Written by Chillie Falls for AccessAdventure.net from a Press Release from Holland America November 6, 2023. Chillie uses a #whill_us Model C2 Power Chair.
Holland America Line is introducing new accessible tours on its 2024 Caribbean itineraries designed for guests with all levels of accessibility. Travelers can choose among 13 new tours, spanning 12 ports in 11 countries and territories. These tours enable guests to explore a destination’s nature, culture and cuisine without worrying about accessibility. The excursions offer a range of experiences, from waterfalls and sea turtles to tequila and rum.
When I read this, it literally brought tears to my eyes. HAL, while not perfect, is one of the best cruise lines on accessibility, and work to get better everyday. My friend and disability advocate Kristy Durso, works with the line often and it shows with the response by the ships. Other lines need to follow this example.
The first thing I do upon embarkation for a cruise, is take care of the muster drill so I don’t have to worry about it later. The second thing I do is find the Excursion Desk. I approach the “agent”.
“Do you have any wheelchair accessible tours?’ I ask.
“Sure,” is the reply I usually get. “Let’s take a look.”
Then he points to one. See, this one only requires you to walk up 5 or 6 steps to get on a bus.
“So wheelchair accessibility means walk up 5 or 6 steps. And what are you going to do with my chair?”
“They will put it in the luggage compartment.”
“So, you are going to require the driver, who probably is a woman, to muscle up my expensive chair and get it into the luggage compartment, and retrieve it at every stop. Something I can not do myself. It weighs 118 pounds.”
“They can just take it apart.”
“So the woman driver has the know how and the tools required to take apart my $5,000 chair and put it back together at every stop on the tour? I don’t think so.”
“OK. So here is another one. ………some steps involved.”
So, how do you think my chair will do going up or down stairs?
“Well, you would have to stay at the top.”
“So you want me to book a tour that I can not get to, or even hear the guide talking about it.”
I hear this conversation, or one like it, over and over on cruise ships. The excursion people do not have a clue what makes an excursion wheelchair accessible. This same thought is prevalent not just for chairs, but scooters, canes, walkers or any number of other disabilities. Maybe Holland America is a start to change that thinking.
The company’s accessible tours are carefully curated to avoid steps and stairs while vehicles for the tours all have wheelchair ramps or lifts. I use a Whill ModelC2 power chair. This will be perfect. @whill_us
Holland America Line’s 2024 accessible tours include:
Easy Nassau Forts, Pirate Museum and Distillery in Nassau, Bahamas: The five-hour Nassau shore excursion includes a visit to the Fort Montague,
and the famous Queen’s Staircase, without walking the stairs,
and the Pirate Museum in Nassau.
At John Watling’s Distillery, guests can sample the rum produced there and learn about the distilling process.
Easy Harrison’s Cave in Bridgetown, Barbados: The tour takes guests to uncover the magic of Harrison’s Cave, explore handicraft shops and botanic garden areas and see an exhibit of indigenous artifacts excavated from sites nearby.
Easy Sea Turtles and Island Drive in George Town, Grand Cayman: This Grand Cayman shore excursion visits the Cayman Turtle Centre, the formations of Hell and the Tortuga Rum Company. Travelers will also enjoy a panoramic drive past the Governor’s Residence and Seven Mile Beach.
Easy Roatan Monkey, Sloth and Iguana Interaction in Mahogany Bay, Honduras: After a panoramic drive to the Monkey & Sloth Sanctuary, guests can also browse the local flea market or visit the popular attraction that is the Iguana & Marine Preserve.
If you are interested in any of these, let me know. I will assist in getting you on a HAL cruise with an accessible tour.