Planes and Boats and the search for winter sun

I’ve just returned from a lovely break in the Carribean. Winter in the UK or somewhere nice and warm? Not a difficult decision! Two weeks cruising on a luxury liner being spoilt rotten sounds like a good idea. Well like everything there is another side.

First you have to get to the Carribean. This usually involves a long haul flight of around eight hours on an aircraft that lacks accessible toilets. One of the fundamental rules of flying long distances is to drink plenty of water. Not advisable if you can’t visit the bathroom. Our flight out to Barbados was nine and half hour long, the seats lacked and any form of adjustment and were extremely uncomfortable. Once we landed I had to wait an hour to be off-loaded from the plane. We were then taken straight to the ship, bypassing customs and the airport terminal toilets; the journey lasted another forty-five minutes. Embarkation took around half an hour, so I went eleven and three quarter hours without using the loo! Much self-control and crossing of legs is the name of the game

Cruise liners are brilliant from an access point of view, and P&O’s ship the Azura is no exception. She has spacious wheelchair accessible cabins with roll in showers,  lift access to all decks, swimming pool hoists making swimming possible for the most severely disabled passenger.

Picture of cruise ships berthed in the Dominican Republic
Cruise ships berthed in the Dominican Republic

The trouble begins when you go ashore. Our ship was able to berth in all the places we visited, so there was no need to use tender boats. To appreciate the Caribbean islands you need to venture inland, unfortunately, very few tour buses are wheelchair accessible. The result is that mobility impaired people are forced to stay close to the port to while away their time in endless identical shopping malls. P & O do provide a list of available tours but on our cruise, the accessible buses that were available only had one wheelchair space. I saw, at least, a dozen wheelchair users so this provision was wholly inadequate. In one location they had provided a shuttle bus to get passengers from the ship to the town. Unfortunately, those people using wheelchairs, but who could walk a little, were refused access because there was nowhere to store the wheelchair. It seemed a little ironic that the very people the shuttle was designed to help were excluded from using it.

I do understand some of the places we visited do not have the resources to provide the kind of accessibility we have come to expect in the UK but what I find puzzling is why P & O won’t do more to cater for the increasing number of mobility impaired passengers. The last straw was we

Sign in St Maarten advertising accessible tours
Sign in St Maarten advertising accessible tours

left the ship in St Maarten to see a kiosk a hundred yards from the port entrance advertising wheelchair accessible tours.

Many disabled people find cruising one of the best ways of taking a holiday, it is possible to see places that you might not otherwise be able to visit. I’d be interested to hear about your experiences so please send me your comments and I will do my best to see they are passed on.

To end on a more positive note the sun shone beautifully, my tan has improved, my waistline has expanded as a result of the food being plentiful and excellent, and we met some fascinating people.

Here are some links to this week’s other news. I hope you find them of interest.

Government agrees four more years of ILF transition cash for councils

Maximus ‘has falsified results of fitness for work tests’, says MP

Anger at Osborne’s working-age benefits freeze

Police duo jailed over failure to protect disabled murder victim

News provided by John Pring at

www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 

 

Holiday Cruise

Well by this time next week Sue and I will be well on our way to Norwegian fjords aboard the cruise ship Venturer. I’m really looking forward to this trip I’ve heard so much about cruising from friends like Kate Nash and Jane Campbell. Both of them describes their cruises as absolutely fantastic. Accessibility on board the ships is reputedly extremely good and I’m looking forward to testing this out for myself!

On the subject of wheelchairs which we vaguely were I’ve been trying out a number of all-terrain powered chairs this week with a view to buying one of them. There is no doubt that the chairs I’ve tested will go across all sorts of rough ground, the only real problem is that they are not very manoeuvrable in confined spaces which makes it quite difficult to load them into my Chrysler or my motorhome this does present a serious problem as the only reason for buying such chair is to enable Sue and me to take them on holiday in order to go across rough terrain. The second major issue is the cost of these chairs one of them I tested would cost £14,000 which is almost twice the amount of money my son paid for his Renault Clio! I am continually amazed at how much equipment costs for disabled people. I find it very difficult to believe that we can make cars cheaper than we can make powered wheelchairs or for that matter lightweight wheelchairs! Some fairly standard lightweight sports chairs cost more than some racing bikes and yet the engineering is not that different. Manufacturers generally complain that it’s about the small volumes nonetheless I’d be really interested to find out what the actual cost of making a powered chair is compared to the amount of money they’re sold for.

Anyone out there got any thoughts on this issue.

Well it’s time to start packing!

I’ll update on my trip when I return. In the meantime I hope the sun is shining where you are.

Best wishes
Phil