resume tendering operations for passengers in wheelchairs. I ate a few extra meals, hung out by the pool, and worked on my tan.

    Accessibility
    Every part of the ship, Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas, was accessible. Facilities included a spa, a pool (equipped with a lift that I didn't try), a theater, a disco, dining rooms, a cinema, and a casino. I didn't try to use the rock-climbing wall or the basketball court, but I could reach them!

    Our room was handicap accessible. To book the room, I had to submit a letter from my doctor. It was larger than a standard room, providing the space needed to maneuver a wheelchair. However, the bathroom counter was extremely narrow. I was unable to reach the sink and I'm not sure that a paraplegic could reach it either. Safety rails were installed on both sides of the shower wall. One railing blocked a user from leaning against the back wall when using the shower bench. Fortunately, Clipper suggested using a deck chair from the veranda when I asked for advice before my trip. The desk area in the cabin was also very narrow, making it unsuitable for a wheelchair user.

    I also encountered a problem in the dining room used for dinner every day. In my wheelchair, my knees wouldn't fit under the table. My husband solved this problem by transferring me to the regular dining room chair. On my way out, I noticed a gentleman in a wheelchair dining with his wife at a table for two near the entrance. Although I didn't talk to him, I guessed that they solved the same problem by bringing a taller table for them, enabling the couple to share the dining experience with other passengers.

    To be included in excursions arranged through Royal Caribbean, the criteria seemed to include 1) the ability to enter a bus or van without assistance and 2) a collapsible wheelchair. Although I never saw these criteria in writing, they were the reason I was excluded from almost every excursion. We signed up electronically for the two Royal Caribbean excursions we took. Because a bus was used to travel to the events, we would probably have been denied. However, my husband simply carried me onto the bus and stowed my wheelchair in the storage area. (Believe me, navigating the steep skinny steps with me in his arms drew some attention.)

    Summary
    When Royal Caribbean excluded us from excursions, it was usually based on the transportation used to get to the activity, not the activity itself. A driver told us that the vans can carry 10 to 12 passengers, depending on the size of the passengers, but there isn't any storage space for a wheelchair. In the future, I plan to arrange excursions without using the cruise line. Many tour providers gather at the dock when a ship arrives and more research about each port of call before the cruise will discover options that aren't offered by the cruise line.

    My favorite day was our first port of call. We were excluded from the tour of the Keck Observatory because my wheelchair wouldn't fit in the van. Because this was a site my husband wanted to visit, we rented a 4-WD pickup truck and struck out on our own. We didn't get the box lunch given to the tour participants, but we saw more of the island and visited the observatory. That night, the cruise ship passed Kilauea, where molten lava flowed slowly into the ocean, creating golden steam that rose from the dark water. It was truly awesome.

    Although I encountered some accessibility issues, the trip was wonderful. I'd do it again in a heartbeat. In fact, I'll be posting from Maui if we win the lottery.

    [This message was edited by rtr on Nov 11, 2002 at 03:31 PM.]

    [This message was edited by rtr on Nov 11, 2002 at 03:43 PM.]

  2. #2
    Great review rtr. I had a similar experience on Holland America recently.

    Glad you had a good time.

    Onward and Upward!

  3. #3
    Senior Member Jeff's Avatar
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    Thanks, RTR

    I think I'm going to spring for a short cruise in the next year. Wish I could afford a long one to Hawaii but I think even a short one would be fun to experience. Thanks for the great info.

    ~See you at the SCIWire-used-to-be-paralyzed Reunion ~

  4. #4
    Senior Member nate007's Avatar
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    Just one question. What part of the bathroom counter and desk were too "narrow" making them unuseable? The space underneath them?

  5. #5

    Hey rtr!

    Glad you enjoyed your trip and your time in Vancouver. There's just a little thing I wanted to clear up with you. It's not your fault though, it was your cabby, he was probably one of the 98% of cab-drivers who are just as new to our country as you were. Not to sound predgidos.(see I can't even spell it) It has nothing to do with lots of old people visiting here at all.

    I have to give credit where credit is due, it's because Rick Hansen lives here, and his "Man in Motion Tour" not only opened many barriers here in Vancouver but around the world. It has been incredible how much has been done to increase accessibility and overall awareness of people with disabilities in our communities. I don't think I respect or have been touched by anyone more in my life than he. There is no one man that has helped our causes around the world more than he. I could go on and on, but like I said had to give credit where credits due.

  6. #6
    Originally posted by nate007:

    Just one question. What part of the bathroom counter and desk were too "narrow" making them unuseable? The space underneath them?
    Hi Nate,

    Although the hot water pipe under the bathroom counter was thoughtfully covered to protect passengers from burns, there was no way my knees would fit under the sink anyway! Both counters were only a foot or so deep.

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