We are regular cruisers with Princess and think they are fabulous but booked the Royal Caribbean (RCCL) as there were a party of 7 of us, myself & disabled hubby (in an electric wheelchair), 2 kids, 2 parents aged 70 & my 38 year old brother, and we got a great deal on the holiday. Now I wished Id stuck to Princess and paid extra!!
we travelled from Edinburgh to Venice on Jet2.com (booked through RCCL).
when we arrived at Edinburgh airport & went to check in with Jet2. we checked in as a party of 7, then after weighing the cases(all were under weight limit) and checking the passports we were told we would need to pay for our checked luggage. i explained that we booked a package through yourselves & RCCL and this was all part of our package. she didn't understand what i was meaning and she called over a supervisor who never listened to me and just kept repeating that the bags have got to be paid upfront before we check them on. I showed her our paperwork that we printed off and still no further forward. 40 mins later she made a phone call , came of the call and said to her supervisor that we had paid £10 for each cases online at jet2 and that we were free to go!!! This is something i obviously never done and Ive no idea where she got her information from. but she let us go through anyway.
She also told us that the flight would be boarding at 6.50am but could we be at the gate for 6.30am so we could get on the plane first.
We we at the gate for 6.25am and sat waiting until 7.00am!! the excuse they gave was that they could not find anyone "free" to escort us out to the plane.!
they eventually found someone, they took us out to the tarmac and put us on a ambulance lift, then drove it out to the plane, meanwhile the man escorting us asked how far my hubby could walk, he said he cant walk, only a couple of steps with the aid of his crutches. the man then explained that he could not take his wheelchair on the plane and that he would have to sit on a regular seat. We explained that when booking the holiday we said that Tommy could not come out his wheelchair, and the travel agent said that wouldn't be a problem as his chair could go inside the plane & he could sit on it, they explained that couldn't happen and that he would have to sit in a regular seat. By this time we are at the door of the plane and the other passengers are boarding via the stairs, the man is talking to the air hostess who then goes into the cockpit and the pilot comes out. I'm invited on board and the pilot and air hostess are explaining that no way is a wheelchair allowed on board the aircraft and that it has to be dismantled and put in the hold. I explained that the chair doesn't fold down ( this was also explained at the time of booking and also on the health forms we had to fill in). the air hostess & the pilot were very nice and quite sympathetic but said they only way we could fly was to sit on a regular seat. by this time the plane was now full and my hubby was still sitting in his wheelchair on the ambulance lift. With great difficulty and in much pain he was shown to his seat in the 3rd row, while all the passengers looked on, some tutting and making comments as the flight was now late due to all the palaver. the air hostess explained that she requested that we were on board the aircraft first before the other passengers to avoid the embarrassment that was taking place. we told her that we had sat for 35 mins waiting for someone to collect us. both air hostess and the pilot were going to put in a complaint with the airport re the collection etc. they apologised profusely and asked about out return flight and said they would make a few phone calls so that this would not happen on the return journey.
after hubby's excruciating flight we arrived in Venice and went to the RCCL rep, we showed her the letter that we had received from RCCL saying we have wheelchair assistance on both arrival and departure at both airports and also transfers to and from the ship. the RCCl rep said that we will need to get on a bus, I asked if it was wheelchair accessible and she said NO, that he would have to climb the stairs onto the bus. Then i just exploded!! told her that he CANNOT climb stairs due to the fractures in his spine and pelvis and offered to show her our doctors letter confirming this. She didn't want to see the letter. then I apologised for losing my cool and explained about all the hassle we had had at the airport & on the flight. She made a phone call and within 10 mins a wheelchair accessible people carrier arrived and got us into the car. he was a lovely man and very helpful, and wouldn't let me help him with the luggage etc, saying it was his job.
When we arrived at the cruise terminal it was chaos, we went up to the desk and explained we needed wheelchair assistance, the lady pointed to another desk where we checked in and was given our cruise cards. Then she looked right past us and said "next please"!! I explained that we needed help getting on the ship with the wheelchair etc, she just shouted something in Italian and asked us to step aside that someone will be with us shortly.
The ship itself is lovely and the wheelchair accessible cabin is great and a great size to manoeuvre the wheelchair around.
after settling in we made our way to the Windjammer restaurant (self service), we knew it would be busy, as are most ships on the first day.
there was no one around to help me with the wheelchair & plates etc. I eventually found someone and asked for help, he said he would be over in a couple of minutes & we never saw him again!! so we struggled on ourselves and hubby couldn't read the name plates for the food, as they were at the top of the glass panel, so i was reading everything out to him and people were getting really frustrated and telling us to hurry up! Not that there was even a queue it was just a free for all. Then when we finally managed to get a table, the tables were all too low for the wheelchair (the arm rest plates) to go under. So he had to eat his food with about a 10inch gap between him and the table.
We only ate in the Windjammer twice throughout the whole holiday due to this and each time was exactly the same and no help whatsoever was offered. each time the food was cold, my parents and brother used the windjammer everyday for lunch and each day their food was cold too, there were so many people saying the same. But unless you want a burger, pizza or sandwich there was no other place to go for "hot" food.
one the first day on board we went to the pursers desk to ask about tours etc and accessible buses. we were told there were none!! Not for even one of the ports of call.
Bari in particular was one of the places we wanted to go, I asked about that at the desk the night before we docked. the girl behind the desk said it was only 1km away from the port and that we could walk it. We were delighted and all 7 of us looked forward to wandering around Bari. That night we decided that we would all get shuttle bus tickets to get into Bari (as my parents are both nearly 70 and that would have been quite a walk for them) and hubby would ride his electric wheelchair into town and meet us. i went down to the desk the morning we docked and bought 6 shuttle tickets at a cost of $14 each. while she was sorting this out I explained about the wheelchair etc and that hubby would meet us there, she asked who had told me it was only 1km away, i told her it was a girl from last night at the desk, she said it was more like 2km, maybe more! hubby's chair can only do 5km on one charge so we were a bit worried about that. When we got off the ship the RCCL Italian rep & bus driver confirmed it was more likely to be a min of 4km each way!! I was so angry at the conflicting information from each person I spoke too. and no one seemed to have correct information about anything.
We never had a day in Bari in the end, or any other port for that matter, all we done was got off and had a walk along the harbour/marina & went back on board, very disappointed is an understatement!!
After dinner that night I went to the pursers desk to explain how unhappy i was at purchasing these tickets etc and that we couldn't use them. the queue was huge as normal and when I was waiting in line an Officer approached the desk, he was hanging around waiting for someone and asked me how I was and if there was anything he could help , instead of waiting in the queue. I explained what happened, his unbelievable reply was "sometimes these things happen Mam" and walked away!!!!
the guest services is a joke! they are not interested unless they are selling you something.
I made sure that all was in place with a manager at the pursers desk for our return trip
On our return trip to the airport, we had a car waiting for us, we arrived at the airport and check in went smoothly, then when we got to the xray machines etc, a member of staff come up to us and said that jet2 had requested hubby gets out his electric wheelchair and goes into a manual airport wheelchair. With 2.5hrs until we were due to fly, we asked if he was going to get an escort to push his chair until departure, as i had the 2 kids and our 4 pieces of hand luggage and hubby cant self propel a wheelchair. the man told him no, he would need to leave him there but he had to go in a manual chair. Again I blew my top and the man was very apologetic and said it wasn't his decision, it was a request from Jet2. he went on the phone and had an argument with whoever was on the other end and then said it was fine for hubby to remain in his own chair.
all these things put a huge strain on my husband and the rest of us.
the cabin staff were nice and kept the room clean etc, but every time you saw them they went on about how they get no wages and rely only on tips to make a living, this must have been mentioned at least 4 or 5 times, throughout the week. the maid in my parents cabin also gave them the same story. Whether its true or not, I don't want to be bullied into tipping. We did tip all the required people but I don't think it should be mentioned at every opportunity.
the itinerary stated in the cruise Compass was never accurate, parades starting earlier or later than stated, and sales that stated they were on from 10am til 10pm when they were only on for an hour at 10pm. Most things just contradicting what was printed.
The pig & whistle is a lovely quaint bar that both my parents & brother went too, but there are so many tables and chairs crammed into it that there is no room for a wheelchair.
Ice show was fantastic & Beatles maniacs was very good, other than that the entertainment is rubbish!! being used to Princess entertainment which is fantastic, we we sorely disappointed. belly flop competitions! Mr & Mrs Quiz! Bingo etc, are we at a Butlins holiday camp???
the cruise director Mercedes, was never seen on the ship other that at the shows. She didn't mingle with guests like previous ships Ive been on.
drinks are sooo over priced.
Every opportunity they are trying to sell you something, whether it be photos or trips or whatever.
One photographer looked at me in disgust when he interrupted our meal to take a photo, i told him to come back after our meal if he wanted to take one then. he never returned.
kids enjoyed the kids club.
Overall the holiday was a waste of money, there was no relaxing and enjoyment on mine or hubby's part, we were so uptight and angry most of the time that it completely spoiled it for us.
RCCL are an American company who say they cater for disabled/wheelchair passengers, but in my opinion this ship does not cater for wheelchairs.
What is the point in spending your money to go on a cruise, that have no accessible facilities for tours, no space in the pub to enjoy a drink and no room to sit eat lunch.
we booked two cruises at the time and are due to cruise on the Grandeur of the seas at the end of July & I regret booking this too.
my hubby doesn't want to go as he doesn't want the same hassle again and to be honest I'm dreading it too.
I don't think anyone knows how difficult it is being a disabled wheelchair user or a carer and what struggles they encounter on a daily basis in everyday life, never mind the organisation and preparation put into a family holiday. hubby hates being in a wheelchair and has been trying very hard to accept it and he hates for a big fuss and hassle to be made over him, so when things have meant to be arranged and put in place and this doesn't happen, and you to have to fight for what has supposed to be put in place for him, is just embarrassing and very upsetting for us all, especially my husband.
My husband was a perfectly healthy guy until 3 years ago, aged 38, when he was involved in a horrific crush accident at work.
we aren't people who moan about the slightest thing, we just want to enjoy our holiday the same as everyone else.
I think RCCL are the most disorganised, inconsiderate, unhelpful company we have ever travelled with and will not travel with them again.