RCI Drops Ball at Pan American Pier


As you can imagine, I get a lot of mail reader mail. Some folks ask questions, while others write to tell me about the good or bad experiences they’ve just had on a trip. And usually I’m able to give them some advice on how to make things go smoother next time. But every now and again I hear from someone who did everything right, but through no fault of their own, still ended up shortchanged on the access end of things. Such was the case with an e-mail I got from Kate, who told me about her recent (unpleasant) experience with Royal Caribbean.

Kate recently returned from a cruise with her aunt, a slow walker who uses either a walker or a wheelchair. And like many folks, she can’t stand for long periods of time. So Kate called the special needs department and requested pier assistance when she booked her Caribbean cruise. And she was promised wheelchair assistance and early boarding. And I have to say that Royal Caribbean is usually johnny-on-the-spot with the follow through on pier assistance; however somehow Kate and her aunt fell through the cracks.

In any case, with the assurance of wheelchair assistance at embarkation, Kate’s aunt opted to travel with her walker. Kate also arranged for a rental wheelchair to be delivered to their cabin, so her aunt would be more comfortable on the ship. Like I said, she did everything right.

Unfortunately when they arrived at the Pan American Pier in San Juan for embarkation, no assistance was to be found. As Kate puts it, “The representatives wouldn’t even give my aunt a chair to sit in, while waiting outside the building. After hours of waiting, finally a RCCL employee went to my aunt’s cabin to retrieve the wheelchair we had rented.”

If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say that the staff might have been overwhelmed with people needing wheelchair assistance at that time. But a two-hour wait, for a woman who can’t stand for long periods of time is far from acceptable, no matter what the reason. Surely someone could have at least offered her a plastic chair or a place to sit, even if a wheelchair wasn’t immediately available.

In any case, I encouraged Kate to contact Royal Caribbean’s customer service department to find out what happened, and to perhaps make sure this won’t happen again. Maybe they are understaffed at the pier or maybe they need to order more wheelchairs. Who knows. I do know this just shouldn’t have happened though.

The only suggestion I could give Kate in regards to future travel, was that maybe her aunt should consider traveling with a rollator, as then she’d have a seat readily available in case she needed a quick sit down. But still, that seems trite considering the situation. Hopefully her next cruise will go better.

Hopefully RCI will also do something about the situation on the Pan American Pier soon. But for now, at least be aware of the situation. And if you’re a slow walker cruising from there in the near future, you might want to formulate a back-up plan if you can’t stand for long periods of time. You shouldn’t have to, but it might save you a lot of frustration. And who wants to start out a cruise frustrated?