Part 3: Success, In Spite Of ...
Today, Karen recalls her first day aboard a cruise ship, and she is dismayed to find that excursions for the "partially-abled" are not readily available. Her perseverance pays off when she creates a DIY excursion into Venice.
Thursday, February 07, 2008
Photo by Karen Joyce Baker
Fine Tea Plus a Treat for Your Feet
Patrons of Portland, Maine-based Soakology can enjoy a gourmet lunch followed by a foot massage, leaving them blissfully relaxed.
The Dordogne region of Southwestern France awaits with great history and fine people, food, and wine.
Searching for an Appropriate Excursion
Prior to embarking on Serenity, a ship of Crystal Cruises, I went online to study all of the excursions so I could determine which ones would be appropriate for me. I was concerned about the difficulty and safety of shore excursions.
When I tried to make a phone appointment, I was ignored and my emails went unanswered. My travel agent got a message stating someone from the excursion would speak to me as soon as I boarded the ship. "Not to worry," they said.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
With this in mind, I boarded the ship early for my excursion appointment. We met for about an hour and went through each excursion. For each trip, there was a reason for me not to go: stairs and steps, walking too much, no wheelchair accessibility, etc. I am not sure that I could get on a bus (no wheelchair lift, and the steps were about 13" high).
Why was I told there were excursions for me when there were none? Why did I pay thousands of dollars extra for a cruise which could not accommodate me? Did anyone say "Let's look at these destinations so we can provide assistance for her on and off the ship?" or, "How can we accommodate her?" Perhaps Crystal Cruises will offer a special section of excursions for those who are disabled and not as active as others. I took a lot of notes on my excursions, and met some extremely capable people. I agree that Crystal Cruises is a fine, elegant cruise line, but handicapped individuals deserve a special kind of service.
Making The Best Of Eating Alone
During my first evening meal on the ship, I dressed up, fixed my hair, and took extra special time applying my make-up. After all, this was the first time I was going to meet my
dinner partners with whom I would share meals for the next twelve days. (Of course, being single, I had a vision of meeting a count or a lord or at least a wealthy single man who loved to push wheelchairs.
I was anxious to meet my "dinner partners," and guess what: I was seated at a table by myself. I was dumbfounded. There were available places so if my table was empty, give me a choice: a later seating, other people to dine with, etc. But don't put a single, "partially-abled" lady at a table by herself on her first night on the ship! I wanted to leave and get my money back.
Monday August 20, 2007
The next day I explained to my stewardess, Juliana, that I had been in Venice for two days and not seen Venice. The ramp was too difficult for me, the larger tender boat not available, no excursion suitable for me, etc.
Juliana said, "It's a sin not to see Venice." She returned with Aries, who would be my Venice guide. He spoke enough English to take me around and had enough work experience to know how to get there. We had a wonderful afternoon.
Just Tap Your Head
In Venice it was difficult for me to get around, but Venice had the best and easiest toilet flushing system I had ever seen. For women, all you had to do is sit, then tap your head back against the wall to flush the toilet. For men, just nod your head forward and push against the wall to flush.
So, it was Aries and me, Karen, who knew how to sit in comfort in the wheelchair and give directions. It was at this point that I realized that this first excursion would lead me to future trips, which I now knew how to arrange.
Part 4: Tomorrow, Karen begins her Internet research and arranges for six more excursions to the cities of Dubrovnik, Sorrento, Rome, Monte Carlo, among others.