Holiday & Travel

Female wheelchair user sitting holding a sanitiser bottle on a cruise ship

Cruising Clean: Your Ultimate Guide to Shipboard Hygiene

Cruising Clean: Your Ultimate Guide to Shipboard Hygiene – The holiday season is upon us…Yayyy. We are talking about our holidays, where we are going or where we have booked to go. I’ve noticed cruising is a popular holiday this year and many people are discussing how best to keep safe (hygiene-wise) while on board a cruise ship.

Being in an environment like a cruise ship, ensuring health and hygiene remain intact is crucial for many disabled people and people with health issues. It’s a vital part of many of our daily lives. I share some insights and practical tips on how to stay healthy and hygienic while cruising the open seas.

Why Is Hygiene Important?

Good personal hygiene is vital because it helps stop you from getting sick. It also helps prevent you from spreading germs and infectious diseases. Poor hygiene can cause people with different disabilities/health issues to become susceptible to infections, skin issues, and other health complications.  People who are immunocompromised are more vulnerable to infections, and illnesses. Even minor pathogens that might be harmless to others can pose severe health risks.

This becomes just as important for people who are going through certain health treatments like those being treated for cancer. Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy often weaken the immune system, making patients more susceptible to infections and other complications.

Germs can be transferred in many ways, here are a few:

  • Touching other people
  • Getting faeces (poo) or other body fluids on your hands
  • Handling contaminated food
  • Coming into contact with dirty surfaces or objects

Poor personal hygiene can cause many different conditions like:

  • COVID 19and other infectious diseases
  • Diarrhoea, especially Gastroenteritis
  • Respiratory infections, including colds and flu
  • Scabies
  • Athlete’s foot

One way to have good hygiene is to wash your hands regularly, especially after going to the toilet and in other situations:

When should I wash my hands?

Man washing hands over a sink

  • When they are obviously dirty
  • After touching rubbish, dirty surfaces or objects
  • Before and after preparing or eating food
  • After blowing your nose
  • After handling pets or animals
  • After changing a baby’s nappy
  • Before and after visiting someone who is sick
  • After cleaning up vomit or body fluids
  • Before and after treating cuts or wounds

I’m sure we are all familiar with how to wash our hands after the many advertisements on this during Covid, but just to make sure:

How do I wash my hands?
  • Wet your hands with clean water.
  • Apply enough soap to cover all surfaces of your hands.
  • Rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds.
  • Clean between your fingers and the backs of your hands.
  • Clean dirty fingernails with a nail brush.
  • Rinse both sides of your hands with clean water.
  • Dry off your hands with a clean towel.
  • If you’re in a public bathroom, use a paper towel to turn off the tap.

If you’re unable to get to a sink or soap and water isn’t available, you can use hand sanitiser. Just remember, your hand sanitiser should contain at least 60% alcohol. Rub the sanitiser over your palms, the backs of your hands and in between your fingers. Keep rubbing until it is dry.

Ship Hygiene

With cruise ships getting bigger and bigger, passenger numbers are rising too. I’m off on a cruise later this year and the ship I’m sailing on has up to 3,200 passengers alone, this does not include the amount of staff on this ship. This means you will mingle with many other people while aboard the ship. So hygiene is extremely important.

Your Cabin
Cruise ship cabin interior

I’m not saying your cabin is dirty, they of course are cleaned before you arrive. However, with the amount of cabins that the staff have to clean, things can get missed.

  • Antibacterial wipes are great for wiping down surfaces, sinks, shower and toilet seats.
  • I normally take my own hangers, that way I don’t have to wipe the ones supplied. Plus you’re never supplied with enough anyway.
  • The remote control to the TV, a big hoarder of germs. This will definitely need wiping down.
Around the Ship
  • Tissues are great for when using door handles, stairway handrails and lift buttons around the ship as these do see a lot of traffic.
  • Casino – Do you like to have a little flutter? If so, be sure to take antibacterial wipes with you to use on the slot machine handles/buttons. Obviously, you can’t wipe down every single casino chip you may handle, so be sure to have either hand sanitiser with you or when you have left the casino wash your hands thoroughly.
  • The pools – Loungers/chairs may not be as clean as you may think, you can either have a really big bath towel or give them a wipe down. Again, be sure to wash your hands if visiting food areas when moving from the pool area.
  • Toilets – If you can, use your cabin toilet.
  • Masks – If you do come down with a cold or feel sneezy, wear a mask in public spaces and help protect others.

Top tip: Be the first ones to use the hot tub/pools first, after they have been cleaned.

Eating On The Ship

Many of the restaurants have waiter service. However, there are some self-service, buffet-style restaurants. In these restaurants, is where hygiene would play a bigger role. For example:

  • Wash hands before entering any eating area
  • In the buffet-style eateries, use a tissue when using the tongs to pick up the food. Or let the dining staff serve you if available.
  • Wipe down your table with antibacterial wipes
  • Water – Drink plenty of water, especially in hot places.

Top tip: When travelling abroad, be sure to check if the water is safe to drink as in some countries it’s not advisable.

Cruising is my favourite way to holiday, check out my Cruising as a wheelchair user blog and my Cruising tips for accessibility As a full-time wheelchair user, I find it the most stress free way to holiday. I highly recommend doing a cruise if you can.

I hope you have found these tips helpful and if you are cruising this year, happy and safe travels.

Links

P&O Cruises

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines

Royal Caribbean

The Sovereign Cruise Club

Iceland Pro Cruises

Princess

If you like my blogs and you would like to work with me don’t hesitate to Contact Me.  Feel free to leave a comment below.

Wheelchair user sat at a window in an airport watching a plane take off

Pioneering The Future Of Wheelchair-Friendly Flying

Pioneering the Future of Wheelchair-Friendly Flying – As a wheelchair user, I often imagine the destinations I’d fly to explore if I didn’t have the constant concern of my wheelchair being lost or damaged while flying. Air4all think they have the answer with their innovative approach. This would mean mine and your worries would be a thing of the past. Wheelchair users and air travel don’t normally go hand in hand as there are significant barriers for many of us. The horror stories we all read about seem to be getting worse, rather than better. With Air4all’s solution, these horror stories may become a thing of the past. Are we on the brink of a breakthrough in accessible air travel or is there still a long way to go?

Who Are Air4all?

My understanding after some research and visiting their website. Air4all is a company of three people (Nigel Smith – Director of SWS, Paul Priestman – Designer, Chairman of PriestmanGoode and Christoper Wood MBE – Founder of Flying Disabled) and Sunrise Medical. Have teamed up with an idea of how to enable wheelchair users to fly in their wheelchairs on commercial aeroplanes.

Air 4 All is a consortium formed of PriestmanGoode, Flying Disabled, SWS Certification and Sunrise Medical. Each member of the consortium has a personal and professional commitment to bringing dignity in air travel for everyone. Through a combination of industrial design, passenger experience design, aircraft cabin and airport accessibility, aircraft certification and regulation; and wheelchair design and manufacturing, the consortium has been developing the Air 4 All concept since 2019. It has been recognised as the winner of the Fast Company Innovation by Design 2022 Awards in the Accessible Design category, a finalist in the 2022 Crystal Cabin Awards and has featured in media and conferences dedicated to the topic of accessibility across the world.

Source: Progress on Air 4 All: the system that improves accessible air travel – PriestmanGoode

What Is The Concept?

The concept is to enable wheelchair users to be able to fly while remaining in our own wheelchairs. If this becomes a reality, this would be the next massive advancement for disabled people!  According to the different websites that I have researched. It claims we would enter the plane in our own wheelchair and manoeuvre into a dedicated wheelchair space. We would then be locked to a floor device similar to the ones found in wheelchair-accessible vehicles, or in other cases, tie downs.

Airlines would not lose any revenue as the space dedicated for a wheelchair user would easily transform from a passenger seat into a wheelchair space.

I’m sceptical due to the issues this gentleman has positioning his chair in such a tight space. Also, the amount of room he has used to get into the correct position is just not available on a plane. I doubt this amount of room will be given. So what if you have a wider chair? Is the space adjustable? I have to say, when he finally got in the correct position, he didn’t look like he was comfortable. What are your thoughts?

This video shows even less space available for manoeuvring and uses a locking pin. So does that mean all new wheelchairs are going to be supplied with this pin needed to lock into the floor of a plane? How will this affect those of us needing a pin to lock into our WAVs? All wheelchairs would need to be crash-tested too.

There are many parts to the Air4All project. Whilst the aircraft space will unlock a huge door that has been until now closed, it will be nothing unless a Power Wheelchair is not certified to fly. Working with Sunrise Medical, together we can explore the challenges around ensuring a Power Wheelchair is fit to fly. Design and certification being the primary test.

Source: Air4all | Sunrise Medical

Toileting

We’ve seen the tiny space wheelchair users are expected to get into but what about if you need the toilet? On my very first flight as a wheelchair user, I had to use the aisle chair to get to the toilet. I couldn’t believe what little space there was. (Check out my First time flying as a wheelchair user blog). There is no way I could have used that by myself, let alone get any wheelchair in there.

Conclusion

As much as this is an amazing idea and I can’t wait for it to become a reality. I think that’s all it can be for now, an idea. After seeing the videos above, my thoughts are that there is still a very long way to go. I have been hearing about wheelchair users flying in their own chairs for many many years now. We don’t seem to be any closer than we were all those years ago.

The space is not practical (IMO), airlines will not lose the space that would be needed to enable wheelchair user on the plane in their own chairs. Toileting will be no easier either. The way things stand right now, I don’t see this happening any time soon.

Would you fly more often if you could fly in your own wheelchair? I know I would. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

If you would like to work with me don’t hesitate to Contact Me.  Feel free to leave a comment below.

Feature image with 2 star rating of Brighton Hilton Metropole

A Nightmare for Accessibility: My Experience at Hilton Metropole Brighton

A Nightmare for Accessibility: My Experience at Hilton Metropole Brighton – My daughter and I stayed here for a weekend convention. We were looking forward to staying here as it looked very grand and all the rooms had just been renovated. Unfortunately, this is probably one of the worst hotels for accessibility that I have stayed at!

Lifts were too narrow, no heating around the hotel and the restaurant was not available. Renovations happening and raised thresholds in all the doorways. The list goes on and on! My accessible room only had two accessible features: A wet room and red alarm cords.

We had this weekend booked months in advance as it was a convention for our favourite show (Supernatural) and one of the main stars was going to be there. Excited is very much an understatement of how we were feeling.

The Hotel

A Nightmare for Accessibility: My Experience at Hilton Metropole Brighton

Our first issue was parking! We could not use the hotel own’s car park as my van (WAV) would not fit in the underground car park. This meant we could not benefit from the discount offered by the convention organisers. Also, hubby had to take us & pick us up as parking anywhere else was just too expensive! Prices of other car parks are anything from £25 a night!

The entrance to the hotel was very difficult. There was a ramp up to the main revolving door. There was a single door on either side of the revolving doors but these were very narrow. When we arrived, both these doors were locked. My daughter had to go into reception to ask for some help. The first door opened inwards, then directly after that, a second door opens towards you before you enter the foyer. Very difficult to do if you were on your own.

Once inside, first impressions are good. The hotel looks very clean and upmarket. Check-in was easy, I can’t fault the staff in any way, they are all very polite, friendly and helpful. The hotel is advertised as having 340 rooms. When I spoke to the hotel, I was told they have 9 accessible rooms but don’t quote me on that as at the time they were being renovated and things may have changed.

The hotel features advertised:
  • Connecting Rooms
  • Digital Key
  • Spa
  • Beach
  • On-site restaurant
  • Indoor pool
  • Fitness centre
  • Pet-friendly rooms
  • Room service
  • Meeting rooms
Available accessible features include:
  • Accessible meeting rooms
  • Audible alerts in elevators
  • Bathroom doors at least 32 inches wide
  • Bedroom doors at least 32 inches wide (812 mm)
  • Braille elevator
  • Cutlery with oversized or adapted handles
  • Digital alarm clock available with sound and a vibrating pad
  • Disabled parking
  • Elevator buttons lowered
  • There’s an Emergency Call Button on the Phone
  • Emergency pull cords bedside bed & bathroom
  • Evacuation chair is available to help evacuate a disabled person
  • Grab bars in the bathroom
  • Hotel complies with ADA Guidelines
  • Induction Loop System available at reception & in meeting rooms
  • Inflatable chair is available to assist in getting in and out of a bath
  • Large Print Menus
  • Level or ramp entrance into the building
  • Lowered emergency evacuation instructions
  • Public Areas/Facilities accessible for physically challenged
  • Roll-in Shower
  • Rooms accessible to wheelchairs (no steps)
  • Serv support animals welcome
  • Strobe alarms
  • Swimming pool hoist for pool access
  • Vibrating fire alarm available
  • Visual alarm for hearing impaired/Visual alarms for hearing impaired in hallways & public areas
  • Wheelchair ramp for lobby/reception access

Some of their accessible features need reassessing, for example. Their disabled parking is not accessible to WAV drivers. The lifts were far too small, ok you can access them but if you’re a wheelchair user, there is only room for you and one other person. Grab bars in the bathroom for me were useless!

Hotel Access

We found the lifts in the foyer to be extremely small in size, there were two of them. Actually we found all the lifts to be very small. It didn’t help they all have floor-to-ceiling blankets on all sides as part of the hotel was still being renovated. My daughter and I just fitted into them! My wheelchair is a small chair (16×16), I don’t know how anyone using the lift in a bigger chair managed it.

Key card entry system to hotel room in corner of corridor

Due to the layout of the hotel and our room being on the 2nd floor, this made navigating around the convention very tiring and time-consuming. We would have to take a lift down to the foyer, which at times took forever. Then travel around to the back of the hotel to another lift (which was smaller again) to get upstairs to the mezzanine floor (foyer lifts didn’t go to that floor). Again, this could take forever as all attendees are practically leaving and arriving to/from talks, photo ops, autograph sessions etc. at the same time,

I found the hotel was cold throughout the whole weekend. This played havoc with my chest and circulation in my legs. The only time I was warm was when I was in bed, which I have to say was rather comfy.

There were doorway thresholds throughout the hotel and in our accessible room, which were all raised causing you to bump over each one and some were more violent than others. I have a powered chair and found them difficult and painful.

Our Room

I found the room to be inadequate as far as accessibility goes. I encountered many issues with our room considering the hotel has just had a complete renovation in all its rooms:

  • Raised thresholds in doorways causing pain in my back
  • No table at wheelchair height – One large round table at knee height. Also prevented safe transferring on/off the bed
  • Not enough grab rails – One on each side of the shower seat but quite low, none at a higher level
  • Grab rails chrome & round – This made them slippery and difficult for me to grab. A silicone cover needs to be added
  • Dim lighting – The room was very dark – The only lights were the two bedside lamps and a lamp in the corner of the room and one just inside the room door (overhead). Windows didn’t let in much light either
  • Safe at the top of the wardrobe, too high for a wheelchair user
  • No clothes rail at all – In what I assumed to be the section of the wardrobe meant for hanging clothes, there was no rail, so you couldn’t hang anything at all
  • The bedside table blocked access to the wardrobe – The wardrobe was in the corner of the room. There was a bedside table in between that prevented access to the wardrobe
  • Light switches too high
  • The room was at the end of the corridor in the corner making it difficult to use the key card and open the heavy door
  • Room temperature control not accessible by a wheelchair user – This was sat against the wardrobe and as the round table also sat next to the wardrobe, again it prevented access
  • The bathroom mirror is too high
  • No finger basin/sink close to the toilet

Staff

I can not fault the hotel staff in any way (shame can’t be said about a certain member of staff from the convention side). Every member of staff I interacted with was polite, friendly and willing to be as much help as possible.

One member of staff from reception (I wish I had got her name), was absolutely lovely as she went out of her way to get me a table I could use in my room. This made all the difference to my being able to function in the room from taking my medication, drinking, eating & brushing my hair.

Hotel Food

Their Salt Room wasn’t open and their advertised on-site restaurant was only open for breakfast. I was told the restaurant was only for special bookings and had to be made 48 hours in advance. The bar serves afternoon tea and all-day casual dining. I personally found the food choices in the bar to be poor and not sufficient enough to be the only place to have a meal all over the weekend. The only other food we had were food huts upstairs when things were happening convention-wise, which served hot dogs & burgers.

I felt the food was very overpriced and what we didn’t know, was that the bar was adding a 12.5% service charge to every order. There was supposedly a sign up at the bar, not helpful for those having table service.

Breakfast was held in the main restaurant. There was any amount of food you could wish for, from toast and cereal to a full English breakfast, all buffet style. Tea, coffee and juices were also available.

Conclusion

The hotel is very clean, with nice enough decor (not my taste). Breakfast was very good but a shame nothing substantial to eat for dinner. Considering this hotel has just had all its rooms renovated, you would think this would give them the perfect opportunity to get accessibility spot on. Instead, it is practically non-existent. I also spent the whole weekend frozen! For these reasons, I would never stay here again!

I’m due to stay in their Birmingham hotel for another convention later this year, I have been assured by other convention goer’s that the Birmingham one is much more accessible and better on the whole. Fingers crossed.

If you would like to work with me don’t hesitate to Contact Me.  Feel free to leave a comment below.

Links

Hilton Hotels
Starfury Events

cartoon strip about my experience of Hilton hotel
Cruise liner coming into dock

Quick Guide To Cruising as a Wheelchair User: Tips for Accessibility and Enjoyment

Quick Guide To Cruising as a Wheelchair User: Tips for Accessibility and Enjoyment – As a wheelchair user, cruising can be an exciting and liberating way to explore new places and make lasting memories. However, it’s important to be aware of the unique challenges that come with cruising as a person with a disability, and how to overcome them to ensure an enjoyable experience.

Research

The first step is to research the cruise line and ship before booking. Not all cruise ships are equipped with the same level of accessibility, so it’s important to look for ships that offer accessible staterooms, public areas, and dining options. Some ships may have wider hallways, larger elevators, and even hydraulic pool chairs to accommodate wheelchair users. It’s also important to check the ports of call to ensure that they are accessible and offer tours or excursions that can accommodate wheelchair users. Some ports of call are by tender only, so make sure you do check this out.

One challenge that wheelchair users may face on a cruise is finding accessible shore excursions. It’s important to research the accessibility of each excursion before booking. Some excursions may be more challenging for wheelchair users, while others may be more accommodating. It’s also a good idea to ask the excursion provider about the level of accessibility, as they may be able to provide additional accommodations such as a ramp or accessible transportation.

When booking a cruise, it’s important to communicate your needs to the cruise line. Let them know that you are a wheelchair or full-time wheelchair user or will be travelling with a wheelchair and any other equipment you may require, such as a shower chair or hoist. This will give the cruise line an opportunity to prepare and make necessary accommodations.

Onboard

Once onboard the ship, you may find that some areas are more accessible than others. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the layout of the ship and its facilities. The crew and staff are there to help you, so don’t be afraid to ask for assistance if you need it. They can help with embarking and disembarking, carrying luggage, and even getting on and off shore excursions. The crew is there to ensure that all passengers have a safe and enjoyable cruise experience.

When it comes to dining on a cruise, most ships have accessible dining options. It’s important to inform the cruise line of any dietary restrictions or requirements in advance. This will allow them to prepare meals that meet your needs. Some ships may also offer room service as an option if dining in the restaurant is not feasible.

Conclusion

Overall, cruising as a wheelchair user can be a wonderful and memorable experience with proper research and communication with the cruise line. While there may be some challenges, the crew and staff are there to assist and ensure that your cruise experience is enjoyable and comfortable. So, don’t let your disability hold you back from experiencing the adventure and excitement of cruising.

If you would like to work with me don’t hesitate to Contact Me.  Feel free to leave a comment below.

Links

Main complex at Palins holiday park North Wales

Palins Holiday Park – Disgusting, Misleading & Nothing To Do!

Palins Holiday Park – Disgusting, Misleading & Nothing To Do! – I would have given no stars only the location of the park was pretty good for our needs. Booking a holiday as a disabled person is a major task all in itself. Accessible holidays are far too often missing or already booked up. So when you find the holiday that seems to offer exactly what you need. The last thing you want is to be made feel that you have been purposefully misled into that booking.

Telephone Conversation

Palins holiday park main complex

We visit Wales as often as possible, to visit family. So we checked out several different holiday parks online that were in North Wales. We found all accessible caravans were booked up or owner-only parks. When we visited Palins Holiday Park they advertised a silver-accessible caravan available for the week we wanted to go.

Being a full-time wheelchair user, I wanted to contact the park directly. I wanted to have some of my questions answered before making a booking. In this conversation, both myself and my husband were informed their show bar would only be open at weekends. (Conversation was on speaker). We were told not to worry as their pub Magpie & Stump has entertainment every night!

Palins Website

When visiting Palins website, you are greeted with a lovely sunset and family on the beach. Their website says:

Enjoy a FUN PACKED family holiday in a quality caravan at a SUPERIOR HOLIDAY PARK situated on the beautiful NORTH WALES COAST where the mountains meet the sea.

Perfectly located 1 mile from Rhyl in the holiday resort of Towyn, Palins is a family owned caravan holiday park which has been operating for over 80 years. Whether you’re looking for an action packed or relaxing break our warm and welcoming staff will ensure you have an enjoyable stay.

Palins Holiday Park

I can assure you, most of that is untrue! Our (and others) experience was the complete opposite.

The Park

Entrance to Palins holiday park with car park barriers and launderette.
Park Entrance

When we arrived at the park, our first impression was oh my god what have we done! The park looked excruciatingly outdated, run-down, and not very clean. Of course, we know first impressions can be somewhat misleading and even forgiven if you end up having a good holiday. Therefore, we tried to stay positive but unfortunately, this was not to last very much longer.

Hubby went and got the key to our caravan from reception. Our caravan was situated literally around the corner from the main complex. We could physically look into the smoking area at the back of their pub from our caravan windows. This was unfortunate, as they were having karaoke our first night there. (The only bit of entertainment supplied the whole week we were there). The loud singing, shouting and all sorts went on past 1 a.m.

We found out the pub doesn’t have entertainment every night. Just Karaoke on a Saturday when they are not showing football! If you enjoy football and crappy music on the TV, then this pub is for you.

On-Site Facilities

Palins advertise on their website, the following:

Childrens Play Area and Amusements – For the children we have the Alamo Fort where there are a selection of swings, slides, climbing frames and the exciting tube & pod. Our all weather penalty shoot-out area or Amusement Arcade.

Palins Indoor heated fun pool

If the sun refuses to shine, for a nominal charge, you can while away a few hours in the relaxed atmosphere of our heated indoor funpool with its water chute and toddlers area. I can’t comment as they had no hoist, so couldn’t use it. By the way, Palins charge you to use the pool!

Fun for the kids – For the children we have the Alamo Fort where there are a selection of swings, slides, climbing frames and the exciting tube & pod, Our all weather penalty shoot out area and Amusement Arcade with a large selection of childrens rides and games.

Entertainment

For your evening entertainment we have Palins Cabaret Club

  • Live Entertainment For The WHOLE FAMILY
  • Children’s Competitions
  • Karaoke
  • Cash Bingo
  • Disco
  • Cyril The Seahorse

The cash bingo was played on the Saturday we arrived, no other night. Palins never checked anyone’s age. Hubby saw one child who looked around 11 years old with bingo tickets in front of them. (They are supposed to check no one under 18 plays as it’s a form of gambling!)

To play bingo again, we had to visit another holiday park for this which incidentally did check players’ age! As for any other entertainment, NONE whatsoever was supplied! I felt for the kids, not even Cyril the seahorse made an appearance!

The Showbar – Never opened for entertainment the whole week.

Notice how the Children’s play area and amusements section and the Fun for the kid’s section are pretty much identical. A great way to make your web page look fuller & to look like you offer a great number of facilities.

The park had a chip shop, convenience store and launderette. The launderette seemed to be the only thing open all week. The on-site chip shop closed from Monday and never reopened until the following Friday. The on-site shop also closed every day from 1 pm on the Monday.

Accessible Caravan

We booked a silver-accessible caravan for one week (Sat-Sat). Well, what can I say? It was the most basic, dirty, rundown budget caravan you could imagine. We paid for the caravan, bedding and making up of the beds. Yes, you are charged to have linen on your bed and have the beds made for your arrival. Oh, by the way, we were told they don’t have double beds in the accessible van so you have to pay for two single beds to be made rather than one double?

The caravan had old and dated curtains that looked filthy, in ALL the rooms. The curtain rails were so rusty they were difficult to open & close. No nets, so privacy is an issue. All of the laminate edging on the table & units in the lounge were peeling, making them very sharp. The TV looked more like a portable than a full-size TV. The decor was very grubby looking like something out of the 70’s and definitely in need of major upgrading.

Again, Palins website states: Silver units offer a high standard and comfortable accommodation at an aff­ordable price. In all fairness, there was nothing comfortable or of a high standard in our caravan.

The mattresses used were of such poor quality you could feel every single spring, plus it had a label saying, Haven? I really wouldn’t be surprised if these were 2nd hand mattressed from Haven. The bed caused me so much pain, I am still 2 weeks on in a lot of pain.

Unit features:
  • Access Ramp as Standard – It’s not an accessible caravan without one!
  • Sliding Doors
  • Wheelchair access
  • Fully accessible bathroom with appropriate facilities. – That’s if you can get into it. I could not enter/exit the bathroom and go directly into the bedroom. I had to go down into the lounge to be able to turn around to then be able to get into the bedroom. As nets are not provided, privacy is an issue after showering. The park is aware this is an accessible caravan, so nets would make all the difference. (I know not necessarily the park’s fault but the van doesn’t allow enough space for an electric wheelchair without foot plates to turn directly into the bedroom and my chair is on the smaller side too).
Doorway of the bathroom looking into the doorway of the bedroom
Doorway of the bathroom looking into the doorway of the bedroom
What’s included…
  • Gas and electric
  • Beds made up for a nominal charge
  • TV in the lounge with freeview
  • Microwave, kettle, toaster, cutlery and crockery – Grubby, dirty and all in need of a good scrub before using and in need of upgrading.

Beds made up for a nominal charge? Then why is it in the “what’s included” section? My understanding is if something is “included”, there is no extra charge? Right? What we got were extremely thin sheets, with some stains which was lazily put on the bed. The quilt was left folded up on top (image below)

For Hire…
  • Dvd player £10 deposit & £10 week
  • Double Bed Made Up £4
  • Single Bed Made Up £3
  • Iron £5 deposit & £5 week
  • Travel cot £20 deposit & £20 week
  • Wheelchair £20 deposit & £20 week
  • Pushchair £10 deposit & £10 week

Beds made up is included and for hire? Which is it Palins?

So if you want to hire a DVD player, an iron and have one double bed and two single beds made up, this is going to set you back £40…..REALLY? Who’s got that kind of money when holidaying with their partner, kids and maybe parents? For a silver-grade caravan, you should not be expected to pay for beds to be made up.

Both my husband and I visited all the holiday parks along the same stretch of road (approx 2 miles long, 8-10 holiday parks in total) and NOT one of them charged for linen or for beds to be made up, this was always included in the price. A few were very shocked at this cost.

Palins Silver Caravan Gallery

I was horrified at finding the piece of wood with 2 large nails, in fact, this was the breaking point. My granddaughter who is only 1 could have had a very nasty accident. When we did finally complain, the manager brushed it off like it was an everyday occurrence (prob is) and this made matters worse and made me angrier.

It was at this point I’d had enough. Thursday I went to reception to complain! The manager was arrogant, flippant, dismissive and downright rude! Customer service just doesn’t exist at this park. At least not with the so-called park manager!!

In complete contrast though, the holiday park situated right next door (Lyons Oakfield) allowed us to take look at their accessible caravan which is also a silver grade. It is worlds apart from what we were given by Palins.

We couldn’t stay too long as guests were arriving that day but with what pictures I managed to get, you can immediately see the big difference in decor, style, comfort and cleanliness. THIS is what you expect from a silver-grade caravan! It feels homely with all the pictures, lovely curtains that have curtain rails that are not rusted, proper chairs at the table and most importantly, clean!

Cleanliness

Dishes, cups, cutlery etc felt greasy. We had to wash everything before using them. The beds were so uncomfortable and I was in so much pain, we decided to try the pull-out double bed in the lounge. This was dirty with crumbs/food still on the mattress. Worse still, when we lifted the sofa cushion to get to the pull-out bed, we found a piece of wood with two large nails sticking out of it (pictured above).

As well as kids, this was a pet-friendly caravan, can you imagine if a little tot or dog found that? Doesn’t bear thinking about it!!

With Covid still present, (actually, at any and all times) the least you expect from a “professional company” is to be able to stay in a clean caravan!! It was clearly obvious the bare minimum of cleaning (if any) had been done!

Complaint

I suffer from Anxiety and IBS, I really didn’t want to have to complain as I knew this would set off my anxiety which would then cause a massive flare-up of my IBS, leaving me stuck in the caravan for the rest of my holiday. Unfortunately, things got so bad that I had to complain in the end!

  • Very briefly, the manager claimed the wood with two large nails fell off the surrounding wood of the pull-out bed – But when maintenance came out, he couldn’t find anywhere it may have come from.
  • When I complained about the lack of entertainment – His response was the pool is open. I asked him, “how was that any good to me”? He responded, “but the pool is open”. When asked if they had a pool hoist, he bluntly replied no! He then went on to say he could open the show bar but I would be the only one in there!
  • I explained how we were told over the phone the show bar would only be opened at weekends but there is entertainment every night in the Magpie & Stump. He said no, I shouldn’t have been told that. Well, mister, that is exactly what we were told, which is why we continued to book at your park.

When complaints have been made regarding the closure of the chippy/shop, Palins are very quick to inform customers who complain (especially about the quality/opening times of the chippy, shop & pub/restaurant) that they are franchised out so NOT the responsibility of Palins. Palins seem to not take responsibility for anything. That is their blanket attitude…..They absolve themselves from any wrongdoing! Frankly, I have no idea how they are still operating.

Social Media

I am completely gutted I didn’t read Tripadvisor comments or their Facebook page reviews. They very accurately describe just how bad this holiday park really is and the terrible way it’s run. It has many complaints spanning over 5 years about cleanliness, and how the park looks manky and run down. No entertainment, the list is endless really. Yeah, of course, you expect a few complaints. I mean, you can’t please everyone all of the time. But….These complaints include H&S issues as well as taking customers for mugs!

Expectation

When booking a holiday, you have a level of expectation of how that holiday will be and this is normally due to previous similar holiday experiences and/or the company’s website (if booking directly) or a brochure from a holiday agent, right? I mean, you don’t expect to have to wear formal evening attire in a holiday park where you would expect to dress this way on a formal night when cruising. You probably would expect a high standard of food and waiter service on a cruise but again not when holidaying at a holiday park, you expect that to be a much more casual affair.

You get my point, so as we’re no strangers to holiday parks or staying in caravans, we were under no illusion as to what to expect. Or so we thought! Holiday parks are well known for their family entertainment, so when you stay at a park that claims to have entertainment every night but you receive none at all, you are wondering what the hell went wrong! When that same park has a food outlet and a shop, you expect to be able to use them.

What you don’t expect, is to holiday at a holiday park that closes all amenities but one (the pub) and be made feel you are staying at a holiday park that is closed for the season!!

Legal

We contacted our credit card company to put in a Section 75 claim: “Section 75 is an important UK consumer protection law made in the 1970s that means your credit provider must take the same responsibility as the retailer if things go wrong with a purchase. Yet it doesn’t work on all purchases – just those costing a certain amount”: Source: Money Saving Expert – Section 75

We are hoping to get our money back under the claim of “Misrepresentation and Breach of Contract”. We hope we don’t have to go to the Small Claims Court by taking this route first. (“The small claims court is the low-hassle way to take legal action for up to £10,000 against a firm or individual in the UK. But be confident you’ve got a case before you start as new fees mean you’ll now pay twice as much if you lose”). Source: Money Saving Expert – Small Claims Court

WE WON!!! We have been given a full refund of what we paid to Palins Holiday Park. That has lifted such a weight off my mind. I can finally put this fight to bed now. I do wonder though, does the company get told that section 75 has been taken and do they get informed of the result? Would be interesting to know if anyone can answer that for me.

Disclaimer

All images are original and untouched. Two images have been placed side by side so you can see the lounge as a whole.

Related Blogs

How Accessible Is The Spread Eagle Inn – Gailey – My Review

Las Vegas: My First Time Flying As A Full-Time Wheelchair User

Cruising As A Wheelchair User: Is It The Best Holiday?

If you would like to work with me don’t hesitate to Contact Me.  Feel free to leave a comment below.

Spread Eagle with 3 stars

How Accessible Is The Spread Eagle Inn – Gailey – My Review

Having short notice that I would be attending Comic-Con in Telford, you can imagine all the local hotels were booked solid. Having to look further afield, we settled on the Spread Eagle Inn in Gailey. Approx 20 mins from Telford city centre. We managed to book one of their accessible rooms. This is my honest review of our stay.

Spread Eagle Inn

How Accessible Is The Spread Eagle Inn - Gailey - My Review

As a full-time wheelchair user, I have to have a wheelchair accessible room when travelling. If I am unable to book an accessible room, then I simply can’t travel! Accessible rooms are far and few between so you have to book them very quickly. When we have taken a cruise holiday, we have to book almost 2 years in advance or you have no hope of booking one.

As you can imagine, ALL local hotels were fully booked so we had to look further out for an accessible room. We chose Spread Eagle (part of the Marston’s group) as we have stayed there once before. Although, I wish we hadn’t (more on that in a bit).

Spread Eagle has 4-5 disabled parking bays and a ramp-up to the main doors of the restaurant/reception. You book in at the desk by the side of the bar. To go to your room, you can travel down the ramp inside the restaurant and make your way to the side entrance where you walk/wheel over to the hotel building.

The hotel building has an automatic door entry that is operated by your room key card. You hold the card to the box at the side and the doors open. You do the same for the next door inside that leads to all the rooms. This door is very heavy, presumably a fire door. My accessible room was about two rooms on my left after entering. Again, the room door is operated by holding the card next to the electronic fob box. Your room door is also very heavy.

Accessible Room

How Accessible Is The Spread Eagle Inn - Gailey - Accessible room

There’s literally nothing in the room apart from a bed, a small desk in the corner with a mirror above. There is a TV on the wall opposite the bed. You have what is meant to be hanging space beside the bed, again in the corner. The hangers are fixed in place. You have to unhook the pin from the part of the hanger that slides on the rail. From a wheelchair user’s perspective, I feel it is unusable. The hangers are very high and very fiddly to use. My suggestion is to bring your own hangers. If you are able to reach up to high places, you may be able to use it. There are a couple of shelves below but really not enough for two people if staying more than a night or two.

There is a tea/coffee facility available in the room by the means of a kettle and sachets. Only full-fat milk is provided in the room though. You can ask at the bar for semi-skimmed milk which they can provide. You only get provided with two tea bags. We had a cup of tea before going to bed on the day we arrived but didn’t get a refill of tea bags the following day. Not a problem, we just went back to the restaurant and got some from the tea machine. They supply sugar/sweeteners and a couple of wrapped biscuits.

I mentioned a TV on the wall. The remote control for the TV is sat on a little ledge directly under the TV. Due to my dexterity, I found this very high and very very difficult to grab hold of due to not being able to get my hand in under the TV to get a grip of the remote.

The Bed

I’ve slept in many different hotel beds (even a broken one) and I have to say this was probably the worst by far! The bed was so hard that it caused pain in both of my hips and back. The severe pain I was in from the bed, made my weekend more difficult than needed. My husband had to do all the driving, transferring in/out of my chair was painful. I took my own specially designed pillow last time but stupidly forgot to bring it home. I rang the hotel explaining the situation and asked if I paid for the postage, could they post it out to me. They refused, saying they didn’t have the means to post stuff out!

With this in mind, I left my new one at home but found their pillows to be too soft and flat. They slid up the wooden headboard throughout the night which caused me neck pain too. So all in all not a great night’s sleep!

There is an emergency alarm on the right-hand side of the bed by the lamp.

If you request a double accessible, don’t expect a double bed. You are given two singles pushed and locked together! This (in my opinion) is why the mattresses are harder and you also have to deal with the rope-like rim that goes around the edge of each mattress making it double trouble down the centre of the bed.

No Subtitles

The TV’s remote was kept on a ledge underneath the TV, I found it very difficult to reach and grab the remote. Every day the cleaners would put it back. I found it impossible to switch on subtitles as I couldn’t find this facility anywhere in the TV’s settings. Being partially deaf, this meant if I wanted to watch TV I had to sit underneath it to hear it or turn it up loud and run the risk of annoying other guests. Yes, I could have asked staff for help but I didn’t want to bother them, so just left it.

Accessible Wet Room

It’s a fairly functional wet room, shower, toilet, shower seat, sink, grab rails and two red alarm cords. Although the one at the entrance is far too close to the light cord so could be pulled by mistake. That’s it though! No extra bins, the small bin provided was a pedal bin? My pet hate, the sink was too near the toilet and I almost fell twice while transferring. (I know the sink has to be close but this was almost over the toilet itself). There was no shelf provided so nowhere to put a wash bag, brush or anything at all.

The toilet roll was so thin and cheap feeling I’m glad I take my own. On the plus side, the toilet chain was on the right side of the toilet and there is a mirror over the sink, for what use that would be without a shelf. Plenty of space to swing your chair in a full circle.

Restaurant

There are two entrances to access the main building where the restaurant is. Both are ramped. The restaurant is not always a table service. It has one unisex disabled toilet.

Breakfast – Either continental, which is buffet style or cooked breakfast which is ordered at your table. Be careful though, it is not obvious that they have two types of cooked breakfasts. You have the Classic & The Works. Hubby ordered a full English not knowing there were two kinds. Classic gives you one of each item of food but the Works gives you two of each item. He was given the second and charged accordingly.

Evening Meal – You decide what you’re having from the menu, find your table number and go to the bar to order your food. There is no table service so if you want something else or more drinks, you need to visit the bar. You also have a carvery (buffet style) but both I and my daughter found this to be rather poor quality and cold.

We were told a new menu was in place since our last visit. Hmmm, not much choice outside of steak & burgers and what we did have was not very tasty and cold like it had been made at the same time as our starters and left to sit!

Staff

The staff as a whole are friendly and very helpful. On our first visit last November we found what seemed to be mould on our bedsheets & pillows. We went to reception and within minutes the manager came to change our bedding. (This was approx 11 pm).

On our second day of this visit, I asked the room maids if it was at all possible to have a quilt put under our sheet as the mattresses were causing me pain. She said this would not be a problem as she has had many requests for this before. Why don’t the hotel do something about their mattresses then? It helped but because I was already in so much pain, unfortunately, it wasn’t perfect.

Worth The Stay

If you need somewhere overnight, then it’s probably one of the better places to stay. The price of a room is reasonable, the food price is average but the quality could be better. Rooms are very clean if somewhat minimalistic.

The big question is, would I stay here again? If I could find somewhere else, I would not stay here again. Unfortunately, we go to Telford for one reason, Comic-Con. So unless we could book an accessible room early enough before they are all sold out, then we probably wouldn’t have a choice in the matter and I would stay here begrudgingly!

Deals & Offers

At the time of writing this review, Spread Eagle have a 20% off main meals if you book directly with them. Full terms & Conditions.


Related Blogs

Cruising As A Wheelchair User: Is It The Best Holiday?

Travel Agents: How Helpful Are They For Disabled Customers?

If you would like to work with me don’t hesitate to Contact Me.  Feel free to leave a comment below.

Disability Blogger and reviewer of products & services - Family room not accessible to disabled families

Hotels Don’t Offer Accessible Family Rooms, Is This Discrimination?

Hotels Don’t Offer Accessible Family Rooms, Is This Discrimination? – Accessible holidays are already far and few between, it’s hard enough to find hotels that are “fully” accessible. Yet, this is made even harder if you have a family. Hotels, for whatever reason, do not offer “family” accessible rooms, yet provide family rooms for able-bodied families. By not offering these room types, disabled people with families are forced to book extra rooms.

The Equality Act 2010 suggests this is direct discrimination. So I’ve contacted 10 of the most popular hotel chains to find out why this is the case. My findings are below.

Family Rooms

Hotels Don't Offer Accessible Family Rooms, Is This Discrimination? - Long hotel corridor.

As a full-time wheelchair user myself, when booking a room I need a fully accessible room. However, I also have a daughter who travels with us. Finding an accessible room is difficult enough, especially when holiday companies claim to be “fully wheelchair accessible” and then you look at their pictures (when supplied) and find they tell a whole other story. Or worse, you turn up and only find out then. Yes, both have happened to me.

At present, it seems hotels do not offer any “family” accessible rooms for disabled people. Yet they do supply family rooms for able-bodied customers. This is direct discrimination!

I recently visited family in Wales (I’m in London). We booked a room with Premier Inn. As they are one of the hotels that do not offer accessible family rooms, our daughter could not stay in our room. Luckily, we had family members who were visiting with us, therefore, we were able to book a family room for them and have our daughter in with them. This begs, the question, what if my other family members were not travelling with us? What/where would my daughter go?

When you are disabled and have a family, being forced to book an extra room for your children is not only a parent’s worse nightmare but this can make a family hotel room “double” in price. With new Government rules/regulations around school term holidays, can you imagine how much this would cost at peak times? A hotel stay (1 room) can jump from approx £600 to £1200 for a few days stay. I wonder what non-disabled customers would say about this if they had to pay for two rooms as family rooms were not offered? I’m sure they too would have something to say about it!

Contacted Hotels

I contacted the above hotels all on the same date (10/7/21) asking if they do in fact offer accessible family rooms,

My email:

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am contacting you today to enquire about family wheelchair accessible rooms.  As a full-time wheelchair user, I find accessible rooms are far and few between as it is but accessible “Family” rooms seem to be non-existent!  Why is this? 

When booking a hotel room, I am unable to find any accessible family rooms. This means I am forced to book a second room just for my daughter.  This then makes my hotel bill double in price.  This is not the same for able-bodied customers as hotels seem to offer plenty of “family” rooms that are not classed as “accessible! 

This puts disabled people with families at a major disadvantage compared to able-bodied families, both financially and physically.

I am writing to enquire if any of your hotels offer wheelchair-accessible family rooms.  If not, do you have any alternatives in place, like offering a second room at a reduced rate or even for free?   Do you have other alternatives are in place if not, how do you let your disabled customers know this?  If you do not offer wheelchair-accessible family rooms or any alternatives, what is the reason for this?

I look forward to your reply.

Hotel Responses:

Premier Inn – I found Premier Inn to be the most helpful and most willing to help, they say: “We are able to add additional beds into our accessible rooms to make them into family rooms upon guests request. Where this isn’t possible and we aren’t able to accommodate guests in one room we will offer a second room for free and will always try to make this an interconnecting room to the accessible room.” 

Since receiving their reply, I have booked a room where they have said an extra bed will be put in their accessible room at the hotel I am staying at. So fingers crossed, all will go well. So far, they have done what they say they would.

Travelodge

“Thank you for contacting Travelodge.

At Travelodge we take our commitment to equality of access very seriously. 

We do give great consideration to the accessibility of our hotels and make every effort to make reasonable and practical adjustments to support the varying needs of our customers.

Having adopted and complied with well recognised national standards we consider that we are meeting our obligations to disabled customers under the Equality Act 2010.

Whilst facilities offered across our locations do vary due to the age and type of construction every consideration is given to accessibility and should you ever want details of the provision at a specific hotel this can be obtained from the hotel itself. For example accessible rooms in our newer properties are equipped with walk in wet room showers.

The Bed base from the ground is 25cm
Bed base and the mattress together is 49cm
The Bed fully made is around 52cm  

I hope this helps”.

Best Western – No response!

Ibis Budget/Styles –Thank you for reaching All Accor Live Limitless Customer Care support. First, I truly apologize for the inconvenience. I am coming back to you following your request regarding wheelchair-accessible family rooms. I am not able to reply directly, so I have allowed myself to forward your email to the ibis Fes hotel which will take care of your demand. They will return to you as soon as possible“. I’m still waiting

Novotel – No response!

Holiday Inn – No response!

Britannia Hotels –

I contacted the hotel directly in wales as I was looking to book here for a few days, (until I read the reviews). This was their reply:

Thank you for your message.
The Grand Hotel in Llandudno has 2 accessible rooms which have 2 single beds in each room. These rooms have walk in showers with a small step into the cubicle. Unfortunately, we do not have any rooms that have a wet room.
If you would like to book please contact Reservations on 0161 923 0300 and then will be able to give you rates and check availability.

Kind regards

So this is what they call accessible: These rooms have walk in showers with a small step into the cubicle. Not wheelchair accessible then!! Glad I wasn’t staying here.

Marriott –

They responded with a brush off but at least they responded I suppose:

Thank you for contacting Marriott Bonvoy™ Customer Care. It is my pleasure to assist you today.
Please accept my apologies for any inconvenience caused and I can certainly understand your frustration.
Please call our reservation line toll free, 24 hours a day at 1-888-236-2427. One of our dedicated associates will be happy to help you with your upcoming travel”.

Hilton Doubletree – No response!

Ramada – “Thank you!  We’ve received your message.  We will respond within 24 – 72 hours.  We are currently experiencing a higher than normal volume, your patience is greatly appreciated.”

I’m still waiting!!

Hotels Don’t Offer Accessible Family Rooms, Is This Discrimination?

Family room not accessible to disabled families

According to the Equality Act 2010, they say this:

Direct discrimination occurs where, because of disability, a person receives worse treatment than someone who does not have a disability. This provision is intended to stop people being denied a service, or receiving a worse service, because of prejudice”. 

“What is discrimination arising from disability? (new)

Discrimination arising from disability occurs when a disabled person is treated unfavourably because of something connected with their disability and the unfavourable treatment cannot be justified.  Discrimination arising from disability is different from direct discrimination. Direct discrimination occurs when a service provider treats someone less favourably because of the disability itself. In the case of discrimination arising from disability, the question is whether the disabled person has in practice been treated unfavourably because of something connected with their disability”.

So, the question is, are disabled people receiving worse treatment than non-disabled people if hotels are not offering accessible family rooms? If the hotel offers no alternative for a disabled family and they have to book an extra room because of this treatment, then I believe the answer is most definitely has to be a yes! But, if an alternative solution is offered, then direct discrimination has not taken place.

Are disabled families treated unfavourably because of something connected with their disability? I believe yes! Why? Because as a non-disabled person, you have multiple options available when booking a hotel room, single, double, suite & family. Disabled people have one option, Accessible! So when travelling with your family, how do you cater for them if the hotel won’t offer anything more than a standard accessible room?

What reasonable adjustments do you have to make for disabled people? (changed)

Service providers are required to make changes, where needed, to improve service for disabled customers or potential customers. There is a legal requirement to make reasonable changes to the way things are done (such as changing a policy), to the built environment (such as making changes to the structure of a building to improve access) and to provide auxiliary aids and services (such as providing information in an accessible format, an induction loop for customers with hearing aids, special computer software or additional staff support when using a service).

When a hotel refuses to offer an alternative solution, they are in breach of the Equality Act 2010! Simple as that!

Further help

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is the statutory body established to help eliminate discrimination and reduce inequality. It will issue a statutory Code of Practice explaining in more detail the law in relation to service provision and discrimination. It also produces a range of material providing practical guidance on how to comply with the law. www.equalityhumanrights.com 0845 604 6610.

***UPDATE*** Up & Coming Campaign

We (a few disabled people at present) are looking into starting a campaign to get the hospitality industry (particularly hotels/B&B’s etc.) to:

  • Make “family accessible” rooms available, don’t fob off with “we MAY be able to include an extra bed
  • If family-accessible rooms are not feasible, then offer 2nd room free
  • Give correct and factual information regarding accessible rooms – Include images, measurements of room, bed height and wet room
  • Train staff – Make staff training better, telling a wheelchair user another wheelchair user has used said accessible feature is not helpful or informative

My Facebook group to help bring more awareness to this issue and hopefully get more done: UK Hotels No Accessible Family Rooms | Facebook

Wish to help us with this campaign, please do get in touch.

Related Blogs

So You Advertise As Accessible?

If you liked my blog, feel free to leave a comment below. If you would like to work with me, or if there is anything you would like me to blog about, don’t hesitate to Contact Me.

A collage of travel agents logos

Travel Agents: How Helpful Are They For Disabled Customers?

I don’t know why I am still surprised to encounter such situations as this one. We are in the 21st Century, right? I wonder if it’s because I believe with all the technology and free information that is around, I expect companies etc. to have NO excuse whatsoever NOT to be disability informed and compliant!!!

My Enquiry

My latest experience with travel agents Tui, I can’t help but feel the industry is trying to make booking a holiday/trip as difficult and stressful as possible, in the hope we won’t book a holiday abroad?? Why is England seemingly so inadequate to provide for disabled people whee accessibility is concerned?? Other countries manage it with seemingly no problem at all.

I’m off to Vegas later this year to go to a concert, so obviously, I needed to book a hotel and flight.  So, we (hubby & I) went to Tui to get some info and prices.  I really wished I hadn’t bothered and wasted my time!!  We were seen by this young man who obviously didn’t have a clue as to what he was doing and presumably had never helped a disabled person book a holiday!

I explained I was a full-time wheelchair user, and all the necessary info about dates, where we would like to stay etc.  I told him that I had some questions I would need to be answered before making a booking.  Not a problem he said looking very worried!

He brought up some deals for us to look at.  We liked the look of one of them, so asked before proceeding, could we now go through some of our questions? There were 11 in total and consisted of the following:

  1. Airport Parking – I wanted to know how close is the disabled parking to the terminal, as hubby can’t walk too far.
  2. Airport assistance – What does this include
  3. Can I keep my wheelchair up to the plane door? – I don’t like the idea of being another wheelchair not suitable for several hours.
  4. How to arrange for my chair to be brought to me once we arrive at Vegas
  5. How much hand luggage can I take – Eg: Lose parts of the chair, footrest etc
  6. Wheelchair insurance – Would holiday insurance include cover for my wheelchair
  7. Wheelchair hire in Vegas – So if I decided not to take my chair, can I hire one in Vegas and what type is on offer.
  8. Will the plane have a chair to go to the toilet
  9. Can I find measurements of the toilet or see one before flying
  10. Are Visas required, if so how/where to apply?
  11. Can I take wheelchair tools as hand luggage?

Problem After Problem

Travel Agents:  How Helpful Are They For Disabled Customers? - Tui logo

I knew a couple may not be answered but most of them should be (Who was I kidding?)  When I showed him my list, the blood seemed to just drain from his face.  He told me he would need to contact their accessibility department to get the information I requested.  No problem I said.  When he came off the phone literally a few minutes later, he told us that they couldn’t help and he needed to contact somewhere else.  Ok, I said. 

Once again he failed in getting the information, again explaining the department couldn’t help.  He then went on about how the flight was being operated by a third party and how we would have to get in touch with them ourselves.  He was going on about how two airlines are offering seats on the same flight, so he or the other departments were unable to get the information we wanted.

At this point, we had been in the travel gents for approx 40 minutes.  I’d had enough, I knew we weren’t going to get the info we needed, so we went for a coffee.  After chatting it over, we decided to go back and see if there was anybody else we could speak to.  As soon as we entered through the door, the same young man jumped up and beckoned us over.  Oh boy, back to square one.

We explained we weren’t happy and the fact we couldn’t believe that it was this difficult to source the info we needed.  I wasn’t prepared to book anything until I was confident in how I board the plane, how my wheelchair would be looked after etc.  Why is this sort of info not readily available to everyone/anyone needing it?  He couldn’t or wouldn’t answer.

We asked if anyone else could help us, he then went to his manager, he went over and talked with her.  Hubby got up and went over to join the conversation, as no attempt was made to involve me, I also went over.  Again she explained about third party airlines etc oh and now because it was the weekend, nowhere was open?  (But didn’t the guy speak to two different departments today?)  But everywhere is closed!!  Starting to sound like a fob off to me!!

Anyway, she asked if we could leave things with her and she will try to get the info and get back to us around Wednesday of the next week.  No problem I said and left sharply.  I had no intentions of dealing any further with Tui over this booking or non-booking!!

Solution

Travel Agents:  How Helpful Are They For Disabled Customers? - British Airways Logo

The following day (Sunday) I looked online and found a hotel and flight deal directly with British Airways and it was almost £200 cheaper than what Tui was asking…….Result.  So I contacted BA directly and guess what?  In the amount of time I had spent with Tui, I had my booking to Vegas, my questions answered AND confirmation of my accessible room in the hotel.  Airport assistance for both me and hubby also booked and confirmed!  Why had I not thought of booking directly beforehand??  So at least now I’m confident in what I have, assistance wise and happy I can take my own wheelchair.  There is, however, one last bit of info I am still to have answered.  Will I be able to use the toilet while on the plane?  Kinda buggered if I can’t haha, it’s an 11-hour flight.

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Ace of Spades next to two dice showing sixes

Las Vegas: My First Time Flying As A Full-Time Wheelchair User

Well, where do I start on this amazing city?  My husband and I went to Las Vegas for one main purpose, to see Billy Idol in concert.  I couldn’t see him here in the UK last year as hubby broke his leg and as he is my carer/driver, I was unable to go.  So when I heard he was doing a residency in LV, I just had to go.

Las Vegas:  My First Time Flying As A Full-Time Wheelchair User - The famous Las Vegas welcome sign

We booked our trip for October 2019 directly with British Airways and dealt with a very nice man who answered all my question and sorted everything out for us from the hotel, flights/seats and disability assistance.  I was extra nervous as I hadn’t flown in over 20 years and this was my first time flying as a full-time wheelchair user, so had many worries due to all the horror stories I had been reading about disabled people being left on the plane, wheelchairs broke or going missing.  I really wasn’t doing myself any favours.

Anyhow, we booked fairly early on in the year so we had roughly 10 months to wait.  Everything seemed to run very smoothly and we were updated regularly from BA via email regarding our booking.  We were flying from Gatwick to McCarran airport.

On the morning of our long weekend in Vegas, we arrived at Gatwick, we parked in the long stay car park we had booked at a reasonable price, then got the bus to the South Terminal, which was wheelchair accessible.  We did try to check-in on the BA app the night before but this wasn’t working too well, (either that or I was doing it wrong).  So we went to check-in.  This went smoothly and we told the lady we had assistance booked and she directed us where to go.  We decided to go grab a bite to eat before going to assistance as we had turned up extremely early thinking traffic might be bad.  We had to be there 3 hours before departure time (long haul flight)…..We turned up 4 hours before lol.

At the assistance desk we were given a beeper and was told when it goes off, come back to the desk and we would be taken to board the plane.  So the only sensible thing left to do now was go shopping   We had approx 2 hours or so to go before departure.  When our beeper went off, we headed back to assistance where we were taken to the plane.  Jeff (hubby) required assistance also as he is unable to walk very far, so he jumped in one of their electric buggies where I followed behind, well I say behind, I was left for dust really.  Thank god I knew what gate I was aiming for, which I might add was miles away!!  At the plane door, I transferred into an aisle chair, (by god this is a tiny piece of equipment, my backside only just fitted on the seat!!)  I was extremely embarrassed to see that most of the passengers had already boarded the plane, meaning I had to pass them all as I was pulled along with my hips hopping of each seat as I passed.  Our seats were at the very back of the plane as this was the only place that had 2 seats instead of 3 and I felt a row of 2 seats would be better for transferring in/out of the aisle chair if/when I needed the loo and the fact the toilets were pretty much behind these seats.  No passengers to pass mid-flight!

We eventually take off after a delay of over an hour (A flight from Scotland was delayed that had passengers that were booked on our flight).  Well, the flight was probably the coldest I have been in a very long time.  The aircon must have been on full blast!  I wrapped up in a blanket and still couldn’t get warm.

TIP 1 – Take something warm to wear on the flight or you WILL freeze!!

The entertainment system on this plane was pretty naff to say the least.  The screen was very small (compared to the one coming home), the section where you can track your flight journey was not working and when trying to watch a film, you could see the grid lines embedded in the screen.  Even the Wi-fi was broken, so I tried to get some sleep as I knew when we landed, we would have been up nearly 24 hours due to time difference but this was impossible due to being so damn cold.

Las Vegas:  My First Time Flying As A Full-Time Wheelchair User - Airplane Toilet
Las Vegas:  My First Time Flying As A Full-Time Wheelchair User -  Plane toilet with side entrance

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I had spent the day watching my liquid intake as I didn’t know how I was going to cope with the toilet onboard.  Jeff had to go long before I did and he came back saying he didn’t think I was going to cope….Great, just what I wanted to hear!!  He explained the door to the toilet faced the toilet itself, Left Image – this meant I would not be able to transfer onto the toilet from the aisle chair.  I sat pondering my options and trying to work out how I was going to get onto the toilet in such a small space.  Jeff then disappeared and came back and told me there was another toilet on the other side of the plane (Jeff used the one directly behind us) and this looked more promising as the door was at the side of the toilet, Right image.  Indeed this was the answer I needed, it even had a handrail for me to hold onto whilst I transferred.  Please note:  These are not the toilets aboard our plane, just a representation to show you the difference.

Tip 2 – Do check to see if there are other toilets laid out differently as this might make the difference in whether or not you can actually go.

I packed my cushion with my wheelchair in the hold luggage.  What a mistake this was.  I was in excruciating pain the whole way as the plane seats are quite hard and my coccyx got very sore.  I didn’t make the same mistake coming home!

Tip 3 – Make sure if you have a cushion on your chair, you take it on board with you to use.

View from airplane of mountains covered with snow

If you can, (I know airlines normally prefer us disabled to have an aisle seat) get a window seat, the views over Iceland/Greenland are out of this world!!

Arriving at McCarran airport, I had the dreaded aisle chair fiasco again, thankfully I was last off so no passengers gawping at me.  My wheelchair was at the plane door waiting for me, yippee, what a relief!  Once transferred, we were taken to customs, once through there we were on our own.  We went outside to look for a taxi to take us to our hotel the Excalibur.  I was so cold from the plane, I was delighted to see the sun shining brightly I just had to sit in it for 5 minutes to warm my bones up.  The weather at this time of year is wonderful and hot!  (Well Caz, you are in the middle of the Nevada desert).

We were advised to go to one of the taxi booth’s outside. We waited in line at one of them for what felt like half an hour, so we decided to move along to another booth. The prices advertised (correct at Oct 2019)  ranged from $9.50 to $11 and on one of the booths, there was a $50 price in brackets advertised as airport tax? I have no idea as to what this meant, was this another $50 on top of the price of the trip itself? Feeling a little nervous, we went around the corner only to find we could get a bus (the SDX bus) that went from the airport to quite a few of the hotels along the strip. So we decided to jump on one of these to take us to our hotel.  This only cost us $2 each way.

I have to explain, we spent the whole weekend jumping on and off buses up and down the strip as all buses and I mean all, were wheelchair accessible. I can’t speak for all of America but in Vegas at least, all bus drivers will get out of their cab and put the ramp down for you, you then board the bus and if there are any passengers sitting in the fold-up priority seats and this space is needed by a wheelchair user, the passengers are told to move, the seats are then folded up, you then park your chair in that space where the driver then clamps your chair to the bus. In all honesty, I was amazed at how efficient the bus service actually was.  I’m terrified of using public transport (buses) here in London.  In Vegas, I would use them all by myself anytime!!

Las Vegas:  My First Time Flying As A Full-Time Wheelchair User -Gold & blue double decker bus that runs up & down the Vegas strip

When you’re travelling up and down the strip, there is another bus route called the Deuce, this is a gold & blue double-decker bus that runs very frequently up and down the strip daily. The SDX bus I previously mentioned goes up and down the strip but does deviate at certain points along the strip, therefore you may have to get off the SDX bus and jump on the deuce bus or vice versa, depending on where you start your journey and where you wish to go.

Full info can be found here:  https://www.visitlasvegas.com/experience/post/getting-around-vegas/  

This tells you what you need to know about the buses that go up & down the strip.  It is also much cheaper than getting taxi’s everywhere as they use meter’s to charge for your journey, so if you’re stuck in traffic, which is pretty much every journey, then your fare is going to be expensive.

Tip 4 – If you can, use the Deuce or SDX buses when travelling up and down the strip.  Daily bus passes are fairly cheap.

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Las Vegas:  My First Time Flying As A Full-Time Wheelchair User -Excalibur hotel from a distance showing several towers of the medieval theme

We arrive at our hotel the Excalibur, this is a themed hotel (as all of the hotels along the strip are).  The Excalibur has a medieval theme with a castle look to it.  Inside you are greeted with stone walls and knights scattered around upon ledges on the walls. 

Knights armour statue in the Excalibur hotel

You can go into any of the hotels along the strip and use their amenities, shops, casino and restaurants but, I will say this about all hotels that we went in to look around.  They are all freezing…..Aircon on full blast all the time.  I can only assume this is because so many people have complained about the hotels/casinos being very smokey as there is not, a no smoking ban in Vegas. 

I have to say, although freezing, it certainly keeps the smoke at bay.  There was no smell of smoke at all!!  One or two of the hotels did smell musty and damp but not of smoke.

Being a wheelchair user, I booked an accessible room.  It was basic but had all the amenities you could want, well most, we had no tea/coffee facilities in our room.  I believe all hotels in America offer room only type of rooms.

Our accessible room came with the following:

  • Big double bed – I woke up in the middle of the night and thought Jeff had got up to go to the toilet, I didn’t realise he was on the other side of the bed lol
  • Wet room bathroom with real in shower-including a shower chair
  • Hairdryer
  • Iron/ironing board
  • Two armchairs
  • Table with mirror above
  • Flat-screen TV-opposite the bed
  • Wardrobe
  • Plenty of drawer/cupboard space
  • safe inside cupboard

There were only two drawbacks to our room,

  1. The sink in the bathroom was far from an appropriate height for a wheelchair user – It was far too high
  2. There was no tea/coffee making facility in the room

Although there were no tea or coffee facilities in the room, on the lobby floor just outside the lifts there was a kiosk selling tea/coffee/hot chocolate etc and pastries if you wanted them.

We landed in Vegas at 3:15 PM and we got to our hotel approximately 6:30 PM and due to being up over 24 hours at this point, we decided to grab a bite to eat and then just crash in bed. There was a food court on level 1, this had approximately seven or eight different places to eat.

Tip 5: A lot of the food in Vegas, as I am sure you can imagine, is very greasy. There are many places where you can get food that is not greasy.  So, it is worth shopping around.

We awoke Saturday morning at 2:00 am due to the time difference and to my horror, found my electric wheelchair had not been charging. Meaning, it was plugged in correctly to both my wheelchair and electrical outlet but still no charge! Jeff checked my wheelchair, charger and plugs and found nothing wrong with any of the connections. It turns out, (something we had not even thought about), was the voltage used in the USA. Here, in the UK, we use 240v but in the USA they use 110v, therefore, meaning their voltage was not powerful enough to charge my chair.

To cut a very long story short, we spent the best part of Saturday trying to fix my charging issue.  From having to go to a local electrical store to purchase a step-up/down transformer, finding out the machine we bought was faulty and the last one in stock.  (Ever feel the forces are just working against you?).   (I have since spoken to a friend who also had the same issue in a country she had visited and confirmed she used one of these step-up/down transformers and it charged her chair with no problem).

We had visited reception a couple of times, hoping they might have been able to help us as surely I would not have been the first electric wheelchair user to have suffered this problem! Unfortunately, they didn’t really know what we were going on about. Surprised and shocked we were directed to the bellboy desk and told to speak with the manager Andy. Andy Matteucci (Bell Captain) was a lifesaver as he spent a couple of hours trying to solve my problem including getting one of his engineers to confirm the machine we had bought was actually faulty. After exhausting all possibilities Andy suggested using one of his scooter chargers to see if that would charge my chair. (These are scooters the hotel hire out to anyone needing them).  I was praying this would be a solution, as my chair was now in the red and the sole purpose of our visit (Billy Idol concert) was in a view hours time!

Thankfully, my prayers seemed to be answered as this seemed to fix my problem, the charger was charging my chair. There was only one problem with this solution, I assume because of the electrical outlet voltage, the charger wasn’t powerful enough to charge my chair properly, this meant I had to carry the charger around with me to keep charging my chair at regular intervals. Therefore, we had to hire the scooter that came with the charger.

Tip 6: Please speak to your wheelchair service (if you have an NHS chair) or your wheelchair manufacturer to ask what their advice would be on charging your chair in the USA/abroad.  I spoke with Invacare (my wheelchair manufacturer) their advice was to purchase a 110v charger for my wheelchair at the lovely price of £300. Yeah right, gonna spend that kind of money on a piece of equipment that I may only use once……. not bloody likely!  (I may look deeper into one of those step-up/down transformers).

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Las Vegas:  My First Time Flying As A Full-Time Wheelchair User -Billy Idol sitting on my footrest between my legs while I'm sitting in my wheelchair

As I said before, the sole purpose of our visit to Las Vegas was to see Billy Idol in concert. As you can see from the image above, this was a dream come true! Billy Idol was doing a residency in the Palms Casino resort hotel. From what we saw of the hotel it looked rather plush but the view I had from the wheelchair space at the very back of their theatre, was crap, to say the least. I was in a space that had what I would describe as a cinema seat either side of me (presumably, carer/PA seats).

The theatre/auditorium was tiered and as I was sat directly behind the last row of seats, the minute people got up to dance, which was as soon as the music started, I may as well have stuck on an eye mask as I would have had a better view! The irony of this, was, to the right of me there was a balcony section for all the other wheelchair users who had no obstruction to their view whatsoever as it was a balcony! So, I have a word with the usher asking if I could sit off to the left by the pillar where the flight of steps lead down into the auditorium. He said no! I went on to explain how my view was non-existent and I would then have to leave as it would not be worth staying. He told me to hang on a moment, he went away, came back and told me if I sat against the wall I could sit by the pillar. Not the best of solutions but better than what I had previously.

Tip 7:  When booking concert tickets or show tickets especially when going abroad to see these shows, try your best to research or contact the venue itself to find out exactly where you are seated and if your view will be obstructed in any way. If like me you have to book a wheelchair space at the venue, you are limited to where you can be seated so definitely worth finding this information out before booking!

Black decorative line with swirl in the center
Jeff in between 2 showirls with blue feather headdresses

So, after sadly having our first day taken from us due to my wheelchair issues, we had an awful lot to cram into one day. Wow, we were gonna be busy!  We were told you could not visit Vegas and not go to Fremont Street as this was an experience not to be missed. So we jumped up on a bus (Deuce) and took this to Fremont Street. Here, is where the Vegas strip originally started. It is basically one long street filled with shops, casinos and restaurants, with a roof cover that lights up. At one end of the street, you can jump on a zip wire and travel the length of the street.  Did you know, the Golden Nugget casino that is here, is where the film Sister Act was filmed?  Neither did I!

On the ground, you may very well see Elvis and some showgirls, be careful though, we had passed a couple of showgirls two or three times and each time they asked for us to have a picture taken with them which we refused each time. Towards the end of the day, Jeff decided to bite the bullet and have his picture taken with them. It is customary to tip these picture opportunity people for a better phrase. So before having his picture taken Jeff did ask “how much”? The answer was “whatever you felt like giving”. After the picture was taken both myself and Jeff handed the girls $10 each. One of the girls took this money and the other one asked: “have you anything nice for me”? Jeff explained that the $20 was for both of them, to which they responded by informing us that they normally get $20 each! Sorry, $40 dollars for a photo that you take with your own camera?  (I’m in the wrong business).

Freemont Street in Vegas with overhead cover all lit up with flame images

Be warned though, there are many sights you may wish to forget. For example, we saw what can only be described as an elderly lady wearing a G string, nipple doilies, masquerade lace mask and holding a whip in one hand where she found it very amusing to slap men’s backsides with this as they passed by.

Tip 8: Make sure, you have plenty of spending money if you intend to have your picture taken regularly with these photo opportunity people because in my opinion you will be fleeced!!

After our eventful day, my wheelchair was drained, so I had to use the scooter Jeff had hired that evening.  We took a ride up and down the strip seeing it all lit up and grabbing a few photos.  The strip at night is definitely worth seeing!!

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Black decorative line with swirl in the center

Monday – Time to go home 🙁   We were very sad as we felt we just didn’t have the time we needed to see and do everything we wanted.  (Oh well, just means we will have to go back again)   

Checking out of the hotel was very easy, there were machines by reception that you could use rather than queue up, all you had to do really was input your name and email address and confirm you were checking out.

So, back to the airport, we go!  We jumped on another bus (SDX) to take us back to the airport.  We got a little confused as to which side of the road we needed to be on as of course, the traffic is going the opposite direction to here in the UK.  We asked someone and was directed to a bus stop, only to find we were on the wrong side of the road and on the wrong road lol.  We should have been literally on the side, just around the corner.

Checking in was a little slow as the man dealing with us didn’t have a clue how to check in a wheelchair user!  Back and forth he went, asking me the same questions repeatedly.  One thing I didn’t understand, when booking, I had to input all the necessary info regarding my wheelchair, weight, dimensions, battery type etc yet, here I was giving all this info all over again at all the airports I passed through.

Tip 9:  Have a handy info sheet with all this info with you whenever going through the airport.  You will be asked repeatedly for it!!

We went to the assistance desk where we told this time we had priority boarding, something not told to us flying out!  We were told to go to the boarding desk approx an hour before take-off.  The time came for pre-boarding, we were already at the seating area by the desk waiting.  I was taken to the plane door where I had to transfer into an aisle seat, then I was told to wait.  The man dealing with me had to go and help another passenger?  So I was left in this aisle chair sat by the plane door, waiting, waiting and waiting.  Passengers had now started to board the plane, all passing me by a looking!  Even the cabin crew started to look worried!  Eventually, the man returned, I was now finally boarding the plane and yes, you guessed it, the aisle chair fiasco once again!!  Although that was bad enough, the biggest issue we had with our return flight was the disability assistance at Gatwick……Basically it didn’t arrive!! When we arrived back at Gatwick, I was told by a member of the cabin crew, that I wasn’t down as a “carry on”.  I explained that BA themselves booked this and nearer our flight date, confirmed all was well.  After investigation, it turned out that another lady (who had NO assistance booked) got my assistance??  This now meant my electric wheelchair had NOT been brought to the plane door!  How does this kind of mistake happen??   Getting off the plane at Gatwick, the man taking me down the aisles of the plane had no idea what he was doing.  He kept bashing my hips into the seats and at one point I had to reach out and physically stop him as he nearly crashed my legs into a doorway!!  Again, causing me lots of pain!! Because of this major cock-up, I was made to transfer from the plane seat onto the aisle chair then into another chair onboard the jetty bus that was at the plane door, I then had to be taken to luggage claim where I was again made to transfer into another wheelchair so I could be taken off the bus into the terminal entrance.  Eventually, my electric wheelchair was found and yet again, transfer into it.  This caused me a great deal of physical pain in my coccyx, arms and back.  I am still in pain as I write this!  Then, once I was in my own chair, we were left alone!  All assistance was just gone.  We had no idea where or what to do next!  My husband who also had assistance booked was now left to walk everywhere and struggle to search for and lift our luggage!!  His assistance was non-existent!!  So he also is in great pain!! Unfortunately, this kind of mistake is out of our control, all we can do is book assistance and get confirmation nearer the time.  Beyond this, our assistance is literally in the hands of the gods!!  I count myself lucky though, it could have been a lot worse in the respect my wheelchair could have been damaged, thankful for small mercies!!!

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Conclusion

We had a fantastic time and will go again.  Yes, we had our ups and downs but well worth it.  We didn’t really have the time to spend in the casinos due to the issues we had with my chair.  Next time I may have a flutter 

 It is a noisy place with machines pinging and beeping in the casinos, the general hustle and bustle of the strip and all the traffic.  The lights are amazing but I can see how they could be very overwhelming for some. The weather is great if you love the sun, we found it not too hot and not too cold (unless in a hotel). 

My Tips

TIP 1 – Take something warm to wear on the flight or you WILL freeze!!

Tip 2 – Do check to see if there are other toilets laid out differently as this might make the difference in whether or not you can actually go.

Tip 3 – Make sure if you have a cushion on your chair, you take it on board with you to use.

Tip 4 – If you can, use the Deuce or SDX buses when travelling up and down the strip.  Daily bus passes are fairly cheap.

Tip 5: A lot of the food in Vegas, as I am sure you can imagine, is very greasy. There are many places where you can get food that is not greasy.  So, it is worth shopping around.

Tip 6: Please speak to your wheelchair service (if you have an NHS chair) or your wheelchair manufacturer to ask what their advice would be on charging your chair in the USA/abroad.  I spoke with Invacare (my wheelchair manufacturer) their advice was to purchase a 110v charger for my wheelchair at the lovely price of £300. Yeah right, gonna spend that kind of money on a piece of equipment that I may only use once……. not bloody likely!  (I may look deeper into one of those step up/down transformers).

Tip 7:  When booking concert tickets or show tickets especially when going abroad to see these shows, try your best to research or contact the venue itself to find out exactly where you are seated and if your view will be obstructed in any way. If like me you have to book a wheelchair space at the venue, you are limited to where you can be seated so definitely worth finding this information out before booking!

Tip 8:  Make sure, you have plenty of spending money if you intend to have your picture taken regularly with these photo opportunity people because in my opinion you will be fleeced!!

If you decide to go, happy holidays, I’m sure you’ll have a fabulous time as we did!

If you liked my blog, why not sign up to my Newsletter so you never miss a beat, or leave a comment below. If there is anything you would like me to blog about, don’t hesitate to Contact Me.

Royal Caribbean logo

Cruising As A Wheelchair User: Is It The Best Holiday?

I have been very lucky and managed to go a few holidays, Ireland, France, Las Vegas, Tunisia, caravanning and of course cruises. So far, cruising has been the most hassle-free to book and to get to and of course to holiday with. Cruising is not for everyone but if you can, I recommend you take at least one cruise in your life.

My apologies from the offset, this may end up being a lengthy review of cruising with a disability.  In all fairness, would you want it any other way? Most holiday reviews in my opinion, or holiday tips, are always about flying, airports, assistance etc.?  Is this the only type of transport one can go on holiday with?  What about, riverboats, caravanning, camping and of course cruising??  Do these no longer exist?  Well, I’m going to show you they do!!

I have been very lucky to have been able to do two previous cruises and thoroughly enjoyed both.  In this review though, I am going to talk about our next cruise, which will have already happened by the time I publish this.  I hope this review will help anyone thinking of taking a cruise holiday.

It was April 2017 when I actually booked our holiday.  Yes I know that’s very early but for those of you who have booked holidays yourself, you will know how disabled rooms/facilities get booked up very quickly indeed.  As cruising is becoming ever more popular, I put nothing to chance as previous experience has shown me that the accessible cabins go like hotcakes.

We decided to go with Royal Caribbean as they had been recommended to me by a friend who is also a wheelchair user.  She said she had a great time and found them very good for wheelchair users.  So we looked online, found a cruise we liked and booked up.  We booked a 2-week Mediterranean cruise on the Navigator of the Seas, (picture above), inside cabin with virtual balcony and my time dining.

I have supplied a video of our accessible room at the bottom of this review, for you to see for yourself.

Royal Caribbean Website

Unfortunately, their website designer should be sacked immediately.  RC website is one of the most confusing websites I’ve ever had the misfortune of browsing.  It is practically impossible to find the information disabled passengers would/may require and if you do manage it, don’t expect to find it again.  Bits of information on their site seems to appear, disappear and reappear again……Very confusing indeed!!

To initially book your cruise, everything seemed to go according to plan but once we booked and wanted to find more information at our leisure, this is where things became a bit twilight zone!!  Forget finding out how accessible the ports are, there’s no information regarding that whatsoever.  I have supplied links at the end of this review, taking you to different sites that help with this type of information.

In my experience, their site seems to contradict itself in many places.  Especially where excursions are concerned, see the Accessible Excursions section.

Accessible Excursions

Why book a cruise?

So the first thing you should obviously do, is decide if cruising is for you, after all, it’s not everybody’s cup of tea.

  • If your cruise starts from a port in your country, then boarding the ship should be pretty simple and easy.
  • You arrive at the port, your car is parked for you (Not all car parks offer this).
  • Your luggage is taken away and boarded for you and delivered to your cabin.
  • You’re on a floating hotel and the world comes to you.
  • You get to see more than one destination (depending on length of cruise)
  • Many different bars/clubs to keep you entertained, all in one place
  • Wheelchair accessible cabins

To name a few…

Once you’ve decided a cruise is the way forward, you then have the wonderful experience of choosing where to cruise.  Mediterranean cruise?  Caribbean cruise?  Or even a Fiords cruise?  So many to chose from, how do you decide?  Well, there are a couple of factors to bear in mind.

  • Do you want to have to fly to get out to the ship you are cruising on and get another flight to come home?  Do you want to sail from Southampton (Or a port in your country) and return to Southampton (or port in your country)?
  • What countries would you like to visit?
  • Do you want to cruise on a large ship (up to 3000 Passengers) or would you prefer a smaller ship?
  • How long do you want to cruise for?  Length of cruise can determine what destinations you can visit.
Cruising As A Wheelchair User:  Is It The Best Holiday?  -  Front of cruise ship with blue interior lights

I think the biggest factor to keep in mind is if you want a fly-cruise holiday, or not.  Let me explain:  Some cruises, regardless of company, will sail from Southampton docks and at the end of the cruise, return back to Southampton.  On a fly-cruise holiday, you must first fly out to where your ship is docked.  Let’s say we’re doing a Caribbean cruise holiday.  This would entail you flying out to let’s say Jamaica, you then get on your ship, do your Caribbean cruise and then sail back to Jamaica or neighbouring country to then fly home again.  (Just remember, not all cruises will require you to fly home from the same place you flew out to.  Sometimes you will fly home from the last port of call your cruise ship makes).  So you need to decide if you want to fly and cruise, or just cruise.  Many cruise operators like P&O and Royal Caribbean (links at bottom of page) will offer cruises that sail from and back to Southampton, so no flying is needed.

Booking your Cruise

Once you’ve decided you want to cruise and you know where you want to go, the next question you need to ask yourself is do you go to the travel agents, or do you book directly with the cruise company? This really boils down to personal choice. Our previous cruises, we booked via a travel agent, this time we booked directly with the cruise company. The table below shows the pros and cons for both routes, please bear in mind everything I’ve mentioned is from my own experiences, so I can’t cover every aspect, plus this is only my opinion.  It is meant to be a helpful guide, not a rule book.

As I mentioned before, we booked directly with Royal Caribbean cruises via the telephone rather than online via their website, as I had a few questions before going ahead.  I found them to be very friendly and willing to do their best to answer my questions.  So we went ahead and paid our deposit.  One thing to remember….RC did not offer any child prices.  We had to pay full price for our daughter, (aged 14 at the time of travelling).

When making your initial booking, there are a couple of bits of information you will be given

  • your cabin number – now you can take a look on your cruise companies website and see where you’re cabin is situated on the ship
  • dining option you have chosen – most cruise companies will require you to book your dining option at the time of booking your cruise.  Royal Caribbean offers traditional dining and my time dining (this was our choice) – Explanation is given below

Traditional Dining

Cruising As A Wheelchair User:  Is It The Best Holiday? - Main dining hall - Big glass chandelier above table and chairs with white table cloths

As the name implies, traditional dining is the classic means of experiencing dinner on your Royal Caribbean cruise.  There are two seatings, first and second seating.  First seating is usually around 6:00 pm and the second seating is usually around 8:00 pm. Exact times will vary.

When you book your cruise, you can choose which seating you like. Typically families choose first seating because it’s harder to keep kids up later for the second seating.  You will still see kids in second seating, but there tend to be more families in the first seating.  You will be assigned a table in the main dining room that can be as small as two people or as large as 16 or even larger.  Royal Caribbean can also place you at a table with other guests onboard your ship.  Who you sit with (if anyone else) depends on a few factors but it’s usually the norm to be seated with others.    You can change your seating if you prefer not to sit with others or are unhappy with whom you are seated.  Speak to the head waiter to arrange a change, although changes are subject to availability.  

Source:  Royal Caribbean website

My Time Dining

My Time Dining is a lot like traditional dining with one big exception: you do not have a set time that is the same every night of your cruise.  You will still dine in the main dining room, but you can choose between making reservations or showing up and waiting for a table.

My Time Dining advertises its benefit as being you do not have a set time to eat each night.  So if one night you feel like dinner at 6 pm but another night you want to stay at the pool later, you can come to eat at 8:30 pm.

Like the main dining room, you may be seated with other people at your table.  Where you sit is subject to availability.  Unlike the main dining room, you may not have the same wait staff each night.  You can request certain waiters but you may have to wait to be seated at a table they serve.

My time dining experience once seated is nearly identical to traditional dining.  You order off of the same menu as traditional dining and can order as much food as you like from that menu.  

Source:  Royal Caribbean website

Once you have booked your holiday and paid the deposit, you then receive a few emails with all your holiday details, deposit/payment confirmation and a special needs form that you MUST fill in.  If my memory serves me right, I did mine via email.  Once you receive these, you will have the ability to sign in to your holiday account on RC website where you can:

  • Pay any remaining balance.
  • Print your Set Sail tickets – Time dependant – normally 90 days before your sail date.
  • Book excursions
  • Buy drinks packages
  • Purchase WIFI packages
  • Special event packages

You should receive emails leading up to your holiday informing you of any procedures or forms you may need to fill in along the way, so don’t worry.

Now we get all excited as our holiday is now booked….Very exciting indeed.

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Accessible Excursions

RC’s website leaves a lot to be desired and trying to find the information you want can be like trying to get blood out of a stone!  We’re looking for accessible excursions via our holiday account.  To say this was difficult would be an understatement I’m sorry to say.  Hubby was getting completely different info to what I was getting when we each logged into our account, to find the excursions.  Also, most of what RC advertise as “accessible” excursions are very miss-leading to say the least.  For example, we looked at one supposed “accessible” excursion but when you then read the description, it says you must be able to navigate the steps of the coach??  So how is this accessible for full-time wheelchair users or people unable to climb steps???  Very confusing!!  Then, when we view our online cruise planner, at the available excursions, we’re told there are 14 available but we can only see a handful of them.  RC doesn’t make it clear as to what excursions are for full-time wheelchair users like myself.

I was then forced to phone RC, beware…..they charge 7p a minute and whatever connection charge your provider charges!!  I explained my issue and was told he would put me through to the excursion department, where I could be helped better.  Only to find I’d been put through to the private excursion line??  He then told me I needed to speak to RC??  Oh my god, pulling my hair out much?  He gave me an email address so I could contact the department needed as they don’t do phone calls.  (If anyone needs this email address, drop me a line and I’ll give you the address).  So, for now, I’m taking a break and will email them tomorrow.

I emailed them the following day explaining I am a full-time wheelchair user and can they tell me if the following excursions are suitable?  I supplied the names of the excursions we were interested in.  Oh boy, the response I got made me want to punch my monitor!!!!  They gave me NO information regarding the “Accessible Excursions” I asked about but instead another form to fill in about my wheelchair. 

This was their reply:  Read reply here

You will see the number of questions that they ask and what measurements they want about me and my wheelchair, which I might add were already supplied in their “Special Needs” form I had to fill in months ago.  RC mentions the two types of excursion levels.  You are not given this info via their website.  There is no mention whatsoever that excursions come in two levels……Again, very misleading!!

Putting all the trials and tribulations to one side, being unable to take the planned excursions is not the end of your holiday. Most ports of call will have a town close by. For example, when we arrived in Rome we were unable to take either RC’s own excursion or any other means of getting into Rome but you had Civitavecchia’s old town by the bus station you were drop off at via the shuttle bus. So you should still be able to get off the ship and visit a town to do some shopping if you wish.

Warning! Your ship pass is your entry back onto the ship if you get off the ship at any of the ports.  If you lose your ship card, don’t expect to get back on the ship. Your card is not only for purchasing stuff on the ship, it is also your room key and your pass to get on and off the ship.

Your Holiday is Booked, Now What?

One word of warning, we found RC excursions to be astronomically overpriced.  So please, exhaust every option before you decide what to book.  I feel it’s vital to look into what you can visit without having to book an excursion, before booking your holiday.  After all, you don’t want to book a holiday where you can only take in the sights via an excursion.  That would be very disappointing and expensive.  Our last 2 cruises, we were able to see what we wanted to see by ourselves.  At one port, we did have to catch a bus but it was wheelchair accessible and free, as it was supplied by the cruise company to take passengers into the local town.

I wanted to know if RC knew anything about accessibility, like disabled toilets while at the different ports.  RC was unable to answer this question.

So I took it upon myself to do my own research. I have listed below two websites that I have found to be extremely helpful.  These websites seem to have a mountain of information regarding ports, where most cruise ships will dock on their journey.  One even sorts out excursions for you.  As I mentioned, excursions can be very expensive indeed.  For example, we would love to do an excursion that takes us to Pisa, this is costing £169 per person through RC.  So for 4 people, that’s a whopping £676.  When you have already paid over 6 grand for your family holiday, do you really want to pay this on top??  To take their excursion to Rome, they wanted £285 that’s £1,140 for a family of 4.  So for two excursions for a family of 4, you are forking out £1,816, really??  (Prices correct at time of writing this).

Cruise Countdown

Log in page for cruise countdown

Most cruise companies will have their own type of countdown to your holiday.  It will inform you of things like when you are able to print off your set sail tickets, luggage tags and info on drinks packages, excursions and special events bookings like birthday, anniversaries etc.

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Cashless System

Here’s something you may not know. To my knowledge, ALL cruise ships operate a cashless system while on board. We had to tell RC how we would like to settle our onboard account.  Our options were:

  • Credit/debit card –
  • Cash
  • bank transfer

The cashless system works like this, when checking in at the docks, your photo will be taken and attached to your ship account/card, which is then given to you.  Your ship card is then used similar to a credit card while aboard the ship to pay for anything and everything you purchase.  From drinks to the shops onboard.  At the end of your holiday, the bill must be paid.  Hence the options above.  Our preferred method is cash. Purely because we are terrified of getting an astronomical bill at the end of our holiday and not being able to pay it.  You see, it is very easy to get carried away while on holiday and not really be aware of what you are spending.  14 days is a long time to keep tabs on every penny you and your family are spending.  especially when you’ve got kids.

Also, by choosing the option cash, you have the ability to go to reception every couple of days, ask for an up-to-date bill and pay off what you owe at that point.  Remember though, RC is an American company, so your account will be in dollars.  Bear this in mind with the exchange rate.  Again, at the end of the day, it is a personal preference.

Tip: RC don’t inform you of this beforehand but if you pay your account by any means other than cash, you are charged a %5 convenience fee in the casino every time you use your ship card to purchase chips at the tables.

Boarding Your Ship

We took RC’s pier assistance which turned out to be the best decision we made, the check-in terminal was so chaotic I doubt very much we would have navigated the system by ourselves. We had a gentleman assist us to the check-in desk, sort out all our documents and then take us in the lift up to what I would call the boarding ramp/gangplank onto the ship. He took us up the ramped zigzag undercover gangplank, right up to the entrance of the ship itself. We were told this was as far as he could take us. We were now left to our own devices. Somewhat confused and unsure of what we should do next.

Accessible Cabins

All accessible cabins will have wider doors, ramped threshold into the wet room.  Sometimes you’ll be supplied with a safe in your room which, as with RC will be lowered and turning circle space for your wheelchair.

As an example Royal Caribbean advertises their accessible cabins as having;

  • Stateroom door width: 32″-34″ (vessel-dependent)
  • Bathroom door width: 32″-34″ (vessel-dependent)
  • No doorsill to get into the stateroom
  • Ramped bathroom threshold
  • Bathroom grab bars
  • Lowered sink and stateroom vanity
  • Roll-in shower bench
  • Fold-down shower bench
  • Hand-held shower heads
  • Lowered closet rods
  • Refrigerator in stateroom (upon request)
  • Raised toilet seats (most are between 17 to 19 inches high; commode chairs available – please request prior to sailing)
  • Accessible balconies (selected staterooms)
  • Lowered safes for easy access (not including Majesty of the Seas, where safes are located at Guest Relations)

Please note: Accessible suites have roll-in showers, not bathtubs except on Quantum of the Seas.

Source: https://www.royalcaribbean.com/experience/accessible-cruising/accessible-staterooms

I was also able to find information regarding inside cabins on the ship we are sailing on.  I found the following info:

  • Door width – 32 inches wide
  • Wet room door width – 32 inches
  • Toilet height from floor – 18 inches
  • Grab rails when seated – left-hand side

As a right-handed person with very weak upper body strength, it would have been beneficial to have known about the grab rails before booking our holiday, as I would have preferred them to be on my right. Hopefully, now you know this information, this will benefit you.

Note:  Our room only had ONE 240v plug socket.  It had two 120v plug sockets but I believe they are not good for European electrical equipment.  The video below shows more.

Our bed was so hard it felt like we were sleeping on stone, I suffered two nights in pain before I went to Guest Services and asked if there was anything they could do, thankfully they were able to supply a mattress topper.  This helped greatly but still wasn’t perfect. So remember, if you find any kind of issues/problems with your room, it is worth having a word with your stateroom attendant, reception/Guest services and asking them if there is anything they can do.

One thing to remember about your cabin, the door is a storm door therefore it will be extremely heavy.  So, anyone like myself with weak upper body strength you may find it very difficult to open the door, hold it open and manoeuvre yourself through the doorway.

More Blogs

Palins Holiday Park – Disgusting, Misleading & Nothing To Do!

How Accessible Is The Spread Eagle Inn – Gailey – My Review

Tapi Carpets: How Good Is Their Service And Products?

If you liked my blog, why not sign up to my Newsletter so you never miss a beat, or leave a comment below. If there is anything you would like me to blog about, don’t hesitate to Contact Me.

Train speeding through a station

Wheelchair user travels on a train for 1st time!!

Wheelchair user travels on a train for 1st time – I travelled on a train but will I do it again!! – I have been a full-time wheelchair user for over 15 years and I have NEVER travelled on a train…..Why? Fear!! Fear of being crushed, fear of being trapped in the doors, fear of my wheels getting trapped in the gap, my list of fears were endless! That was until 2 days ago when I faced my fears and went riding on the trains with a lovely man called Alan (@AlansTweets).

I met Alan at Twickenham station, where we were to start our journey. I arrived early so I could take a look around inside, to familiarise myself. Not much to see really, just a few ticket machines and a ticket office, which was closed.

We took the lift down to the platform and asked a member of staff if we could have the ramp for the next train heading to Clapham Junction on the SWR (South Western Railways) line. Not a problem, the train arrived and we got on using the ramp without any incident whatsoever. I have to say, I was extremely surprised as to how much room was available for wheelchair users, both Alan and I (both wheelchair users) had more than enough room to park our chairs.

Wheelchair user travels on a train for 1st time!! - Alan and myself sat in our wheelchairs in the disabled spaces on the train.

During our journey, Alan spoke about his experiences and the pitfalls that can happen. He said, “The key is to stay calm and be polite but firm when dealing with mishaps”. Very good advise indeed! After all, you can’t expect to travel problem free ALL the time, thing are going to go wrong, that’s called life! But, if they do go wrong, just stay calm and deal with it the best you can.

Wheelchair user travels on a train for 1st time!! - Cazbarr sat on the platform in front of a parked train.

We arrived at Clapham Junction where we jumped onto the Underground. Now I hope I have our journey correct below, it was hard taking in all this wonderful new information at once. I was like a big kid taking in all the new sights/sounds etc around me. But I think our journey went something like this:

Twickenham > Clapham Junction – SWR
Underground – Clapham Junction > Waterloo
Underground – Waterloo > Westminister – We popped out to take a look at Big Ben
Underground – Westminister > Victoria
Victoria > Twickenham – SWR

I tried my best to remember everywhere we had been, take in the sights AND remember where & how I would travel in the future and ask for assistance.

I have to say I was not looking forward to travelling on the underground, this was my biggest fear. Crowds, pushing/shoving all the things we all know about the underground. But I have to say, (ok it was approx 2:30 pm) but the underground was pleasantly not as busy as I had expected it to be. Don’t think I would ever attempt to travel in rush hour.

Wheelchair user travels on a train for 1st time!! - Big Ben clock with scaffolding

We arrived at Westminister as I asked if it would be possible to see Big Ben. We went outside the station and low and behold, what was staring me in the face? Big Ben haha, I never realised it sat right outside the station. So, we didn’t have far to go.

My only memories of train travel/underground, was as a child when my Mum would take me to Great Ormand Street hospital and we would have to use those big, rusty, caged lifts where the doors had to be slammed shut and then the big iron gate door had to be slid across. Scary days really (for a toddler). My one attempt at train travel as a late teenager is not one I am going to go into but be assured it probably was the reason I never attempted it again until now!

We then travelled back to Victoria to get on SWR back to Twickenham. Again, no problems at all……..Until we reached Twickenham and no-one turned up with the ramp! I pressed the red button so someone would be alerted to our dilemma. We spoke with whom I believe was a guard, explained our situation and then this announcement came over the train: Link is to a video Alan made of our journey, this is the announcement: https://twitter.com/i/status/1238576905135296514

Well, you can imagine how upset we both were over this. I think Alan was going to email about this. It was unfortunate that this had to be the one lip in our whole journey. Everything went lovely and smooth without any problems and then that happened!!

Will I do it again? Damn right I will. I can’t thank Alan and wife enough for taking time out of their busy schedule to take me on the train and show me how easy it can actually be…..Thank you to both of you.

Any questions, why not drop me a line using my Contact Page.

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