Will try to post more later, but here is a quick report on this ship/cruise that we took 11/14-12/1/01:
Prior to our departure, we found Katy Ludwig and Jennifer McCloskey (Manager), at the HAL Access & Compliance Office most helpful and willing toboth answer questions about access and to provide us with unusually good information. We often find that information about the specific accessibility features of a modified cabin is lacking on both cruise line web sites and in their brochures. When we inquired about the bathroom features on the Ryndam (cabin 704) Ms. Ludwig arranged for someone on the ship to take digital photos of the bathroom set up and e-mail them to us the next day. Ms. McCloskey was also able to answer questions about HAL policy on access to/from the ship in ports and use of the new HAL tender lift which we were able to use.
On arrival at the ship we were provided good (although a bit disorganized) assistance to our cabin # 704, which accommodated 3 (using a roll-away bed). The bedroom set up does not allow sufficient room around the beds for wheelchair transfers or the use of a lift if set up for one queen sized bed, with with the beds set up as two twins with the beds against the wall it was
workable. This left a grab rail over one bed which was helpful for turning in bed. All room lights could be controlled from the bed, but it was impossible to see the TV from one of the two beds. The bathroom was accessible, although the sink cut-out was limited and their was no trap
insulation. The bathroom was small, so the turning radius was not up to ADA standards, and to use the sink the bathroom door had to be left open. The toilet (18” high without toilet seat) was set at an angle to the wall and grab bar (one side only) which was limiting and a little scary in rough seas. We used both our wheelchair and our lift as additional supports for safety while using the toilet. The shower access was good. Our main complaint was the drainage system which did not work well at all, resulting in a wet floor throughout the bathroom whenever the shower was used. Due to poor maintenance the tiles leaked through to the underlayment, and stepping or rolling on the floor resulting in water being squeezed from the saturated
underlayment to the floor. This could be dangerously slippery. In addition, the mirror was too high for good use from the wheelchair, and their was limited shelf space that was accessible from the chair. The closets had good access and appropriate height shelving and clothing rods, which could be adjusted into different configurations as needed. The desk was accessible as was the small love seat. This cabin has only small portholes and is very far forward on the ship, resulting in more noticeable motion in rough seas.
All public areas on the ship were wheelchair accessible, although this was someone limited in the Crow’s Nest (our favorite area) bar. This is at the top of the ship at the bow with glass windows all around but because the couches are screwed to the floor, there were several areas where path of travel was too narrow for wheelchair use (using an 18” wheelchair with no
camber). This was also somewhat of a problem in the showroom, which has not specially reserved wheelchair seating. If you plan to arrive early for shows, you can move chairs to get access all the way to the front row of the showroom if desired. All other areas where either ramped or level with the exception of the observation area on the roof of the Crow’s Nest. The
Promenade area is fully covered and allows easy wheelchair access all the way around the ship. The pool offers very limited access with no lift, but could be used by someone with assistance for lifting and transferring.
HAL does not use room service carts at all, so we never had problems with blockage of hallways as experienced on most other cruise lines.
We had two tender ports and a chance to use the new wheelchair tender lift on the Ryndam (opted not to get off ship in the Falklands). We had not been informed that reservations were necessary to use this lift, which delayed our departure by an hour. The lift is like a modified platform stair-glide system and lifts you onto a hydraulic platform on the special tender. It was easy to use and could accommodate either power or manual wheelchairs of 18” (no camber) or less. There is no tie-down, so have someone ride with you on the lift platform in the tender to provide protection from tilting during the ride on the tender. If you will need the tender lift in any port, be sure to arrange this well ahead of time (at least the day before) through Michelle Clomos (Customer Relations aboard ship). Unfortunately the dock-side set up at Punta Arenas was a nightmare of inaccessibility and I would not recommend getting off the ship at this port for anyone who cannot walk or stand at all. Our delay resulted in us missing our tour and having to wait an additional hour to arrange another van (not accessible, requiring lifting my mother in and out of a standard van).
The only place we found true accessible transportation was from Santiago to Valparaiso, Chile. Otherwise the "accessible" transport we had arranged for us was a standard van (no lift or ramp) or minibus that required lifting up several steps for access. We did find most people in the tour companies willing to do this lifting, but it was very scary. HAL provided assistance at all ports up/down the gangways, although there was much complaining about what a burden we were esp. by the chief of security on the ship. You must be VERY insistant about what is safe for chair handling as they were poor at taking any direction in spite of their unsafe routines.
South America would not be the first destination I would choose for any disabled cruisers, as there are more challenges ashore than on cruises to destinations such as Western Europe, Australia/New Zealand, Alaska or Hawaii. It can be an interesting destination for anyone who has sufficient assistance and is not afraid of a challenge (with some risks, too).