Traveling Mobility Impaired
Our party consisted of a total of eight this cruise, my wife, her mother and father, four friends (2 other couples, whom we agreed to meet aboard) and me. My wife rides a Lynx four wheel mobility vehicle; therefore, we shall be discussing some of those aspects of this ship with regards to the issue of being mobility impaired. We boarded on Sunday January 2nd and returned Sunday January 9th after taking the Western Caribbean Tour.
Actually, one of the easiest we have ever had, considering the lines. Last year, check in was easy on the Celebrity Solstice, but then we had to wait to board. This time, the Lynx allowed us to get past most of the lines waiting to check in, and due to our arrival time, board immediately. Since we live close to the Port of Tamps, our daughter and son-in-law drove us from our home in Lakeland to the port. We arrived at the port at approximately 11:40AM, and we were on the ship by 12:15.
Our first impression of the ship's dEcor was not good, and our opinion continued through out the trip. To call it gaudy is being kind. At its best, one of our group referred to it as Baroque. To me it just looked broken, and I doubt that it will be fixed anytime soon. Anyway, after boarding we made our way to the Lido deck, found seating, which I held while the other three went to get their food.
We were delayed in leaving port, engine problems. A sign of the times, I guess. But, the issue was corrected by the Chief Engineer, Matteo Cavallarin, and his staff, and instead of departing around 4PM, we left at about 7PM.
We had selected room 6234 due to it being handicapped accessible. I had looked on line while dealing with Carnival and booking this room, and was especially interested in the 'bowling alley' balcony that the ship plan showed. It turns out that the balcony is approximately thirty-three feet long by seven feet wide. On the balcony were three normal deck chairs, one chaise and two small tables, with plenty of room for more seating. Still, we had this great balcony, but, it was not wheelchair accessible. There was a six inch lip that made it impossible to use if you could not walk over the lip. The cabin was located Port side, aft, right after the stern elevator bank on deck six, the Empress Deck. It has a large bathroom featuring a wheelchair accessible shower with fold down seat, fixed shower head and, selectable tap or hand held shower head. There was an issue with the toilet, though. While it flushed, at least in our room regularly, it seemed to maintain a stench throughout our journey.
The room features more than adequate storage. It has four drawers in dresser, and one shelf, below the safe. It also has well as self in the cabinet below the television set. Note that the television is not a flat screen, but is an older CRT tube set.
Closet has limited space for hanging clothes, but two large shelves for folded clothes as well as storage for shoes, etc at the bottom. It does have a second hanging bar, but, it is located so close to the top self on the right hand side as to be useless.
Seating in the room consists of two small arm chairs and a small table, as well as a stool for the vanity. The vanity itself is of good size and has an adequate mirror and lighting. Also, the room had plenty of room to bring in a mobility cart and park it without hindering your ability to walk around in the room. The room also featured a King size bed (two twins pushed together, per our request) with two small end tables. End table had a lamp. There was plenty of lighting, but limited electrical outlets for 120 watt voltage. One outlet located at the vanity, for hair curlers, etc, and one in the bathroom for razors. There was a hair dryer in the vanity, in the top drawer on right. For those traveling with a mobility cart, these outlets are an issue. They were located such that you could not park the cart and use them with out blocking you traffic flow. So, we had to take out the battery each night and put it on the vanity to allow it to charge.
As to the safe, the directions are not real clear. I could not get it to work, even following their printed directions. It turns out that you have to put in the card you choose to use, with the magnetic stripe facing upwards, not downwards.
Our room stewards were Rodriguez Kelvan from Dominican Republic and Frederico from the Philippines. They did their best to meet our every need, and to entertain use with the towel creatures they made every night. But, there was one issue that they could not fix. You could see the stains in the carpets, stains, obviously from age. But, it became apparent that the room also contained large amounts of mold. It affected my wife's breathing, and the only way we could attempt to help her was to use the door stop to prop open the balcony door during the day, to let the room air out.
Note that the speaker system for announcements does not work in staterooms. The speaker is under the vanity and, while the television does go to mute when they make an announcement, you cannot hear it, as the speaker does not come on in this room. As it turns out, that they shut off the Televisions for the announcement, but, do not pipe the announcements into the rooms, except emergency announcements, because the majority of the guests are not in their rooms, according the Guest Services. So, unless you are out and about, the Lord only knows what you are missing.
According to my wireless card, the signal is very good, if you elect to use the internet from your room. Due to the cost, we decided not to, but checking the free accessible web sites, i.e. theirs, they load well, but not as well as our hardwired broadband at home. Perhaps half the speed of our broadband connection at home, at best. Note this when paying for the service.
The following will address other mobility issues that we encountered, not covered in the description of the room, above.
After muster drill, we encountered our first mobility issue. It has to do with the age, and disrepair of the ship. The disabled ramps on deck three, near Truffles, going out onto the deck on both the port and starboard sides are in good shape on the in board side, but, are broken on the exterior deck side. This makes exiting the ship impossible, as the Lynx becomes stuck on the sill, and loses traction. We found this same situation on one of the exits from the cafe on the Lido deck to the aft pool deck. Fortunately, the second exit to this area was still in good repair and my wife could exit there. We talked to the Hotel Director, Guna Chellam, on the second night and he promised to have them repaired. I checked on Wednesday, and found that they had been. This speed of action did impress me.
One major issue that is structural is the Casino. It is a smoking allowed venue without a bypass on the same floor. So, if you have issues with cigarette smoke, you have to either bypass it by going up or down a floor or more to get from one end of the ship to the other. This is especially a problem when you are going from first seating at Truffles to the Follies for your evening show. I know that this is not a mobility issue, in the strictest sense, but many who are using these carts have lung problems, as well as mobility issues.
At the ports, there is a issue as well, for a mobility vehicle. At ports where the boat is anchored, there is no provision for either an elevator or a ramp to allow mobility scooters and wheelchairs to get to the exits. You have to walk down least one, of not two, flights of stairs; this is assuming they allow the elevators to actually reach Deck A. At ports where we are at dock, unless you wait until late to depart, again the elevators will not be allowed to access deck A, again meaning you will have to walk down a flight of stairs to exit. You would think that they would allow the elevators to access Deck A on docked shore days and make better provision for this with mobility issues on days were they tender you into port.
Main Dining at Truffles:
Our initial waiter was a little overworked. Unlike the wait system on Royal Caribbean and Celebrity, we had only one waiter assigned, as opposed to a waiter and their assistant, at this table. We were in first seating at a table for four, as well. Unfortunately, this had to be corrected. We have a party of eight and found that we were assigned four at one table and four at another, separated by half the restaurant. This was corrected so that we could be seated together on the second night. From the second night onward, we were at tabled 133 and 135, which were adjoining and then combined into one. At this set of tables we had Ronaldo and his assistant Reuben, both from the Philippines, as out waiters. These two were a hoot and we enjoyed them immensely. The highlight of each night was the dance routines the wait staff had to perform. This was where Rueben, especially, excelled. He has to be seen doing the routines to really understand.
Initially, we believed dinners to be really good! Everything seemed nicely prepared. But, with the passage of time, we came to realize that they do appetizers and starters well, and steaks poorly. They tend to overcook medium rare to a rare state. Also, the Chateaubriand was not a true Chateaubriand. As to desserts, I admit that you really have to try the Chocolate Melting Cake, no wonder it is their specialty. I tried the Baked Alaska on the second formal night, and found that is was misrepresented though. It would better to have called it an ice cream cake, because, it was just a slab of ice cream (Neapolitan), between two pieces of cake with some whip cream as a topping. There is now way this had ever been baked. This was so disappointing, as I had been looking forward to it all day.
Elegant Nights, formal, but, not truly formal, are Monday and Thursday. I, for one, wish that the Carnival Cruise Line had chosen to keep these nights more traditionally formal, but, there decision, I am guessing, in keeping with the Fun Ship theory, was otherwise.
Breakfast was not bad. We tended to eat in Truffles with open sitting. We found the breakfast menu to be limited menu but generally good. It is true that the Unicorn has similar options, but without the ambiance.
Lunch in Truffles was hit or miss. They sent out two hamburgers at one seating, one cooked correctly, and the other hard as a hockey puck. This would not have been so bad, but when we tried to send the hockey puck back, the waitress insisted it was cooked correctly until we showed her the other hamburger, then she fixed it. Actually, in this case, you might be better served by having lunch in the Unicorn Cafe. It has a better selection, but without the limited menu and wait staff.
The Unicorn Cafe:
We were pleasantly surprised at the food. Last year, we were some what disappointed by the food on Celebrity Solstice in the Oceanview Cafe. On the Legend we found it to range from quite good to excellent. The one thing, I will say, though, is that the layout of the Solstice's Oceanview Cafe, or even the Mariner of the Sea's Windjammer was better than that of the Legend and the Unicorn Cafe.
It took some exploring to find all of the stations. On the Solstice, everything in is arranged like a food court, with the all the serving stations around a central serving area. On the Mariner, the serving stations were arranged around an outward facing circle. On the Legend, there are several, distinct and separated stations. These range from a pizza and a salad bar station, also separated, the most aft, towards the hamburger station just prior to amidships and the pool deck. Still, there were some items that did not meet our taste, and the pizza was one of them. It turned out the pizzas were not that good, and the calzones even worst. What a pity. Still, the Asian section did have very good spring rolls, and the sandwich section made some really nice Reuben sandwiches. Also, the ice cream and frozen yogurt machines are well used.
The Cruise Director:
We had Wee Jimmy, and found him to be quite approachable. During the second day, we encountered him as he discussed the cruise and introduced the Captain, Guiseppe Donato. After the program, he made himself available to the group for individual discussions. Three of us talked to him for some time. I even brought up Cruise Critic and how some of the comments about him were negative, though the majority was positive. He said that he had never read the reviews. He thought that some might have been from his early period as a Cruise Director. He stated that he had been a Cruise Director for a period of three years, and that there had been a learning curve in the job. He stated he had been with the company for ten years total. Actually, he was a really nice man. We ran into him several times during the cruise, the last being as we departed the ship.
We found that this cruise had very little in the way of daily activities that were suitable to our age group, i.e. early to mid-sixties and older. We did attend one trivia session the first night and a second later in the cruise, the cooking demonstration on the second sail day in the Golden Fleece, as well as Wee Jimmy's program. We did find the demonstration in the Golden Fleece to be poorly planned. Unlike a similar program on the Solstice last year, this one had the chefs on the same level as the audience, and made no provision for making it visible to the audience outside of the first row. In other words, it was not taped and projected on screens that allowed visibility for the remainder of the audience.
As to the evening shows, we did go to the welcome aboard event, and it was interesting. It was also the only time we saw the Captain. We went to the second night show, which as a musical history, of sorts, of Jazz. My wife loves musicals, and, even she thought it was a little weak, and the dance routines poor.
The next day was the marriage show. This was a hit with our group, as we were four couples and two of our couples were in the show. My wife's parents representing the oldest married couple, and our friends, the middle couple. They both, in their own way, were the hits of the show. Why, because my wife's parents, especially her father, were hamming it up and the other couple suffered from the husband going missing to get his camera. Not to be deterred his wife played, first with a volunteer from the audience, then another friend from our group, until her husband finally returned. You can imagine the confusion that this arrangement of potential answers would cause for them.
Debarkation could have gone better. We arrived in port a little before 7 A.M., and started to off load around 8:30 A.M. Since we had based our guesses on other cruises, we had assumed we would be off no later than 9 A.M., but, it was closer to 9:30 A.M., as they called the debarking numbers. Unfortunately, we were number eleven and not earlier down the list. Once off the ship everything went smoothly, except that I was told that I could not use my cell phone in the terminal building. This make making contact with our pick up ride more difficult.
Given everything that occurred over the week, while the cruise was not bad, it was not the best we have experienced. We enjoyed the ports, except Roatan, and the food was generally acceptable on board. Still, we would never do it again. We will go back to Royal Caribbean and Celebrity in the future, thank you.