MS. HOIRUP: When I first heard about this Access Board meeting, I was coming primarily having been a passenger myself and giving kind of personal feedback. I needed a copy of the rules and everything that's come about to really review until now. So I wasn't even sure if I should bother saying anything at all.
And I have to just tell you my experience of being on a cruise ship. The biggest dilemma for me was going to the ports being on a cruise ship. My husband actually called the cruise line. He was planning a second honeymoon for us, and he wanted us to get married again on Catalina Island because that's where we spent our original honeymoon. And he called the cruise line and they told him there would be no problem getting me ashore. And he arranged the minister, arranged for the families to be there.
And when we woke up in the morning and we were docked in Catalina, he rubbed his eyes because he thought something was wrong because we were still out quite a ways from the shore, and he couldn't figure out how they were going to get me over there. When he asked the purser and told him that they just had the little tenders and it was literally impossible to get a power chair on there and that there must be some grave mistake that the cruise line couldn't have told them that they could get me ashore.
He felt pretty angry. They then suggested that we come down and look to see if there was any way they could carry the chair down the narrow little flight of stairs and then into this little tiny boat that had a roof on it, the tender that the chair couldn't have crossed over anyway. And that it was completely suggested that, per my concerns, just for the staff to even be aware of what's going on and what's possible and what isn't possible. I don't think it would have been such an issue for us to not be able to go to shore had we not previously been told that there wasn't going to be a problem.
In the long run I have to say the cruise ship accommodated us. They brought the family aboard and they did everything in their power to make it better, but for a couple of hours there was a lot of things going on. So that was just a problem I see.
One of my staff went on the cruise and was told that she couldn't bring her scooter aboard the ship. And yet we all know that that wasn't true. But it took an advocate calling and fighting. So I guess part of my concern, the rules, and I don't know if you only do physical access, but it's also having staff and the people that work for these things learn about what some of the rules are and getting correct information out to those passengers that want to utilize it.
And the last thing is about the number of rooms. I was looking in the rules about how many are required to be accessible or to have roll-in showers. I called on at least four separate occasions to take a cruise and was told on each of those occasions that there were no accessible roll-in shower rooms left or available.
Now, either that's a really good sign that a lot of us that are chair users are out there going on cruises and that's a wonderful thing, or they just weren't aware, or maybe we just need more rooms that are accessible because I think that's a lot of pieces to be told, that there were none. So other than that, that's pretty much all I have to say.
MR. TALBOT: Thank you very much, Laurie. Hang on one second, if you would please. Does anybody have a question or a comment?
Let me make one comment on your issue of getting off the boat onto a tender vessel. I don't know a whole lot about large cruise ships or anything like that, and I know what we were able to experience in Alaska, to me anyway, was the best possible solution. I mean, it was really phenomenal. But we've been told by the industry that that's a rare case. It's a newer ship. It's a new solution. It's something they just put together and it's great execution. But we were told that it's not the way it is in every case and in some instances it is very, very narrow. And to your point you can't get power chairs up and down, you can't even get manual wheelchairs up and down. So there's some real issues there for sure.