Emerald Princess Cruise Review by billfishmc: Carried Around the Baltic
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Carried Around the Baltic
As a disabled person this was the most challenging cruise that I have ever been on, both on the ship and on the shore excursions. To get around the ship I use a small (fold up) electric scooter and on shore excursions I use a wheelchair. Our next-door neighbors and good friends, Dan and Ellen were on the cruise with us, which was great for my wife (she did not have to push me around all the time).
On The Ship Positives for Mobility The best part of the cruise was our accessible outside stateroom (with blocked view). It had plenty of room for me to move around on my scooter and the bathroom was equally roomy and well laid out (good job Princess). Also the public accessible restrooms were roomy and well laid out. The doorways to the outdoors areas were wide and usually automatic with low thresholds.
Negatives for Mobility The hallways in the stateroom areas were wide enough for a scooter or wheelchair but were usually blocked by numerous carts used by the More room attendants. This meant that I had to go up or down to one of the public decks to move fore and aft on the ship. But the ship had a "chopped up" layout. To get down to the Botticelli dining room I could only use the aft elevators
The elevators were small and with 3100 people on board usually crowded. The stairways were directly across from the elevator doors and a crewmember told me of an incident where a guest, on a scooter, backed out of an elevator and down the stairs. There were crowds of people everywhere. The Horizon Court cafeteria was always jammed packed with hungry cruisers.
None of the outside decks went all around the ship and on the top outside deck, one has to thread his way around numerous barriers to move fore and aft.
We had our dinners in the Botticelli dining room where the food was OK. The wait staff was very good and attentive. One night we ate in the Crown Grill (surcharge) were the food was good and plentiful and the wait staff very good. For breakfasts and lunches we ate at the very crowded Horizon Grill with its confusing food pods and limited food selection. In all of the dining areas the free coffee supplied was terrible (it tasted like instant). To get good coffee you had to go to the International Cafe. There you could buy a "Coffee Card", $25 for 15 cups of specialty coffee. If you had a coffee card you could get a cup of regular coffee (usually $1.00) for free. Some of the sandwiches and pastries were free, some were extra charge.
You could order a free basket of fresh fruit for you stateroom.
Entertainment The four production shows by the Princess Singers and Dancers were high-energy song and dance acts of good quality presented in the Princess Theater. This theater is set up with rows of seats like a movie theater. The space adjacent to the end seats of the lower floor is reserved for the disabled to park. Even though you are parked on the side the visibility is good. The other variety acts vary in quality according to your taste. There is entertainment at many other venues, which we did not sample.
General The hotel staff did a very good job of keeping our stateroom clean and neat and the temperature control for the room worked well. But the public areas had a cramped feeling. Many of the shops had their wares in the aisles, which added to the congestion. Overall the ship had the feel of a Middle East bazaar with everything on sale.
Princess Port Tours In general, you had to be able to climb up into and descend from the big tour busses Princess uses for its tours. The busses all had room to stow my wheelchair. After informing the tour desk of my disability we found that they reserved two front seats for my wife and myself (very helpful). I always got help on the gangways when entering or exiting the ship
Stockholm - We visited the Vasa Museum, which is very accessible. Fascinating old ship but so dark inside the museum that my old eyes had trouble seeing it. Later went to the Royal Palace were we watched the King and his family leave the Palace for Parliament where he made the opening speech. Then watched the changing of the Guard but did not see much of the adjacent Old Town due to the hills and cobblestone. A wheelchair ride on cobblestones is ROUGH.
Helsinki - We took a tour, which took us through the city out to the old village of Purvo (cobblestones) and then on to horse farm in the countryside. There we had a country lunch with home made beer. There were three steps to get in the back door. Then on to the Rock Church in Helsinki, which is accessible,
St. Petersburg - 2 Days with lots to see. Day 1 we toured the Peter and Paul Fortress in the morning. Lots of cobblestones but our neighbor Dan pushed me all over the fort grounds. We had lunch with Russian entertainment at an accessible (elevator) restaurant. After lunch we went to the Hermitage. To get in, Dan and volunteers from our tour group carried me (in my wheelchair) up about 10 stairs at the entrance. Once inside there were elevators and accessible restrooms. Part of the Hermitage was the private museum of Czarina Catherine the Great. WOW
Day 2 we toured Catherine's Palace in the morning. Not the least accessible. The palace is opulent. Again Dan and the tour volunteers carried me (in my wheelchair) up and down many stairs. Lunch with entertainment on the Palace grounds. We had an afternoon tour of the Grand Palace and Gardens (built for Peter the Great) at Peterhof located outside St. Petersburg. Not the least accessible. It is another opulent palace with beautiful gardens and many fountains. Again Dan and the tour volunteers carried me (in my wheelchair) up and down the stairs.
Tallinn I did not get off the ship. To get to the Old Town (the only attraction) you have to go uphill on cobblestones. Not worth the effort. This also gave Dan a chance to recover from St. Petersburg.
Gdynia and Gdansk Very challenging port stop. My wife and I and our neighbors were booked on a tour of Gdansk. Just when I rolled up to the amidships elevators (the only ones that would take me down to the accessible exit gangway) the elevators were turned OFF (terrible scheduling) because the ship was having a crew safety drill. I was stuck. We called the tour staff; Our friends were on the bus looking for us. Dan even came back on the ship to try to find us, but could not. The tour bus left without us. After listening to many lame excuses from the tour director we were give a complementary shorter tour of the Old Town of Gdansk.
The Old Town is a totally new reconstruction, but very faithful to how it looked before WW II. A lot of cobblestones and all the stores and restaurants had stairs at the entrance.
Oslo We took a tour of three ship museums, all were accessible. The first had two well-preserved Viking ships. One was a Queen's burial ship and contained many artifacts which were on display. The second displayed the Kon Tiki raft that sailed across the Pacific. The third displayed the Fram, which was used by early Artic explorers.
Conclusion - Accessibility is good in Oslo and Stockholm, very poor in the other cities. I was extremely fortunate to have Dan on the cruise and many thanks to him and the volunteers who carried me up and down the stairs. Less
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