This may turn out to be a rather long post and i apologize in advance and thank you for your help! I am finding little to no help on the www and I am pretty good about surfing/searching travel info, as that used to be a large part of my job at a cruise agency.
I will be traveling on the Millie for a 12n Med in June05. Accompanying me will be my senior parents (early 70s) and my quadriplegic sister. We have all been on at least 12 cruises, most of them together, all over the Caribe and also, Alaska. This will be our 3rd X cruise (Summit & Century) so we know what to expect on the ship and from X
As far as on land...we are realistic to the fact of steps, stairs cobblestones, etc... and realize that Linda, my sis, will not be able to do everything such as at the Parthenon or Pompeii or the Bridge of Sighs. But I need viable info, preferably first hand, as to what is possible.
My family can not stand "drive by" or shopping motorcouch shore tours. We have done shore tours that I have booked privately over the web/phone since our 3rd cruise and have had great success with some fantastic experiences. I have tried to contact some tour operators over in Europe but with limited luck. Bob's Limo seems to be a good way to go but the email address on the website is not deliverable (according to Yahoo). It sounds like that may pick us up in all 3 of the Italian ports. That would be a big plus! Anyway.....
First, I need your help as far as accessible info to and around the sites. Secondly, help with tour operators that you have used, especially if they helped with a disability or even mobility problems. Thirdly, links to any websites that you think may help me. I have gone to tons of them but maybe someone out there can direct me to a new one.
My Itinerary is Barcelona, Villefranche, LIvorno, Civitavecchia, Naples, Mykonos, Piraeus, Santorini, Dubrovnik, and Venice.
Again, thank you so much for taking time to read this post and know that any help you can give is greatly appreciated!
I read this message a couple of days ago and have thought about it a couple of times for several reasons. First, I want to say that my 64-year-old mother is somewhat limited in mobility due to a knee replacement that didn't go very well and the need for a second, so I understand a little about the concerns of traveling with someone with limited mobility, and I commend you for working toward making this trip as memorable as possible. However, my husband and I have traveled extensively in Europe, and we have noted to each other on many occasions that we supposed that the handicapped Europeans just stay at home. Europe is way, way behind on making public sites accessible to handicapped citizens. I very rarely see anyone in a wheelchair at the main sights in any European city, and many of the train, underground, and other subway systems have stairs and no elevators. (Since my mom has to use elevators, I always note that when I'm sightseeing.) I also cannot tell you how much I detest those drive-by sightseeing bus tours, but that is where I see the U.S. passengers who are in wheelchairs. I think that your plan of using private drivers in the ports is going to be your best bet, and it will be critical to find drivers who will be the most effective in working with your particular situation.
I've been in some of the ports you are visiting, so I'll comment accordingly. We recently used Dream Tours out of Monte Carlo, but they operate out of Villefranche too. We had Jean-Marc for a driver, and this is a first-rate tour company. See
In Livorno, I highly recommend Papillon at http://www.papillonservice.com/index.htm. We have used many tour companies in many ports, and I can highly recommend this company too. I believe they also operate out of Civitavecchia. I know you referenced another company and said that their site might not be working, so you might be wary of that.
I have been to Barcelona, Venice, Mykonos, Piraeus, Civitavecchia, and Naples too, but I can't imagine how you're going to do those ports on your own. Mykonos is a lovely little village to just wander around in, but the streets are uneven and sloped. Venice will be impossible without a guide, but you can get on the vaporetto boats to ride around and see a lot of the architecture and the city. I can't remember if Las Ramblas in Barcelona is very uneven, so maybe someone else can help you with that. The main site at Piraeus is the ruins at Ephesus, and that's going to be difficult too. With so many sights in Rome, I'm thinking surely you all can see something, so a guide should be able to help you with that. If you can get to St. Peter's Basilica, the floor of the Basilica and the Vatican should be easy to navigate in a wheel chair. The Colosseum is another story, and it may not be possible to see it inside, but it's marvelous from the outside too. In Naples, we went to Pompeii on our own, and you can see that or the Amalfi Coast with a guide. You might want to do the Amalfi Coast because that is a great drive for a day, and it will be much easier to do than the ruins.
Maybe you've stumbled upon the need for an organization or a book to assist others in similar situations.
There are also many seasoned travelers who post frequently on cruisecritic.com, and I have received some great info there.
I wish you all the best with your planning and hope you have a great time.
What a wonderful, thoughtful answer. I can't add much except, having a brother in a wheelchair, I've also noticed repeatedly how inaccessible a lot of Europe is.
Venice! There are bridges with steps everywhere, and the workmen with dolllies and women with strollers (and tourists with suitcases!) just bump-bump-bump up and down constantly. It seems pretty easy for them to ramp in one end of at least some of the bridges, even if wheelchairs aren't the issue! You wonder if they've even thought of it. (I don't mean to sound anti-Venice: it's one of our favorite places!) The hilltowns and cliffside villages also offer challenges. However, many beautiful places aren't that extreme, and you should be able to do a lot.
Have a wonderful trip, aided by the Donna's advice!
The Mediterranean cities, given their history and construction periods, are far less accessible than American or northern European cities. Scandanavia was a breeze to get around. Legislation such as the ADA and other disability rights laws have helped to make public facilities accessible, but not so in southern Europe - and even if the EEC passed a law, the historic nature of many of the buildings (not to mention the physical constraints of the site, such as the Parthenon) would prevent substantial changes from being made.
That being said, we found a great driver/guide for the Italian cities who had access to vans that could easily stow a collapsable wheelchair in the back. Paolo is his name, and www.drivinguide.com is his website. He speaks flawless English (you'd swear he was from Brooklyn!) and is very accommodating for guests with special needs - many of the sites in Rome were surprisingly accessible - the Parthenon, St. Pete's, and even the Colosseum! If you show up at the Colosseum in a wheelchair, you get to go to the front of the line, avoiding a long wait. And they have an elevator to take you to the upper levels! I was also pleasanly surprised by the number of curb cuts in the Med cities- but also unpleasantly surprised by all the scooter drivers who misused them as driveways for their Vespas!