Our holiday had started the day before we got on board ‘Adventure of the Seas.’ To avoid the stress of travelling and rushing to get to the port on time, my parents and I drove to Southampton on Wednesday and stayed overnight in a Premier Inn close to Southampton Port. I will admit that the anxiety levels were high, and did work myself up about going on the holiday. However, the anxiety was not about the cruise itself, but rather about the reaction of my neurological condition and the symptoms while being on a ship with the constant motion that it brings. This anxiety was particularly evident before the cruise, the symptoms that I experience have deteriorated with the trembling in the legs increasing in severity, as well as the dizziness becoming much more powerful. Furthermore, a couple of days before the start of the holiday I experienced a total loss of vision. Regular readers of the blog will know that I suffered this particular a few months ago. However, I have not experienced these attacks for some time so as you can imagine it was very disconcerting for them to occur right before going away.
Therefore, due to these circumstances, I was very hesitant about going at all, but my parents and a great friend reassured me that I would be fine, reminding me of all the positives of going such as time away from the house where I spend the majority of my days. Admittedly, the condition is horrible at home, and therefore it would feel the same on holiday as it would at home anyway so may as well take advantage of the change of scenery. But as many spoonies will you relate, when you are so unwell, and symptoms are severe it’s a real comfort being in familiar surroundings with items which bring comfort on the dark days. Therefore, that was one of the worries I had – that being in unfamiliar surroundings and away from all of my items that bring me comfort, I would not be able to cope.
But instead of taking flight away from my fear, I instead I fought against it and on the morning of Thursday 8th May, along with my parents we made our way to Southampton Port and got our holiday started. It is this part of the holiday that I understand why many disabled travellers prefer cruises to air travel. The boarding process was easy and relatively quick! We dropped off our luggage with the porters and parked the car in the long-stay disabled car park, and then carried our hand luggage to the arrivals lounge. In the arrivals lounge, there was a separate booking area for those people like myself, with disabilities. A desk to check passports as well as for having a photograph taken for your sail pass. The sail pass is a credit card sized pass which acts as a form of identification throughout the cruise as well as an onboard payment method linked to a credit card. We then made the short distance along the gangway and then onto the ‘Adventure of the Seas’ for the start of our holiday. We were on board for approximately 1.30 pm, several hours to explore before the ship was due to set sail for the Mediterranean.
Without the hassle of waiting around an airport for hours ready to board, a cruise holiday begins as you step onto the ship. However, it can take a number of hours to be reunited with the luggage that you left with the porters. Therefore it is advisable to take a piece of carry-on luggage with you containing essential items such as any medications, and perhaps a change of clothes for the evening and a swimsuit so you can take advantage of the facilities straight away. As we arrived at our stateroom, I was very pleased.
As I was going to be using the wheelchair for the most of the holiday, we booked an accessible stateroom. Our first choice was a cabin with a balcony, however as all those staterooms were fully booked we settled instead for an inside cabin overlooking the Royal Promenade; a long, open, level area which is home to a series of shops and bars and even offers entertainment on some nights. So, it might have been for the best as, where our stateroom was situated meant that I had a great view of the parades, and so had the choice of watching them from bed if I wasn’t well enough to attend them on those nights. Our stateroom was on the seventh deck, and a short walk to the ship’s library – perfect for a bookworm like me! Advice that I would give if considering a cruise, is to book early to ensure that you can get the type of stateroom that you desire, especially true if wanting a balcony room as they are often the most sought after. The wheelchair accessible stateroom like ours is 1.5 times bigger than the traditional sized staterooms, with widened doors, a wet room, and a raised toilet. The only downside for being a disabled passenger is that to ensure an accessible cabin for your trip (they are only a small number available) you need to book early, and as a result, often miss out on special deals and offers.
The ship itself is beautiful and decadent, and what makes these holidays great is that there are no inaccessible places for those in wheelchairs. There are plenty of lifts onboard, although they are extremely busy during peak times such as before shows, or prior dinner so if you are cruising with a disability I would recommend arriving at places such as the theatres and the dining room earlier to avoid the crowds of people using the elevators. If wanting to watch a film in the Screening Room for instance in your wheelchair, then you really need to arrive in plenty of time before the start of the film as disappointingly there is only one wheelchair seat available and so plenty of disabled passengers are often left disappointed when unable to watch a movie. The ship is spacious and is easy to navigate around the ships as there is plenty of room for both abled passengers and those in wheelchairs to navigate the public areas; the hallways are even wide enough to allow a wheelchair and a person to walk past each other. Although there were plenty of passengers onboard, it often didn’t feel very crowded, however, which perhaps speaks to the size of the ship.
I would like to thank all of the staff on ‘Adventure of the Seas’ as the majority of the staff were extremely helpful, and spoilt us during our stay onboard. Our room attendant, Roseanna was extraordinarily lovely, and always stopped to say hello and made us feel special, such as always remembering our names which for the number of people she must look after cannot be easy! As I spent a lot of time in the cabin, I often saw her as she came into our cabin to make up my bed and every time she asked me how I was feeling and if there was anything I needed, and also had a special nickname for me – Rihanna!
And the food onboard was incredible – the meals were delicious with a variety of choice and most incredibly offering gluten-free or lactose-free varieties on some of the dishes, so those with food intolerances are well taken care of on board. It was such a pleasure to enjoy a starter, main and dessert every night; a decadence that I am most certainly not familiar. Starters such as Crab Cake, Spinach Dip and Chilled Pina Colada Soup were among my favourites. My favourites among the main courses I enjoyed on board was the Asparagus, Peas, Scallops and Crab Spaghetti Pasta and the Ravioli Mare Monte (cheese filled pasta in a crab and mushroom sauce). The desserts most surprisingly were not my favourite dishes during my time on the cruise but did particularly enjoy the Orange and Almond Cake and the low-fat Peach Melba.
All in all, I felt that being in a wheelchair and going on a cruise was a perfect fit – no hassles in airports with the endless waiting around, and cruise ships are fully accessible with helpful and attentive staff, I would say it is so easy for a person in a wheelchair to enjoy a holiday in style.
I thought that I would write a little introduction and overview of what is like to go on a cruise with a disability. In the next post, I will speak about the trip from a personal viewpoint and how I felt on the trip as not only with someone with a disability but also as someone with a neurological condition living with symptoms such as dizziness and issues with balance, etc. Is there any information that I might have missed out on which may be useful to know, or just would like to know more about? If so, please leave a comment in the section below…