Stereotypes claim that a cruise is a great way to travel for the older, less mobile crowd. I’m always skeptical of those kinds of claims. Cruise ships keep on getting bigger. How many stairs are there ? How much walking to get from the dining room to the swimming pool to the staterooms? And how small and uncomfortable are those famously tiny staterooms, really? So, with a need to write about cruises for Traveling With Pain the book, I cautiously embarked on a 3-day Carnival cruise from Long Beach to Ensenada. (‘Cause it was cheap and in California.)
I stand convinced. In fact, I sit on a comfy sofa convinced–big cruise ships really do have what’s needed to make travel with pain or disability not just possible but comfortable and fun. The biggest trick: let the cruise company know in advance what you need. If they know how to accommodate you, they’ll do it.
My stateroom, a typical interior cheapo cabin, was small but not as miniscule as I’d feared. My travel companion and I could walk around our beds without tripping on our luggage or our shoes. Beds were comfy; sheets particularly soft and nice. The tile-clad bathroom, while small, wasn’t any tinier than a typical European hotel bath. Stall shower,more fluffy towels than the average motel. (Plus towel racks to hang them on–hallelujah!!) To get a bathtub, I would have needed to rent a suite at 2-3 times the cost of the standard cabin. Suites are shiny, with big squishy sofas, balconies, and jacuzzi tubs. Rumor has it that suite patrons get special attentions from the service staff as well.
But if you’ve got special needs, you can get extra service and help too, for no additional cost.
Fun facts to know and share–the wheelchair accessible staterooms aren’t any bigger than the regular ones. The differences are that the tripping steps up into the bathroom have ramps attached, the showers have benches and hand rails, and the desks and safes are set lower for easier access.
Strolling around the ship was easier than I thought it would be. Banks of elevators crawled up and down the decks at regular intervals. Hallways are wide enough for mobility aids. Best of all for me, the ship was bursting with lounges, restaurants, bars, and buffets, all with seats anyone can plop down in at any time. Once I got the lay of the land, I tended to cross the ship on the promenade deck, which featured comfy sofa-banquette things the length of the deck.
Food on this particular cruise was…not a high point for me. It was plentiful, but I’m a California food snob. I did learn that if I’d had special dietary needs, I could have alerted the cruise line in advance. They can accommodate everything from Kosher to gluten intolerance.
Rumor tells me that food quality varies by cruise line. Any comments?
Many of the activities printed so cutely on the ship’s daily newsletter involved lots of sitting and little heavy exercise. Watching the Hairy Chest Contest on the Lido Deck didn’t cause me too much physical strain, though emotionally I may be scarred forever.
The deck chairs were regrettably hard when I lounged outside with my romance novel, but I think they’re supposed to be like that.
Also easy and comfy are many of the trips ashore (unless you’re unlucky enough to be taking a bus tour through a gang war zone). Read the tour descriptions carefully and you’ll find the wheelchair accessible ones–those will be the easiest, requiring the least walking and no climbing or other strenuousness.
I’d do it again, despite the fact that I found the culture…odd. I’d want to have some energy, though I wouldn’t need to be in top form. I’d definitely get in touch with the cruise line in advance of my trip to ask for accommodation. They’d give it to me, which makes a cruise a decent way to take a vacation.