I've been trying to plan shore excursions for my family since we booked our western Caribbean October cruise back in January. One member of my family is in a wheelchair. I am not naive enought to think that wheelchairs can go everywhere, but wouldn't it be nice if the cruise lines could have one excursion in every port that was wheelchair accessible?
Our cruiseline released the shore excursions list for our cruise about a week ago, and I have been very disappointed with the list so far. A couple months ago when I asked about the list, I was told that one of the things they were looking to add was more excursions for people with disabilites. Apparently, it didn't happen. The only excursion on the list that they set up for a wheelchair is the Key West Conch Train.
I know the living standards are different in the Caribbean than we are used to in the US, but with more and more people cruising, especially older people, it seems like someone would be watching the demographics. At most ports, there are multiple ships docked. The lines could get together and set up one tour.
We're going to have a great time even if all we do is get off the ship and walk around. I'm just having a whiney attack and need to vent. I called to ask whether an excursion used a bus or a van since my mom can transfer to a van but not climb steps into a bus. The excursions rep was rude and told me that the islands are no place for a wheelchair and to tell my mom to stay on the ship.
Good vent Kyriecat, sometimes you just have to get this sort of thing off your chest, even though you know nothing you say is going to change the facts.
You have already covered all the points and potential options very well, so you have my agreement and my support.
To be honest Key West as its the USA is about the most disabled friendly, maybe Grand Caymen as well.
Mexican ports I find that outwith the port the place can be a death trap walking never mind in a chair. And we agree most Carib islands are not yet geared towards the disabled.
This is not a fault of the line, but as you say they could anticipate it and provide a bus tour from the ship around the port being visited and as you point out , to make it worth their while they could share the trip with others docking that day.
This is a really valid gripe, hope you all have a great vacation and maybe some of our more experienced Carib cruisers can recommend an itinery that would cater better next time Kyrie wants to book
Definately check into private tours( vans) there are some names that keep popping up on these boards as recommendations. Try and arrange for say 5 or 6 of your group to arrange island tours in a van, that way you can stop and get out at viewpoints etc. and travel at your own pace.
Even if you don't prearrange something at many ports there were taxi stands with regulated taxis that are easy to arrange an island tour with. It will most likely be cheaper than ship shore exs anyways( they are SUCH a rip off ) and more fun( who wants to be on a bus with 50 others, yuck)
We're looking at doing our own excursions. It's my parent's first cruise so their preference is to go with the cruise line excursions so they don't accidentally miss the boat. I know this doesn't happen very often, but I want my parents comfortable.
I think the biggest disappointment is that RC was supposedly working to add some excursions for the disabled to the itinerary. We had hopes of finding more than just the one on the list. From experience, I know it is very difficult to locate appropriate excursions in the Caribbean so it might be that the RC tried but couldn't come up with anything. This is not meant to be a dig at RC because it sounds like the other cruise lines offer the same things, which is little to nothing for excursions.
Admittedly, I was told that some of the tours that list "bus" as the mode of transportation may actually be "van", but we need to check on a case-by-case basis. My mom cannot climb stairs to get into the bus but she can probably get into a van (she can get into the front seat of my truck with a little help). I had a list of five possible excursions that I called to check on so I may have simply irritated the excursion person by asking her about whether each one used buses or vans for transportation.
We're going to try the Conch Train in Key West. I think there are enough shops and other sights close to the pier area that we will find enough to do.
I'm thinking of renting a van on Grand Cayman. There's a van with a lift, but the cost is $75/hour and the driver is not a tour guide. We can rent a van for $75/day and go wherever we want. Soto's claims their boat "Hidden Treasure" is set up for wheelchairs. We might try that and go to Stingray City. My mom doesn't want to snorkel but she might enjoy watching the rays from the boat.
In Cozumel we might go to Chankanaab Park, but it's received mixed reviews regarding accessibility. We will probably also wander around town. I haven't been to Cozumel so I don't know the layout.
I'm trying not to be negative since I know we will have a good time. (A bad day of vacation still beats a good day of working!) I just can't seem to get over the disappointment that the cruise industry has been advertising how accessible their ships are in an attempt to lure new travellers, but they seem to forget about the biggest benefit (my opinion only) of cruising, which is seeing new places.
I mean this with all my heart, you appear very intelligent, its your parents first cruise and its a sh*t scenario. I know you want it all to be special (thats how I read it)
But I also know that no matter what ,,, you will make it good for them. But I also guess they themselves will understand the potential problems given their condition and that the world is not always geared up towards them. They must live it everyday
Explain it, take a step back and propose what you plan to do as an alternative. They will appreciate the honesty, and from there you can all have an "honest and open" vacation.
More importantly you can enjoy it as well, because you have been up front with them regard expectation and they know what to expect,,,, no surprises. Dont take it all upon yourself, share it with them and enjoy this special vacation in your own way and together
My mom is much more easy going than I am so she is just happy to take a cruise. She knows the limitations involved in traveling even in the US. Growing up, I can remember several times when she decided to stay at the hotel or wait for us while Dad, sis, and I did something too active for her.
We're determined to have a great time, even if we can't do everything. This is the "starter" cruise for my parents since my dad is fixing to hit retirement age. The Rhapsody had a good rate and is only about an hour from my parents' house so they won't have to fly. The plan is to have lots of fun on this cruise so that in a couple years Mom can sit on her balcony and watch the Alaskan Inland Passage go by (her dream cruise). The key is to show my dad that cruising is great, even if we have to drag him kicking and screaming! : )
kyriecat - been there done that. At one time or another in my life I have had my father (ms) my fiance (paraplegic) and step-daughter (md) in wheelchairs and it can be hard going. But it sounds like you will make it work. When we were at Chakanaab the pathways were well kept so I would think there would be no problem with a wheelchair - it was one of the lovliest places I have ever seen and you can go by cab. Just won't be able to access the neach itself but it can all be seen quite well from the pathways. Have a great trip - TTFN Jennifer
Hey Kyriecat, guess what I've got a Dad just like that, my Moms up for everything, planes, boats whatever. Dad I just cant his butt on a plane seat to go anywhere. He will not fly. Its a nightmare for my brothers and I trying to plan full family vacations.
If you get your Dad on that ship, he will experience that special world that is cruising and if it goes to form, then you will be under more pressure as to when you can all do it again !!
Take care and I hope you have a good one, and you've picked a good ship to kick it off
You will find the Rhapsody crew very accommodating...anywhere on the ship should be no problem. Key West..no problem...Cozumel....no problem but the difficulty may arise with land operators. Try a few of the web sites with offerings for Cozumel you may find some assistance there with handicap friendly tours.
You have also picked a great ship to open the world of cruising to your folks!
The better half of our household requires the use of a wheelchair. We have cruised since 1972 and since 2000t we have had to have her rely on a wheelchair. Each year since then, with the advent of Title III of the ADA things have been getting better. Cruise lines we use like Princess Cruises and Holland America have gone out of their way to get the wheelchair bound party on and off the ship. Often on HAL ships the passenger is taken down to the lowest deck and rolled off the vessel on a big, wide plank arrangement.
We have gone on tours using those that are around the dock. However, I appreciate a problem with these taxi or vans is that they may not be adequately insured or have a terrible driving reconds, some gthing the cruise lines are supposed to check when you pay for the tour through their tour office. Yes, I know they have a disclaimer in the passenger ticket or what evet you get from the tour office but I have read a number of lawsuits where the cruise lines have been held liable. Why, because they did not check to see if the tour operator had proper insurance; or that the tour opertor had a bad accident record.
My husband is in a power wheelchair, and cruising has been one of the best ways for us to vacation.
Fortunately we live in Florida and can drive to the ports.
We've been to Key West a number of times, both on a cruise ship and by car. The town is pretty accessible, although some of the small shops are just too small and the merchandise, etc. too overflowing to accommodate a wheelchair.
We did notice some of the curb cuts had broken concrete, making it difficult to manuever.
We took the Conch Train - well, actually the trolley b/c it can accommodate wheelchairs.
In other ports we've visited - St. Thomas, Nassua, Belize, Cozumel, etc. - my husband chose to stay on the ship.
Even though I managed to locate some accessible excursions [not arranged by the cruise line] in come of the countries, my husband chose not to take any. I'm thinking his biggest fear was the need to find an accessible bathroom along the way, and that's probably next to impossible.
While out and about in many of the ports, I noticed sidewalks lacked curb cuts, stores and restaurants had steps, and even the ramps that were supposed to provide access were too steep of a pitch.
We continue to cruise, however, because my husband and I love it! He has a great time when we're in port, staying on the ship and getting involved in various other activities.