This is a blog post that I was hoping to write at the start of the year but other things came up and I had other things to write about. Anyway, this week I have had major holiday blues and I have been thinking about last year. The sun, the sea, the different cities, the cocktails, the parties…there I go again, reminiscing and plotting my next escape to catch some decent sun. But no instead I am here looking at the rain battering down on the windows, wondering what it actually feels like not to have to plan various outfits for the next day depending on the weather.
Yes, that was the life. Last year I was on a cruise with The Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas, sailing around the Mediterranean. It was bliss, except from the unwelcomed sea sickness on the first and last couple of days into our travels, that wasn’t the best. Although it’s my own fault. I don’t really like traveling by plane so myself and my family travelled by train to Southampton and got on the cruise boat there. So, the sea was a bit choppy until we got into the Mediterranean Sea and the weather wasn’t so good either. Once we got more into our holiday though it was amazing and you could hardly tell sometimes that you were moving, you just woke up the next morning and you were in a different city. It was the first time I had been on a cruise and I would definitely do it again, apparently when I was tipsy one night I said I’d pay for another one this year, luckily there was nobody recording me so I didn’t have to stick by it.
We visited 9 cities in 2 weeks including Malaga, Cannes, Barcelona, Valencia, Cartagena, Palma de Mallorca, Gibraltar, Lisbon and Vigo. Going on a cruise is great because you are able to get an insight into what cities you want to visit and out of all of them I wouldn’t visit Gibraltar and Lisbon. The reason for this is because I felt they weren’t very good in regard to accessibility for my wheelchair. A big problem I had on the cruise was that in mostly all the cities if we had to get transport from the cruise ship into the main area of the city, my wheelchair couldn’t get on and this is one factor that caused me to not enjoy my visit to Gibraltar. In Gibraltar, we wanted to visit Apes Den where you go up a mountain in a cable car and see all the wild monkeys, but because we had to walk from the cruise ship, we got lost and ended not having time. That’s not the accessibility problem though, whilst trying to find our way to Apes Den the pavements were quiet narrow and didn’t have matching dips at either side of the road. A bit like home really, maybe they just thought I was feeling home sick. Also, because we didn’t make it to Apes Den we decided to head to the shops and most had a step to get inside. So, I decided to just head back to the ship, suppose I can say I stepped foot in Gibraltar (well wheel). In Lisbon, it was fairly the same in regard to pavements, they were maybe worse, or maybe it’s just because it was a busier country. There was actually a pavement that went up to my footplate which means there is no way I would get up. Lisbon was also full of steep hills and because I don’t have much upper body strength it meant I either had to go down the hill backwards or have someone support my chest while I was going down.
Apart from these 2 cities I would visit the rest. Although I didn’t get a chance to visit Cannes because you had to get off the cruise ship on to another small boat to get on to land, which wasn’t suitable for my wheelchair. I also didn’t disembark in Cartagena because I had visited a lot in a few days and decided to have a resting day. I really liked Malaga and Palma de Mallorca and felt they were very disability friendly. I don’t know if it was because we stayed more in the harbour area or maybe they were more accessible. With me not sharing and documenting my experiences on accessibility on places I visited at the start of the year I can’t remember everything, but I do want to visit the places in the future, so watch this space. Obviously also with us visiting a city for a day, the longest we visited was for 8 hours and that was Barcelona. The best way we saw the most of a city was taking the Big Red tour buses, and these were great for my wheelchair. Although I have the advantage of being able to raise my wheelchair so I could see the wonderful scenery out of the window, but if you had a standard wheelchair it might be more difficult.
Being on the cruise ship was a holiday in itself, it was amazing. When I first got on the ship I went to the promenade, this is where the shops and some bar areas were. As soon as I got out of the lift and turned the corner I just thought, WOW. It literally felt like I stepped through a wardrobe into Narnia. Obviously, I knew a cruise ship was big and I could see that when we arrived at the dock in Southampton but I was not expecting that promenade. It was so vibrant and shiny it felt like the first time you see the castle at Disneyland and you just know this is going to be a good holiday. There was so much entertainment every day, great shows in the theatre, parties on the decks and watching movies on a big screen by the pool whilst catching the sun, that’s just to name a few.
The staff were so nice on board also and the only problem I had was when I was trying to get information about excursions when visiting the cities and the accessibility factor regarding them – could do better here Royal Caribbean. Another factor I have to mention here is the disabled friendly rooms. Our cabin room was massive even bigger than my own room at home which you don’t expect on a cruise ship, but unfortunately, I didn’t get any photos of the full room (just selfies in the mirror). My parent’s room and my brother’s room were tiny compared to ours and as a matter of fact I struggled to get out of my brother’s room and had to squeeze out of the door again to leave. Also, as you all know I struggle to hire equipment, like hoists, but on this holiday, I had no problems at all. The hoist worked great and I only wish the company we used, Mobility at Sea, hired on land as well.
Anyway, all-in- all the cruise was one of the best holidays I have been on and I would definitely recommend it to anyone that doesn’t have a fear of being on a ship. We did come across some problems like the transport that was available in each country from the cruise company, but it was manageable. I feel like I have gone on a lot in this blog post but it’s hard to fit a holiday of 2 weeks into 1 blog post. I haven’t even spoken about the experience I had on the public transport when going down to Southampton and coming back home, but I will leave that for another day.