If you have a disability, travelling is rarely straight forward. So that’s why we’ve teamed up with Carrie-Ann Lightley from Tourism for All, to bring you a series of articles to help make travelling and disabled holidays easier and more accessible. This month she shares her experience on a Norwegian cruise ship.
Darren and I arrived in Southampton on a wet Wednesday lunchtime, and were amazed by the sheer size of the ship, which was brightly coloured on the outside and had an aqua park spiralling above the deck. After a very speedy check in, (10 minutes at most, a revelation after years of hanging around airports for hours) we boarded the ship to take in some Miami-style luxury from our grey corner of England.
I must admit cruising has not really appealed to me previously, as I like to spend my holidays exploring and was worried about being restricted. I needn’t have worried, as there was enough on the ship to keep me occupied for a week, never mind the excursions!
Our cabin was compact and functional, with accessible features including an automatic door, a wet room shower and wardrobe hanging rails which could be lowered. I think if we had been staying longer we may have considered upgrading to a larger cabin, and wheelchair users with bigger chairs may need to consider this – the accessible balcony room was almost twice the size, so there are a range of options to choose from.
Lunch was the next thing on the agenda, and we opted for the ship’s Garden Café buffet restaurant. This meant going outside above deck for a minute or two, which I’m sure would have been lovely in warmer climes, let’s just say in Southampton it was ‘refreshing’! With a range of buffet options as far as the eye could see we really were spoilt for choice, and we enjoyed a relaxed meal with views of the water.
It was then time to explore. The ship boasts 16 restaurants, 12 bars, a casino, an aqua park, a sports complex and a spa. It was a tough job, but we did our best to see as much of it as possible! Lifts serve all floors, and there is even a platform lift for access to the sun deck – a definite must for me as I love lounging on holiday. Touch screen monitors in public areas showcased all amenities and would plot a route from your current location to your chosen bar, restaurant etc.
After taking in all that the Getaway had to offer, we had a quick freshen up and met with Accessible Travel & Leisure for their drinks party in the Bliss Lounge. Over a glass of sparkling wine we chatted to fellow disabled cruisers about their stay so far, and caught up with Ali and Frankie from the Accessible Travel office. As a specialist tour operator, they have been providing holidays for over 15 years and are the UK’s largest specialist holiday company. They personally inspect every holiday they sell, and this was no different, as they encouraged feedback from all of their guests.
For our evening meal we decided on the Tropicana Room, a grand main dining room with floor-to-ceiling windows, large dance floor and a glamorous 1950s style. The meal was excellent and the service attentive – when I enquired about the location of the nearest accessible toilet, a waiter guided me all the way there. After dinner we had a browse of the Duty Free offerings, before rounding off the evening in the Sugarcane Mojito bar with delicious cocktails.
Waking the next morning from a very deep and peaceful sleep (possibly the mojitos…) we packed our belongings and located the buffet breakfast. As with lunch the day before there was a never-ending choice of food – fresh omelets and waffles set us up for the long drive back to Kendal. We had such a great time on our taster cruise that my mind has been changed completely, and we are considering a week-long cruise holiday later in the year.
By Carrie-Ann Lightley