Robert M. Fitch
Occupation:Vice President of Operations
Number of Cruises: 2
Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
Ship: Explorer of the Seas
Sailing Date: December 13th, 2003
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean
We were very interested in doing some excursion during this trip that were wheelchair accessible, we found once on board that no one was able to assist us with information regarding the accessibility of wheelchairs for any of the excursions, we were given the run around multiple times by the staff of Royal Caribbean no one ever seemed to be able to inform us of any available options for handicapped excursions (Very Disappointing).
We had also inquired about having the Cruise Director (Gordon) make an announcement about our parents 50th Anniversary at one of the evening shows, we were not sure if this could be done so we left him a message at the desk to inquire about this and we never heard back from him during the cruise. We did locate an excursion on St. Maarten that was wheelchair accessible "Shipwreck Snorkel Tour" and the staff on the boat was awesome they helped make this a very special day.
We had also inquired about a collapsible wheelchair being available for use during the cruise and were told this was possible, however we were not able to secure one at any time during the cruise. We had brought a motorized chair with us but it was not easy to use in some situations. We did find the ship to be pretty well equipped for handicapped people, elevators, restrooms etc. We did find it very difficult to get on the elevators as the amount of able bodied people who would not use the stairs for even one floor would pack the elevators causing difficulty in getting the wheelchair in. people would literally move in front of you as you were trying to get the wheelchair into the elevators almost as if it were the last elevator of the day.
Ports were pretty easily maneuvered with the chair. The amount of people on the ship (3,500) caused long delays in getting off of the ship in each port. All of the ports we visited did not require a tender so we could use the motorized chair. San Juan was a very interesting place we really liked the city and the atmosphere it was a very enjoyable city to visit. St Maarten was our favorite port it was just beautiful, everyone was so friendly great shopping and a wonderful island; I will visit again. St. Thomas was not as nice but still pleasant, not quite as friendly but still pleasant. Nassau Bahamas was terrible, a very run down overcrowded city, you did not feel comfortable or safe being in town, I would not recommend it for anyone. It is the worst Caribbean Island I have been too and I have visited many.
Overall our trip went pretty well we loved the ship but were a little disappointed in the staff of the ship they seemed at times very short in their answers and their willingness to assist you when you need help. I do realize that traveling with a handicapped person requires a lot of extra steps, however when you ask for assistance or have questions I do expect the staff to be helpful and look for answers instead of just saying "I don't know go ask so and so."
I would highly recommend this ship, this itinerary and this staff if you do not require special assistance, or if you do you are not wanting to do much other than relaxing on board. Royal Caribbean should review the program for passengers needing assistance and possibly publish information regarding excursions of any type that are available, as well as street maps for ports that are wheelchair accessible. We found ourselves backtracking a lot because we ran out of sidewalks. I do not want to sound negative I am only trying to assist other people who may be traveling with handicapped people, I wish I had known all of the things I do now before I had left it would have made our trip much more enjoyable.