Wheelchair holidaymaker John Roberts is on a mission to test facilities for disabled travellers. Here he tells us about accessibility on cruise ship Diamond Princess.
Read previous reports from John's 32-day trip at travelweekly.co.uk/travelchallenge.
Editor's note: Princess Cruises works to US legislation known as ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) which is more stringent than the UK regulations.
It requires Princess Cruises to make the holiday experience just as accessible for passengers with disabilities as other passengers.
Please note this report is the experience of one man in a wheelchair, and he has to overcome many obstacles when travelling anywhere at anytime.
Penny Wilson, editor in chief, TWgroup
There were a number of things we did not enjoy about our cruise on Diamond Princess, and while Princess Cruises made efforts to make the ship accessible I believe a number of improvements could be made.
The pools were surrounded by a wall (see pictures), which I assume is to keep the water in the pool area. Access to the pool is via steps over the wall or the hot tubs at the sides of the pool area.
Apparently the ship has a lifting device for those who cannot negotiate the steps, but I only saw it against a wall covered with a sheet.
According to staff only a limited number of them are trained to use this - as such passengers who need it have to complete a disclaimer (see below) which seems to waive all their rights to claim in the event of an accident. Passengers who are able to use the steps don't have to complete such a document.
I got to speak to the senior officer on board, and he subsequently confirmed this disclaimer is no longer required for disabled persons to use the lifting equipment. A result at last!
He confimed to me that this was the case on all Princess ships. I thanked him for resolving the issue and looked forward to enjoying a swim.
Sadly on the several subsequent occasions I tried to use the pool, I was told I would have to go to the passenger services desk and sign a form. I tried to explain this was no longer required, but staff would not help me without a form - and the desk was some distance from the pool area.
Perhaps this was just slow communication. I have no doubt that the disclaimer was required for some time, so it may take a while for the message to filter down to staff.
I really do hope that Princess ensure this new policy is clearly highlighted to poolside staff and this disclaimer form really is put in the bin for good.
The other issue I had was with getting on and off the ship. On a couple of occasions this was not possible due to the width or position of the gangway.
Princess highlighted the importance of health and safety when assisting disabled passengers, which I respect and understand. But if health and safety is important, why I was offered the opportunity to be "lifted" off in a very basic wheelchair when my own would not go down the walkway?
This is a serious health and safety issue. Wheelchairs such as the one I was offered, are not designed to carry, they are designed to wheel. Chairs for carrying (as used ambulances) have been designed for that process and are then safe for both carriers and the carried.
By contrast, wheelchairs are not structurally designed to lift or carry, and often have parts that can detach, placing passengers and staff at risk of an accident.
I hope Princess will accept my constructive comments in the spirit intended, which is to improve the experience for everyone.
Where else has John visited?
The small map on the right shows where John has been in the Cairns area.
Click the icons for links to his full reports.
- Zoom out to see the rest of John's route
- Visit the Disability Travel Challenge page for the full-size map
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