I’ve received a lot of e-mail in response to my post a few weeks back about Celebrity Cruises horrendous policy about not providing information on accessible shore excursions before final payment is due. Many travelers told me they suffered the same fate as “Jane”, who originally brought the matter to my attention. But I think I also opened the floodgates, as more and more folks are writing me with complaints about other access issues on Celebrity.
I will say that shore excursions seem to top the complaint list. More specifically the lack of knowledge about what really makes a shore excursion accessible. In many cases passengers were told they had accessible shore excursions booked, only to have the shore excursion department cancel it at the last minute. The reason? They couldn’t accommodate guests who can’t walk up the steps of the bus and have their assistive devices stowed underneath.
Now granted accessible shore excursions are few and far between in some Caribbean ports, but I know they are certainly available in the ports that were mentioned in the complaints. It’s just that Celebrity doesn’t use those providers. And I have to say Celebrity isn’t alone, but they do seem to top the list for last minute cancellations. As one passenger put it “They call on these ports every week. Don’t they know by now what operators have accessible vehicles?” Good point. Apparently they don’t.
The bottom line is, if you want truly accessible shore excursions, then you’re just going to have to plan them yourself. There are small tour operators out there who have accessible vehicles, so just surf the net for them. Is this the way it should be? No. Absolutely not. But it’s better to understand how things work at Celebrity, so you won’t be disappointed, and left standing in the lurch with nothing to do in port.
Another big access issue with Celebrity are the balcony ramps (or lack thereof) in their accessible rooms. For some reason they designed their ships using portable ramps — which is just bad design in this day and age. Even worse, they only put the ramps up when requested. I don’t know why this is the case either. It could be a housekeeping or liability issue. And when people go to Guest Relations to complain, passengers are told that they are in an accessible cabin and that it has features for wheelchair-access. Nobody knows anything about balcony ramps. So don’t even bother with Guest Relations. It’s a waste of time.
So what’s the best way to get these hidden ramps in place? Ask your cabin steward. If he or she isn’t able to help you, ask to speak to the head of housekeeping. They know where these ramps are stored, and will be happy to set them up upon request. And if you want to try and tackle the issue yourself, have a look under the bed. In many cases, that’s where the ramps are stored.
Again, passengers shouldn’t have to do this. Although the physical access on Celebrity ships may be fine, the customer service for passengers with disabilities is horribly lacking. And so is the communication from the Celebrity/RCI Access Department. Between wrong answers, no answers and not communicating with the ships, they totally miss the boat on access and customer service. I happen to know that they are undergoing an access evaluation by an independent company right now, so hopefully all that will change in the future.
Let’s keep a positive thought on that one!