I had never been on a cruise, this was my first experience.
Although I believe there are many things to reconsider, I think it is a very nice experience to do for a wheelchair person.
The percentage of people with motor disabilities who choose a cruise is between 3% and 5% and if we add the elderly, as a category with mobility problems, the percentage increases considerably. Therefore the “disability” target in numerical terms is not to be underestimated, but it is evident that it requires an organizational effort from the companies in order to make the tourist experience pleasant and unforgettable for all.
For this reason, if a participation fee is requested for a disabled person equal to the quota for a “normal” person, it is clear that all the services must be offered with the same possibilities, otherwise a dedicated scout should be provided.
Below is a summary of all the inefficiencies I encountered from the time of booking to the end of the trip:
1- Booking: on the first of September 2018 I contacted the customer service for a direct booking, because, due to my disability, I didn’t want to contact an agency. After explaining all my needs, they recommended the Yacht Club as the best solution for my problems.
At the check-in at the Milan airport, American Airlines does not find a reservation with wheelchair boarding; on arrival in Miami the hotel room was not booked with wheelchair access and luckily it has been possible to find one accessible room; on board the MSC Divina, the concierge clerk told me that the booking of a disabled person was not indicated, therefore the two rooms of the Yacht Club for disabled people had already been assigned to non-disabled people. Although the room assigned to me was large, I still had to spend 11 days cruising in the MSC Yacht Club with a bathroom that was not accessible because it had a step at the entrance and I had to adapt with the bathrooms outside the room.
3- Tour organization
First excursion: booking for my wife, my daughter and me. Bamboo Beach VIP Package in Jamaica. To my surprise the transfer from the ship to the place of the excursion was not in any way equipped for the transport of people with disabilities, so I had to arrange to get on the vehicle by crawling on the floor with the sole force of the arms, as can be seen from the photo.
Arriving at the Bamboo Beach I could see that there was no accessible structure, there was no bathroom equipped for disabled people and I had to have two bystanders drag me onto the sand, which I had to personally reward.
When I returned to the boat, I reported everything to the concierge who put me in communication with the person in charge of the excursions with whom we booked other easier excursions on my terms, as he said.
Second excursion: booking for my wife, my daughter and me. Brunch with champagne: sailing and snorkeling in Aruba. Also here I found the problems of transfer and accessibility of the places already explained.
Third excursion: booking for me, my wife and my daughter. Cruising along the Panama Canal. As usual I had to crawl for the bus transfer and I add that the boat used for the excursion did not have an accessible bathroom. The duration of the excursion is 8 hours, I think the inconvenience is understandable.
Fourth excursion: booking for my wife, my daughter and me. La Bamba Beach Club in Costa Maya. With this excursion we have reached the maximum of inaccessibility, because, in addition to the now usual problems in transfers, I found myself in front of a totally inaccessible beach with even steps to reach it.
On the ship I met Captain Aiello to whom I explained the problems I encountered on the holiday. Very kindly he made himself available to solve the problems: the cost of the excursion to Costa Maya was given to me; he put me in touch with another person in charge of the excursions who booked me the last adventure reported as accessible also on the MSC website.
Fifth excursion: booking for my wife, my daughter and me. A day at the beach in an exclusive establishment at Playa Mia Grand Beach Park in Cozumel. While recognizing that the beach is totally accessible with the presence of a beach chair and a bathroom for disabled, I find it unacceptable that the transfer was not accessible and therefore I had to crawl over the bus again.
I think I can consider myself an expert in the sector and therefore I can declare that in the first case the disservice to the check-in is due to the lack of professionalism of the operators as they have not respected the process of profiling of people with disabilities who is certainly present in MSC.
Much more serious is the situation of excursions where it seems clear to me that there is a lack of knowledge concerning the needs and procedures that a person sitting in a wheelchair needs.
Millions of people with disabilities spend millions of euros on tourism, I hope to see this target taken seriously because it is not only ethical but it is certainly a great business opportunity.
Although I made a formal written complaint, to which I have never received a reply from MSC, I would like to say that my money is worth as much as other people’s money but my experience was not the same as their and my legs can testify to it ….