Its been five years since my last cruise experience - also on Holland America. During that time, I became what one would call "partially disabled" due to repeated leg surgeries. I've learned to see the world from a different perspective and consider myself fortunate in that I can still walk, though I require assistance.
However, I did require a room with handicapped capabilities (toilet, shower, etc. and a peculiar issue with my infirmity is that it limits the types of chairs I can sit on to those with arms. All in all, when my partner and I booked this short cruise as a kind of test to see if I could handle the challenges, we didn't foresee too many issues.
The first thing I need to say about the Oosterdam is that I have the unusual perspective of having sailed on the ship shortly after she went into service and now 5 years later. I have not travelled by vessel in between. The ship has not aged well. HOA needs to freshen the look, change most of the carpeting, More
polish the brass in the elevators and update some of the public spaces. I understand that may take it out of service for a week, but 5 years without time in the beauty shop shows!
Back to the original topic at hand, however. We had some expectations for the cabin that were evidently completely incorrect. When we travelled in past years on some NCL ships, we noticed that their handicapped rooms were substantially larger than other rooms in the same class. Not so for HOA! There was clearly space for a wheelchair to maneuver, but that extra space was taken away from the already sparse storage. Additionally, while HOA is known for their roomy bathrooms with tubs (I couldn't step over a tub to take a shower), their handicapped bathrooms are claustrophobic with the space for only a small flat shower. The toilet might work for most - it is high and rails help with leverage, but the architecture made all the pins and screws in my leg dig into my flesh as soon as I tried to make use of the - well, you get the picture.
Strangely enough, the public handicapped facilities are not raised, so those of us who cannot raise or lower ourselves without difficulty are in trouble.
Seating in the various showrooms is another issue. The Vista Lounge has a row designated as "handicapped". However, on inspection, all the seats are sloped downward so anyone who tries to use them will likely fall to the floor or be unable to raise themselves. For strange disabilities like mine that make me dependent on only chairs with arms, there are groups of those chairs in front that can be accessed without using the stairs (another problem in raked houses), but you have to get to the room at least a half hour early to claim the seat.
Saving the best - or most distressing indignity for last is the issue of off-ship encounters at ports of call. This problem, I'm sure, is not limited to HOA - and they acknowledge it up front. But the inability to use the tenders or most if not all of the shore excursions because their physical limitations conflict with my physical limitations was certainly distressing and clearly limited enjoying the full benefits of the cruise.
I've heard that some ships now have wheelchair accessible tenders which is certainly a step in the right direction. I also acknowledge the fact that HOA and other cruise lines are dealing with countries and infrastructure often not responsive to people with physical limitations, but no effort seems to be made to remediate this issue and it certainly put a big damper on my enjoyment of the first in five year trip. Less