Cruise ship from Hell” inaccessible too

Photo courtesy of Lynn Dombrowski

If you’ve been paying attention to the news this week, maybe you read about that little foible that happened with Carnival Cruise Lines.

One of their cruise ships, the ‘Triumph,’ stopped working in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico (leaving thousands stranded with dwindling supplies, including three hour lines for food and sewage sloshing up and down the hallways). A nightmare for Carnival Cruise Lines, but for people with disabilities who’ve been on this boat before? A sense of sweet vindication.

I took a 7-day New Year’s cruise on the Triumph in 2001 (when it was brand new), and it was really good at breaking vacation-hearts back then too. This cruise (my family, bf and I all went) was years in the making and was my very first cruise. But after I got on the ship, I soon realized dozens of aspects of the ship were inaccessible (almost to the point of being offensive).

One of the worst – the elevator didn’t go to all of the decks. Seems a bit crazy, but the main elevator did not go to the Sun deck, cutting me off from hundreds of sun chairs (during the morning race to save yourself a spot), not to mention one of the loveliest vistas on the ship (pout).

And this was also annoying because I couldn’t get to the topless tanning deck. I guess they thought people with disabilities wouldn’t want to do such a thing (I just didn’t want the tan lines). Also, the elevator didn’t go to the juice bar or children’s play area. To top it off, the dance floor in the ship’s “club” had a step down into it (visually appealing, totally inaccessible). Everything I couldn’t do on this ship started to get dizzying. I wanted my $1200 back.

Another inaccessible part of this ship – the door thresholds. They were absolutely ridiculous. They were made out of hardcore wood, but were built up so high that every time I wanted to go out onto the promenade, I would bottom out like clockwork. Every. single. time. It got to the point where I couldn’t take the embarrassment anymore and stopped going out on the promenade (this isn’t something you should have to do on your vacation).

So after returning home from this unfortunate cruise experience, I did what any good crip should do and wrote a letter to Carnival, complaining about all the areas of the ship I couldn’t get to, or didn’t work for me (the bathrooms were surprisingly ok, when they’re operational that is). The sad part is that the only response I received was an apology letter. No refund, no coupons for another vacation, no promise to make things better, just an apology (and the ship has not been improved accessibility-wise since 2001).

And it’s not surprising Carnival has this unhelpful attitude towards disability accommodations. After the ADA was passed, many cruise lines were exempt because they’re headquartered (and still are) in foreign countries. Disability? What’s that? And it’s still hard to find 100% accessibility on any ship. However, as years passed, some cruise lines made an effort to make their ships accessible (especially when they build new ships). Royal Caribbean is considered one of the most disability-friendly cruise lines out there (they even have pool lifts!).

So perhaps it’s for the best the Triumph finally broke down in the awful way it did. All the bad karma the boat put out there finally came back to haunt it. Good riddance, and may it never sail again (and more accessible ships come in it’s wake).

Do you like cruises? What has been your best, worst cruising experiences?

Photo courtesy of Lynn Dombrowski

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  1. Liz says:

    I went on a Princess Cruise, and for the most part found it accessible. I definitely found similar problems though with the bottoming out on thresholds. Check out my blog for a full review of it: http://www.wheelchairaccessibletravels.com

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