|06-11-2003, 06:55 PM||#1|
Ships cater to disabled
Ships cater to disabled
Lines have upgraded their on-board accessibility
By Gloria Hayes Kremer
"I won't let the things I can't do stop me from doing the things I can do," says Brewster Rhodes. "I just take my dependable wheelchair along with me ... and off I go!"
Five years ago, Rhodes' health problems affected his ability to walk. His doctor advised him to get a wheelchair or a three-wheeled electric scooter - he got both.
"He's been getting almost everywhere ever since," said his wife, Peggy. We took a cruise through the Caribbean, the Panama Canal and recently traveled to Alaska, even taking the land tour the week before the cruise."
"So many folks don't realize that they can do more than they think they can do," said the spirited Rhodes, a retired executive with Bell Telephone of Pennsylvania.
Today, more people with disabilities are enjoying the pleasures of an unpack-once cruise vacation. According to American Express, there are 49 million Americans with classifiable disabilities; 36 million are termed "travel qualified." Of that number, about 12 million travel.
The secrets of a successful and accessible cruise vacation depend on many factors. Learn about the layout of the ship, your shipmates, what activities the ship offers for you, destinations, etc. A tour operator or travel agent familiar with accessible cruising can help.
Practically all the major cruise lines, particularly those with new ships, have facilities and personnel to make people with disabilities comfortable.
"Wheelchair-accessible staterooms are among the first to be booked for any sailing," said Howard McCoy, president and CEO of Accessible Journeys, the largest company in the world arranging vacations for travelers with mobility and other disabilities. "I think the lines realize there's a tremendous potential revenue stream from folks with disabilities."
Here are some facts about particular cruise lines which can best serve one's particular needs.
Celebrity Cruises: All public spaces can accommodate wheelchairs. On several ships, there are 41-square-foot bathrooms. Celebrity requests guests to notify the company of any special medical condition and recommends a passenger travel with a companion who can provide necessary assistance (as do most cruise lines). Information: Celebrity Cruises Special Services Department, (800) 242-6374.
Princess Cruises: In 1992, this line established Love Boat Access. On all the Princess vessels, a full-time access compliance manager monitors on-board accessibility for passengers with disabilities. Areas in the major public rooms of the ships are accessible. Grand Class ships feature a high number of wheelchair accessible cabins. By 2004, Princess will add another 154 accessible cabins to the fleet. Information: (800) 421-1700.
Norwegian Cruise Line: All guests using a wheelchair must bring their own collapsible wheelchair. Accessible stateroom doors 35 to 39 inches wide. Information: (800) 327-7030.
Holland American Line: The Shore Tender Accessibility Project developed for this line provides an innovative, safe, comfortable transfer between ship, tender and pier for guests using wheelchairs. Information: (800) 426-0327.
Royal Caribbean: Accessible public areas are wide enough for wheelchairs to make a 180 degree turn; doors to outdoor public areas open automatically. Royal Celebrity Tours has introduced the largest and most accessible domed rail cars for touring the land segment of an Alaskan cruise. Information: (800) 327-6700.
Crystal Cruises: Both Crystal Harmony and Crystal Symphony have specially equipped penthouses and staterooms, as well as ramp access to most decks and public areas. Special port transportation or information on ports that offer shore excursions with the necessary facilities can be arranged by contacting Crystal Cruises' Onboard Guest Services Department prior to sailing. Information: (800) 446-6620.
Silversea: There are two accessible suites aboard each of the line's four ships: Silver Cloud, Silver Wind, Silver Shadow and Silver Whisper. Information: (800) 722-9955.
Radisson Seven Seas Cruises: The line requests that passengers bring their own wheelchairs on board. Information: (800) 333-3333.
Royal Olympic: Two of the ships in this fleet - Olympic Voyager and Olympic Explorer - have wheelchair-accessible staterooms. Information: (800) 368-3888.
Carnival Cruise Line: This growing line has 25 accessible staterooms on its Triumph, Victory and Destiny ships. A special "Medical Desk" assists wheelchair travelers. Information: (800) 327-9501.
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