In this blog our former Equalities Ambassador Shirley Todd shares her most recent experience of being a wheelchair user on board a cruise ship.
Royal Caribbean – Navigator of the Seas
8-22 July 2017
Stateroom number 1814
I was expectant that the issues that blighted our cruise in October 2016, had been addressed and rectified, but the carpet in our stateroom was still wet.
Our Stateroom Attendant, Tosha, was friendly and we saw her every day. She kept our stateroom looking spick and span.
RCI still haven’t caught on regarding paper hand towels in public toilets.
We attended six theatre shows and an ice show. They were all excellent. The Rock Britannia street party on the Royal Promenade is always a highlight of our cruise.
The ship was spotless all the time. We had a Norovirus outbreak halfway through the first week and the ship’s sanitation process was prompt, thorough and visible.
The food was still a bit mixed. Being seafood avoiders, the menus were a bit restrictive in the Sapphire Dining Room. The Windjammer was still a favourite for food quality and choice.
We didn’t book any excursions due to our previous experience with difficulty trying to get spaces on ‘accessible’ excursions and a lack of ‘accessible’ excursions offered.
Two days before visiting Nice, we received information about powerchair and scooter users – “may or may not be allowed to get on or off the ship”. We had already queried with shore excursions desk the fact that this port required the use of tender boats, and were they wheelchair/powerchair accessible. They reassured us that they were, but that there may not be shuttle buses to Nice, approx. 20 miles away. They advised that there were taxis on the port-side but couldn’t say if there were wheelchair accessible taxis. We decided to give it a go but were on the way to the gangway when we met another powerchair user going the other direction who said “I wouldn’t bother, they’re refusing to take powerchairs”. Yet another port where I couldn’t get off the ship!
Left in your stateroom every day is a copy of “Cruise Compass” which gives a list of everything going on around the ship the following day, allowing you to plan your day.
There are kids clubs for all age ranges. My daughter, who’s 14, went to the teen club and made loads of new friends. She did say that a lot of the activities advertised did not happen, and they ended up sitting in the teen lounge a lot of the time.
There is always a rush for sunbeds on the ‘at sea’ days.
It’s good to see that drinks beside the pool are now served in plastic ‘glasses’.
Because we’d visited most of the ports before, we ended up only getting off the ship at 2 ports – Cagliari (Sardinia) and Malaga. Cagliari was pleasant, we didn’t stray too far from the port, and had a pastry and drink at one of the local cafes. Malaga was brill! We got a wheelchair accessible taxi at the port (this cost 15 Euros) to ‘El Corte Ingles’, which was a large department store spread over 6 floors and a supermarket in the basement. There was a disabled toilet on each level. Five minutes’ walk away is the ‘Centro Comercial Larios’, which was a huge shopping mall, with a wide range of genre of shops. Again, there were disabled toilets everywhere, as well as flat escalators, which wheelchairs, buggies etc could use. I loved the timed crossings and there were no kerbs, everything was flat. From outside El Corte Ingles, where we were dropped off, a taxi driver radioed for a wheelchair accessible taxi to take us back to the ship. This taxi cost 12 Euros.
Here are my comments on the ship:
- Our stateroom’s panoramic window was tremendous.
- When we sailed on Anthem of the Seas two years ago, they had Wow bands. I suggested last year that they could phase this in on other ships, starting with the accessible staterooms so that the doors would open automatically, this would be a huge help to disabled, and specifically, wheelchair-bound guests.
- The ice rink and the ice shows were really good.
- The Rock Britannia night is always great fun.
- The entertainment staff were excellent and good fun.
- I also advised in last year’s review that in the theatre, there needs to be drinks holders on the backs of the last row chairs, in front of the wheelchair and companion spaces.
- Royal Caribbean are getting a lot right as regards wheelchair using guests, but they have still got a way to go.
NOW FOR THE WORST BITS
Despite assurances from RCI, the carpet in our room was still wet. After our cruise last year was so disrupted, I felt that it was inappropriate for this to be repeated, and refused any investigations while we occupied the room. RCI had had 9 months to investigate this issue. One evening while my daughter was in the room alone, just about to step into the shower, a man appeared in our room, obviously to check/investigate the leak. I could not allow this to happen. About the end of the first week, our shower started to run hot and cold and, although we reported it, we stated that we did not want them to investigate while we occupied the room. We either had to put up with it or risk any number of people trying to fix the problem.
We have already booked next year’s cruise on the same ship to the Baltics in June. I’m so looking forward to it. Hopefully there won’t be any problems with ports or getting on/off the ship.