Some can’t roll where others walk.
Some can’t walk where others are able.
Some may be disabled, or seniors, or both.
Recent surveys show that one in four adults in the U.S. has a disability, mobility being the most common after age 44.
Adding to its list of cruise industry firsts, Royal Caribbean Cruises has partnered with a travel company specializing in broadening vacation opportunities for these guests.
Its president and founder personally road tests locations and experiences from his wheelchair.
“We did this because we have accessible shore excursions, but most of them are panoramic tours,” says Ron Pettit, RCL director of disability inclusion and ADA compliance. “It’s a bus with a lift or a van with a lift, and basically you’re seeing the city from a bus. Our guests want more of an authentic experience.”
Getting off the bus and looking around is a specialty of John Sage, whose Accessible Travel Solutions is now working with Pettit’s team to offer shore excursions that include accessible vehicles with wheelchair lifts or ramps, accessible attractions with flat or ramped entrances; accessible bathrooms with wide doors for wheelchairs; routes that avoid steps, stairs and curbs; and experienced tour guides familiar with accessibility needs.
“The beauty of this program is that we’re dealing with one tour operator who’s essentially acting as the middle person because he’s subcontracting out to other people in these ports and cities,” Pettit says. “And because he’s a wheelchair user, he knows exactly what our guests need, and has put together a collection of ports and tours that can help.”
Among them are Athens, with dedicated elevator access to the top of the Acropolis; Naples, visiting the nearby ruins of Pompeii using wheelchair-friendly routes; Rome and the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel using a wheelchair lift, as well as a visit inside the Colosseum; Florence’s Ponte Vecchio bridge and Michelangelo’s David; Berlin’s Checkpoint Charlie and the Reichstag; the Ice Bar and Viking ship in Stockholm; Tallinn’s Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the Mayan ruins, a tequila tasting and accessible beach at Cozumel; Jamaica’s waterfalls and Columbus Park; Roatan’s Monkey Sanctuary and iguana feeding; and visiting the Cayman Turtle Centre to get up close and personal with sea turtles.
Pricing is less than RCL’s existing “private journeys,” Pettit explained, in which “guests get their own driver, their own vehicle, guide and the whole tour is customized. But that comes at a cost.
“We were trying to find a product that’s somewhat mid-tier, somewhat off the shelf, but always with venues that have been vetted as accessible, meaning I can get into the venue, I can get out and there’s a restroom that’s accessible.”
Sage says he’s excited to partner with RCL, and knows “firsthand of the excellent accessibility onboard Royal Caribbean ships. Combining these accessible ships with our industry-leading accessible shore excursions will provide people with disabilities an easy and fun way to vacation with their families.”
For more information and booking email the Shore Excursions team at shorexaccess@rcclcom.