To Whom It May Concern:
I wish to submit my thoughts about the availability of services and accessibility for passengers who are taking trips with one of the many cruise lines that frequent ports in the United States . My wife and I attempted to have a relaxing time on Royal Caribbean's Sovereign of the Seas, but it was much less than satisfactory. When planning the trip, we contacted the company's special services department and were offered/promised several accommodations, including an appropriate box for my dog guide, an accessible cabin with an appropriate toilet and Braille menus and schedules. Upon boarding, we discovered that none were available. In fact, the crew was unaware that we would need special accommodations, other than what they called an accessible cabin. I sent the cruise line a letter about our experiences, but received no reply. (Attached is a copy of that letter.)
I ask that the Access Board thoroughly look into the practices of cruise lines who do business in the United States , whether or not they are registered here or in foreign countries. By the way, I've spoken to other people who went on the same ship as we did, and they appeared to experience the same reception.
In my previous letter, I was unable to attach the letter that I wrote to Royal Caribbean, about our experience on their ship, The Sovereign of the Seas. Therefore, I will paste it at the end of this message. That cruise was in April 2004 and it was not satisfactory. As you can see, I expressed my dissatisfaction in my letter, but Royal Caribbean failed to reply.
Letter to Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines
To Whom It May Concern:
On Friday, April 9, my wife and I embarked on a Royal Caribbian cruise on the Sovereign of the Seas. We boarded in Port Canaveral for a three night cruise to Nassau and Cocoa Cay. First of all, I want to say that the crew of the ship and staff in the port are wonderful! The ship's crew, especially those in the dining rooms and housekeeping, endeavored to make our experience as plessurable as they could. Unfortunately, it appears that there is a serious lack of communications between Royal Caribbean's special services and at least this ship.
Frankly, we found the experience to be somewhat stressful and rather disappointing. While planning the cruise, we checked the Royal Caribbean web site, which indicated that special services would be available for passengers with bvisual or mobility impairments. We asked for and were promised certain accomodations, which, as it turns out, were either not forth coming or not adequate. Since I am blind, I traveled with my Seeing Eye Dog. Since my wife uses a wheelchair, she requires physical accomodations. In our preliminary arrangements, I was assured that Braille menus and activity sheets would be available, but they weren't. As I said, I traveled with a Seeihng Eye Dog, so needed and was promised an appropriate box (4x4 with either turf or mulch), to bathroom my dog. When we boarded, I asked about the box and its location, but found out that no arrangements had been made. A temporary solution of placing paper on the floor of an empty locker in the crew's quarter, was tried, but Keaton (my dog) refused to use it, because it was indoors. At that point, a cardboard box/tray, lined with a plastic bag, was placed on the mooring deck, at the stern of the ship. Although the box was much too small for my dog's needs and we had to constantly rely on assistance from the housekeeping staff to get to the location (we had to go through crew quarters to get there), the box did serve, after a fashion. However, the entire issue was stressful for Keaton and me, and I'm sure that it wasn't pleasant for the ship's personnel either.
As for my wife's needs, we booked a "handicapped cabin, equipped with a roll-in shower with a shower seat. Unfortunately, the toilet was inappropriate, being much too lowfor my wife. Although a chair type riser was brought at our request, it didn't fit correctly, so was removed. As a result, she had to depend on me when using the facilities. Even the public "accessible" restroom did not have a raised toilet.
When the ship reached Nassau , we went ashore, as did many other passengers. Unfortunately, tours didn't appear available to us, since the bus/van/boats apparently weren't wheelchair accessible. Therefore, we spent the afternoon walking around the water front area near the ship, while my wife shopped at sidewalk booths.
We probably should have gone to the second island CocoCay, which did have beach wheelchairs, but thought that there might be accessibility problems there too, so we stayed on the ship. We planned to use the ship's pools, which according to brochures and the informational packet, were equipped with lifts. We figured it would be quiet since most swimmers would be at the beach. When we put our swim suits on and went up to enjoy the pool, we were disappointed to find that even though the ship had hydraulic chair lifts for the pool and one of the hot tubs, neither one worked. The response of a crew member, when we approached the one chair, suggested that both chairs had not worked in quite awhile and that there were no plans to repair them any time soon.
We still want to take cruises, perhaps to Alaska or Hawaii , but will do more research on accessible ships, services and tours before we book another cruise. It was advertised in the local teacher's union flyer of monthly benefits, such as discounts to movies, theme parks, etc. I'm sorry that this, my first cruise, was so unsatisfactory.