Buyer Beware – Accessible Shore Excursions

Cruising is becoming a very popular vacation option for wheelchair-users and slow walkers. And with popularity comes change. And that’s a very good thing. Years ago there were almost no truly accessible shore excursions in the Caribbean; and although we aren’t exactly overwhelmed with them today, at least the numbers have increased.

Some companies have truly gone out of their way to make their tours accessible. They have researched the local possibilities as far as access goes, trained their employees about how to load wheelchairs, and even purchased accessible vehicles.

But still, travelers need to ask a lot of questions before they book an accessible shore excursion; because in many cases, accessibility is in the eye of the beholder.

Such is the case with an e-mail I got last week from a company claiming to provide accessible shore excursions in a region that has very few accessible vehicles. The message went on about how they could accommodate wheelchair-users in all their great activities, but they never really gave access specifics. Since the photos they sent didn’t include any photos of wheelchair-users and their website didn’t mention wheelers either, I grew suspicious. So I asked if they had wheelchair-accessible vehicles that folks who could not transfer out of their wheelchairs could ride in. I further specified that these folks could not be carried or lifted.

The owner wrote me back and was amazed by my e-mail. “What a great idea,” she wrote, as if the idea of providing accessible vehicles on a wheelchair-accessible tour had never even occurred to her. She said that they do not have those vehicles, but perhaps they could rent one locally. Of course I wrote her back to tell her that she couldn’t, as they just aren’t available in her area of the world.

So although she wants to make her tours accessible to all, the fact of the matter is that a lot of lifting and carrying is involved. Now, some folks are OK with that; however I think you should put that information somewhere on your website, because many folks just can’t transfer. Plus I have to admit, if you can transfer, you can take a regular taxi tour and just put your chair in the trunk.

The bottom line is, you still need to ask a lot of questions before you book an accessible tour of any kind. And don’t forget the obvious questions, such as if wheelchair-accessible transportation is included. And like me, you have to specifically define what exactly wheelchair-accessible is. Remember, the only stupid question is the one that goes unasked!