Cruise.co.uk have had the pleasure of reading a live blog from one of our disabled passengers who sailed around New Zealand and Australia onboard Celebrity Solstice.
Not only was Sue and her sister Ruth first time cruisers, but they were able to give us an interesting insight into life onboard a cruise ship with a wheelchair (including port days and excursions).
Sue has answered all the questions we had on the topic so take a look below at what herself and Ruth have to say about sailing onboard Celebrity Solstice…
Solstice- first timers and a wheelchair
9th December – RuthZ88
First impressions….wow, this is a big ship! I’ve nothing else to judge by, but there are more people on this ship than live in my village! We’ve seen a lot of swimming pools and lounging areas, shops, a huge theatre, and a massive cafeteria which seems to cater for every possible type of meal.
You could eat all day every day – I can now see why people gain weight on cruises – we’re going to have to be quite strict about eating! At the moment, it’s all a bit confusing, as there is just so much to see and do. But everyone is very friendly and helpful, and I’m really looking forward to this!
Our room is disabled-friendly, and is also quite a premium one, on floor 11. The room is well big enough to hold the wheelchairs and all our many pieces of luggage. Loads of cupboard and hanging space. Nice bathroom. Only two sockets that we can see so far, but that’s enough to charge the chair and gadgets.
Top Tip: Pick the right cabin. The accessible cabin has a wetroom and is large enough to use a wheelchair. If you don’t walk too well but can get up a step into the shower then a smaller room may be more suitable.
Round NZ with a wheelchair- Day 3
11th December – SueZ88
“We docked this morning at Taoranga and we had booked a private tour to Wai O Tapu Thermal Wonderland. We had the most brilliant guide by the name of Gerard Barnard and I would highly recommend his company, Driving Miss Daisy, to any disabled travellers in the area.
The day started with us disembarking and meeting up with our guide. He had only been told that there were 4 passengers, one with an electric wheelchair. Two vehicles arrived and he brought with him a manual wheelchair as he was uncertain of our needs. Good start. He seemed very well prepared. We picked the most suitable of the vehicles and opted to take the manual chair with us in case my friend, Martin, needed to use it.
When we reached Wai O Tapu we discovered that they didn’t really understand wheelchair needs as there was a small step to the disabled toilets. However they showed us which route was wheelchair accessible. It wasn’t. We did it anyway.
Gerard pushed Martin in the manual chair until it became obvious that the path was too uneven for the power chair. He helped both me and Martin to get around the route which took us about one and a half hours instead of the half hour advised to us.
I have to tell you that the thermal sights we visited were truly spectacular and so varied and colourful. I also have to tell you that it is not wheelchair accessible and we could not have done it without Gerrard’s help. We were overrunning, but he was so generous with his time. He made the impossible possible.”
Top Tip: Don’t be confined to the wheelchair if you don’t need to be. If you walk a bit at home then make sure you do the same when on the cruise. It’s too easy to stay in the chair and not move your legs.
Round NZ with a wheelchair- Day 4
12th December- SueZ88
Yesterday was a day at sea. There’s so much to do. The kids had had a competition to draw a design and they actually made the winning design which was an ice cream cone with 2 scoops. You rarely see the children as they have a whole area of the ship where they are kept entertained.
I’m travelling with a very lightweight collapsible power chair and keep getting stopped by people who are interested in it for themselves or their friends. It’s one way of meeting people. Another is when they are sitting at the same table in a restaurant or bar. It’s quite fun and I get to hear about other people’s travels. Some people have done dozens of cruises around all parts of the world. Amazing.
We went to the evening entertainment in the theatre last night. It was a wonderful show with aerial acrobats and dancers and I like to kid myself that if I continue exercising and strengthen my core then I too could do pole dancing and acrobatics. (Hmm, maybe I should concentrate on just walking a bit first.) We did go to hear the vocalist the previous night but, I think you have to try these things and just accept you won’t enjoy everything.
Top Tip: Ask for help when you need it. The buffet is quite high and it’s sometimes difficult to see what’s on offer, but all the staff will help you if you want them too.
Round NZ with a wheelchair- Day 5
13th December- SueZ88
Today we docked in Wellington and were being picked up by a friend who was showing us around. We had arranged where in the port we would meet but unfortunately they don’t allow pedestrians in the port since the earthquake last year. Once again the New Zealander’s played a blinder.
The lovely security lady got on her phone and rang our friend to arrange a new meeting place. Then she got on her radio to get some transport for us to get there. These people are so helpful and friendly.
We’ve had a wonderful day in Wellington and totally tired ourselves out. We even experienced an earthquake at an exhibit in Te Papa, the museum. I knew it was going to happen but it was still scary. The botanical gardens are beautiful and very relaxing, although they are only partially wheelchair friendly. They have a map to show the accessible bits.
Oh, and I just remembered- in Wellington they have motorised scooters available FREE for you to get around if you need one. I don’t know where you get them from, but as we got off the ship there was a lady giving out city maps and it had details of this in it.
Top Tip: Try everything. Sometimes it’s easy to say you can’t do something. Everyone on the ship will help you do things you didn’t know you could do.
Round NZ with a wheelchair- Day 7
15th December- SueZ88
Today we docked at Dunedin which is our last stop before Australia. Thankfully there was a gangplank rather than a tender. It was quite steep but I was assisted by a member of the crew.
There is a $20 charge for the shuttle bus into town, but there’s really not much choice as it’s a 25 minute ride and there are ‘very few taxis’. There was a place on the bus to store my collapsible chair and I think there was a ramp in the middle if you couldn’t get out of a chair. You all know me by now, I just went up the step on my crutches and lurched to my seat by holding onto anything that looked solid (you would have expected no less from me.)
When we arrived back my friend, who walks with a stick, was tired and in pain so they put him on a sort of golf cart type of thing to bring him back to the ship.
Dunedin itself prides itself on being the Edinburgh of New Zealand.We went to the railway station which is described as ‘the most photographed building in New Zealand’. Needless to say, we photographed it. It is quite impressive and there is a ramp so we can all go in.
I didn’t see any bars, shops or restaurants I couldn’t access, although I’m not sure about the accessibility of the toilets in all these places. I’m sure there were inaccessible places but I didn’t see any on the main shopping street.
Top Tip: Don’t be afraid of the tender. It’s sometimes difficult to get on and off the moving tender, but the staff seemed quite experienced at helping less mobile passengers.
Round NZ with a wheelchair- Day 10
18th December- SueZ88
I’m sitting on the balcony having watched the sunrise over Melbourne. Yesterday I did more or less everything I wanted to do, and after a very late lunch, Ruth went to her iPad lesson and I went to recharge the wheelchair which also meant I was having a little nap to recharge me. Because the ship was moving under my crutches last night I kept the wheelchair by the bed rather than charging on the other side of the stateroom.
Round NZ with a wheelchair- Day 11
19th December- SueZ88
So today we docked in Melbourne and there were no queues to get off. We all just went down the gangplank. As we are coming back to Melbourne after the cruise, we bought the all-day travel pass which gets us on buses and trams. When we come back we can just top it up. The maps show which stops are disabled friendly.
Debbie and Martin opted for the hop-on-hop-off bus tour which, unfortunately is not wheelchair friendly. Ruth and I took the tram into the city centre. We found the massive tourist info place and they gave us a great DIY walking tour.
There was one place where there were about 4 steps up but you could go a different route if you wanted. (I did the steps and Ruth carried the wheelchair up.). Another road had big cobbles. I avoided that as cobbles are very uncomfortable in the chair. Tomorrow we are at sea then the next day we disembark at Sydney.
Top Tip: Smile. Everybody talks to people who smile and you meet some great people on board!
What do you think of Ruth and Sue’s cruise diary? Has this given you an insight into life as a disabled cruise passenger, or are you already familiar with the experience? Leave us your thoughts and comments below…
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