We are booked for a September cruise to Alaska on the Zaandam and a Nov.6 cruise on the Oosterdam. The wife requires using a wheelchair aboard the ships.On May 20, 2005 we received the following e-mail from our travel agent, that may or may not be important to other passengers using a wheelchair. “HAL no longer provides wheelchair for use free of charge on their ships. They do have an agreement with Care Vacation, 800-547-8493 that can deliver a wheelchair to your cabin. “ When we called the telephone number it was answered by Holland America in Seattle, where we were informed “we will get back to you”.
We have a wheelchair at home that we could use but our recent experience, twice the chair has arrived at the embarkation port damaged. On April 4,2005 we cruised on the Carnival Spirit where our TA was informed Carnival does not provide wheelchairs except for embarkation and disembarking. Our chair was damaged, but with the help of a crewmember I was able to repair it. During the cruise I found more than 6 passengers using Carnival chairs throughout the cruise, all freebies. We had a similar experience on the Sun Princess. The home office informed us we needed to bring our own wheelchair, which we did. The front desk at sea told us that it was not necessary for us to have brought our own chair, which had been damaged by the airline.
As of this posting I do not know how much they charge of an ordinary wheelchair.
We are not new to cruising; since 1972 we have taken 3 or 4 cruises or more every yea medallionr ,but since 2001 one of use has had the need to rely on a wheelchair. We have the 300 day at sea with HAL medallion and are on our way for the 5 hundred day medallion, God willing. The cruise lines are considered to be places of Public Accommodation under Title III of ADA. Unfortunately for the disabled requreing use of a wheelchair, Title III does not require the cruise line to provide wheelchairs free
Actually no they aren't (a place of public accommodation under the ADA), as this will be something decided by the US Supreme Court by the end of June.
And I don't know of any place of public accommodation that is required to provide wheelchairs. Some do as a service, but it is certainly not required under the ADAAG and even if the Supreme Court rules against NCL, they won't require the cruise lines to provide wheelchairs for the exclusive use of passengers.
So if you require a wheelchair, you should bring your own, or arrange for a rental. That's pretty much the way it works.
Editor, Emerging Horizons
The only accessible travel magazine.
***edited to remove commercial reference***
We have never used the ships' wheelchairs in 30 years of cruising. They are usually heavy, sometimes dirty, and are cheap in every way. My mother would not be comfortable or able to transfer using one of these chairs, so we have always taken our own, both power and manual.
If your wheelchair was damaged on the plane, did you file a claim at the airport for repairs? If they cannot repair it immediately, they have to provide you with a local rental until repairs can be provided. What was damaged? We always take the armrests and leg rests (and cushion) off the chair and carry these aboard. Less to get lost or damaged. It is usually pretty hard to damage a good quality manual chair if this is done, even on the airlines. You can also purchase hard shell cases for transporting chairs on the plane if that is a particular concern.
Every line we have been on (many) does not furnish wheelchairs except for embarking and final disembarking. We have used the rental service mentioned several times on several lines successfully. My wife tells me she inquired about one-way rental (Starting in one port and ending in another) and was told it was possible. We just returned from a HAL cruise. They went out of their way to help us on and off the ship. One nice surprise was no steward's carts in the halls. Other lines make one a virtual prisoner in your cabin for most of the morning and hours in the afternoon if it is not right in the elevator area. Strange, but many modern ships have their disability cabins far aft or forward - seldom by the elevator shafts. We had the usual waits by the elevators; not from people pushing ahead of us, but from already full ones, which was understandable. Other passengers were kind for the most part and the staff went out of their way carrying the tray in the buffet. All entertainment rooms had convenient places to "park" to see the shows.
Ports varied wildly re accessibility, from curb cuts to cobblestones. Transportation mostly impossible. Don't count on wheelchairs or "golf" carts fitting in any conveyance. Bottom line? The chair made it possible for us to cruise and not stay home.
My husbands wheelchair (manual with wif power) has been cruising for the last four years. We never check it as baggage, but gate check it as you would a babys stroller. It has been to Europe and back 3 times. If you dont want to chance the airlines again, there are medical supply companies, in Florida, who will rent a chair for a weekly charge, deliver it to the ship, or if you arrive a day early to your hotel, and they pick it up after the cruise. Get on the internet and search for Florida Mediacal Supply rentals