This was our third cruise. We found cruises #1 and #2 to be the most wheelchair accessible vacations we had ever been on. But those were larger and newer ships. So, although we were disappointed with the accessibility of the Summit, we weren’t surprised.
Before I delve into the deficiencies, it’s important to note that one of the primary reasons we chose this cruise itinerary was because it ran out of Bayonne, New Jersey. This meant we didn’t have to fly, which was, itself, an accessibility benefit.
Here are some of the challenges we faced:
Tall and uneven thresholds all over the ship. I have a stud installed in the bottom of my wheelchair which couples with a receiver on the floor of my wheelchair van, safely locking me in place. I’ve had this for several months now, and it never bothered me until this trip. As I moved about the ship on that first day, this protrusion became caught up on many of the thresholds.
We called the maintenance department on the ship to help us come up with a solution. After surveying the situation, the maintenance man decided that the stud could be unscrewed, but he asked us to sign a waiver in case he broke something. We signed it. After removing the stud, I still found the thresholds jarring but no longer inaccessible.
Tender boats were not wheelchair accessible. We visited seven different ports. Five of them had docks, but at two ports, Bar Harbor and Newport, the ship had to anchor offshore. Small tender boats were employed to shuttle passengers back and forth between the ship and shore. On my previous cruises, the transition from ship to tender was wheelchair accessible. On the Summit, this was not the case. There were about five steps down into the tender boat.
On the second day of the cruise, Kim and I packed a bag to spend the day on Bar Harbor. We headed down to the deck where people were boarding tender boats. When we arrived at the debarkation point, Kim scoped out the situation and saw the steps. The crew expressed their regrets that the tender was not wheelchair accessible, and I wouldn’t be able to go into Bar Harbor. I explained to them that the iBOT, which I was sitting in at the time, could indeed climb stairs, and so I intended to go to shore.
“We will first have to check with our safety officer,” they explained.
“Fair enough,” I replied. “Let your safety officer know that I’m willing to sign a waiver.”
We decided to eat breakfast and check back later to hear the safety officer’s decision. We went to the breakfast buffet on the 10th floor, filled our plates with tasty morsels, and sat on an outside deck, where we were afforded an amazing view of Bar Harbor.
We had visited this tourist mecca so many times in our lives, but we had never seen the view from this perspective. There were two other large cruise liners in town, and we knew things would be crazy. We soon lost our interest in fighting the crowds in Bar Harbor and decided we would spend the day on the relatively empty ship. By the time we returned to the debarkation station to let them know that we were no longer interested, the crew had changed over, and nobody knew what we are talking about.
A few days later, in Newport, Rhode Island, we gladly stayed on the ship and enjoyed its amenities.
These accessibility disappointments detracted from our enjoyment but didn’t ruin the vacation for us. I’ll consider this a lesson learned and avoid older and smaller cruise ships in the future. In my next blog post, I’ll focus on some of the positives about this vacation, of which there were many.
click here for part 3
click here for Part 1