View Full Version : Mediterranean cruissing with a manual wheelchair

September 14th, 2008, 04:11 PM
We are the parents of 14-year-old son who is physically disabled and has been from birth. He uses a manual wheelchair to move around. He is in good health and is able in certain circumstances, to help with his transfers. To date, we have taken two Caribbean cruises with our son but we have limited our outings to a few more accessible excursions.

Taking advantage of the fact that we are still young and fit enough to handle our son, we have decided to reserve a 12-day cruise in the Mediterranean during the month of August 2009 aboard the Celebrity Summit. The stop-overs planned are: Venice, Dubrovnik, Athens, Santorini, Naples / Capri, Rome (Civitavechia), Florence (Livorno), Nice (Villefranche) and Barcelona.

We are very conscious of the need to carefully plan our excursions in light of the challenge associated with moving our son around, for example in Venice, Athens, Rome, Dubrovnik and Santorini. We know that the Acropolis in Athens is already serviced by an elevator and that many Vaporetto stops are accessible in Venice. We have many unanswered questions such as:
Is the cable car in Santorini accessible as we have found no information to that effect?
Can anyone recommend private guided tours that have experience with disabled individuals in any of the stop-overs listed above?
Can anyone share information or feedback that could be useful for us or solutions to our challenges?

Your collaboration is greatly appreciated.

September 14th, 2008, 08:05 PM
The cable car at Santorini is not accessible. Even if you could go ashore by tender as you have to do with the manual wheelchair, although you can push the wheelchair from the landing to the cable car, there are about 10 steep steps up to the base of the cable car. I suppose if you had adequate help you could lift your son and the wheelchair up those steps, but it something we would not venture to do.
In Dubrovnik you can take a taxi from the dock to the entrance gate to the old town; it is steep downhill but can be done with care. Once in the old town, the main street is wide, level and pedestrian only. Many of the narrow side streets are not accessible being rough and some having several steps. But in my opinion, it is worth the trip to explore what you can of one of the sights of the world.:)

September 15th, 2008, 12:59 PM
The cable car in Santarini is not only 10 steps but in an enclosed space and the steps turn halway up. Looked more like 20 steps to me. We took the tender over and had a light lunch on the small port area. I use a manual chair when traveling. I have since learned that taxis are available on the opposite side of the island where the tenders for shore excursions go. If we are in Santarini again I plan on either talking to special needs to explain why I need that tender stop or just book the cheapest excursion offered. Once on the island we'll grab a taxi to tour with and make sure to be back for the an excursion tender for returning to the ship.

I didn't bookmark it but if you google Capri, cable car, wheelchair, handicapped there is information on how to ride it. I think the younger age and probable smaller chair will help. We did a week's vacation on Capri when I was still in the army so other than nostalgia no real need to do it again.

Villefranche is very difficult as there are small tenders from shore used. Once on land the streets are almost terraced up to where you could meet a driver and car or taxi. We were there when the Cannes Film Festival was going on 20 kilometers to the west and Monte Carlo was closed to vehicular traffic past the outer ring for the Gran Prix 15 kilometers to the east. LOL We had a delicious lunch on the boardwalk area and strolled the beach area above the beach. Be forewarned, your son may be fine with this as the beach to the right is mainly topless, shapely young mothers with small kids and teenage girls. The benches were filled with off duty crew members from Asia trying hard not to conspicuously stare.

Livorno is a mixed use port that requires passengers to be driven off the port. When we were there in May 2004 they had one shuttle bus with a lift doing a circular drop off into town with 3 regular buses. Livorno does have some areas with curb cuts. We lived in Rome from 84 to 87 so other than a short trip into Rome in 2006 I'm not up on Florence and Pisa. Italy now has many paraplegic societies that work on access issues including the new bridge in Venice and keys for lifts there. I'd call the Italian Embassy in Washington and ask for the Tourist Bureau. They'll then give you the number, normally in NYC, for the official government tourist office. They can help with a lot of questions and most these places will send you info packets. The Vaticon Museum is accessible and if you go to the Spanish Steps area that is fairly all pedestrian area so sidewalks and lack of cuts shouldn't be a big problem. You should be able to reach the Pantheon this way.

I did the Acropolis in 2006 and WOW, must do. Print off the directions cited elsewhere on this forum as many taxis still don't know where to go. Haven't been to Barcelona yet but have friends who have. Plan a lot there as it is fairly easy to get around.

It will be HOT everywhere you go in August. If cooling is a problem be prepared and carry bottled water. I have floam tires for travel due to cobblestones and possible blow outs. If he uses air bring extra inner tubes and check his tool kit when flying. TSA confiscated mine although it technically is medical related. Keep an eye on his backpack at all times and carry the minimums in it due to petty thieves. Gypsy kids see that as a challenge and think your family's crown jewels are in it--cameras, video cams, iPods, etc.

October 7th, 2008, 08:43 PM
Thank you for your excellent comments. Would anyone be able to advise us on the best way to transfer from the Venice airport to a hotel in Venice (wheelchair accessible) ?

October 16th, 2008, 09:11 AM
Thank you for your excellent comments. Would anyone be able to advise us on the best way to transfer from the Venice airport to a hotel in Venice (wheelchair accessible) ?

Buy transfers directly from Celebrity. It shouldn't cost more than a taxi. I'm not too sure that a water bus is accessible from the airport to port. A water taxi will cost more and be shaky on accessibility than a land taxi or cruise transfer.

October 16th, 2008, 02:57 PM
In Venice, you have the choice of a water taxi or a vaporetto. The water taxis are not accessible but the vaporettos are, as you access them via a ramp. Vaporettos are like public buses in the US, only they travel on water, and are the most cost effective.

October 23rd, 2008, 01:01 AM
In Venice, you have the choice of a water taxi or a vaporetto. The water taxis are not accessible but the vaporettos are, as you access them via a ramp. Vaporettos are like public buses in the US, only they travel on water, and are the most cost effective.
An extra plus for the vaporettos is that they are free of charge for wheelchair passengers. We only used line #1, which runs the length of the Grand Canal, and then across to Lido Island. There is space reserved next to the entrance for wheelchairs, and although the vaporettos can get quite crowded, we found pople to be considerate..

October 24th, 2008, 02:51 PM
We just returned from cruising with our friends, one in an electric wheel (can only be lifted out, can't walk) chair and one in an electric scooter (can walk but gets winded very easily).

My first comment is be prepared to realize that Europe is not ready for wheel chairs. That said though, you can get around and a push chair is much easier than an electric simply becuase it is lighter.

In Venice, you have a few choices from the airport.
1. You can take the Alilguna water shuttle (this is a water bus but not part of the city water bus system and thus a separate charge, the city bus is ACTV). It costs 12 Euro each and can be picked up after a 5 min walk from the airport. You can also catch water taxis at this same location but that is about $125 euro. The Alilaguna takes about 1hr 15 mins to get to San Marco Plaza and stops frist at Murano and then Lido Islands. From there you can pick up the city water bus (ACTV) to go to where you need to go for your hotel if its not in the San Marco areal

2. You can take the regular bus from the airport to the Piazzalle de Romo for 2 euro (and I think it is included in the ACTV water bus pass) and then get a 12, 24, or 36 hour ACTV pass and ride the ACTV water bus to your hotel area. The ACTV city water bus is 6.50 euro for one trip (on/off) or 14, 16, 24 euro for 12, 24, 36 hours and this gets you out to the islands of Murano, Burano, Lido so well worth it.

We took the Alilaguna both ways since it was less complicated even though more expensive.

We stayed in the San Marco area about 4 blks from the church at San Zulian Hotel. It's great and very ready for wheel chairs (except for the 4" lip to get into the hotel --no problem for a push wheel chair but a challenge for an electric wheel chair -- that's Europe). It was about as cheap as any that were wheel chair ready (160 euro/night). I would recommend it.

Getting on the water buses (Alilaguna or ACTV) is doable with a push chair but nearly impossible with an electric chair. The difficulty of getting on and off varies as the day progresses due to the tides and the resulting difference in height between the dock and the hoat. They do not use ramps. The two workers on the water bus seem willing to help.

Getting around the canal bridges is also a challenge. The big bridge near San Marco in front of Doge's palace has a nice big ramp but that is it. I can't understand for the life of me why they don't put ramps on the bridges. Some of the bridges (abot 6 througout) have an electric lift and you can get a key for the lift at any of the information areas; they also have a Venice Accessible package which is worth getting. However, the lifts don't always work and when we were there, the only lift that got you out of the San Marco area was busted so we were confiined to the one area except for using the water buses.

If you have to get from the hotel to the ship, you have a couple choices also.
1. The water taxi -- again very expensive
2. The city ACTV water bus (# 1 or 2). You can go to the Pizalle de Romo and walk about 3/4 mi. We did this and had no problems with the electric chairs, i.e., no bumps or steps the whole way.
3. The city ACTV water bus (#2) to the Trochetto parking lot. Here you have about a little less than a 1/2 mi walk and again no steps or bumps.
4. Alilaguna also has a shuttle from the San Marco plaza to the ship area (then a couple hundred yard walk). It is 6 euros but for this one they also charge 3 euros per bag.

We have the luggage with 4 wheels and they are a lot easier to roll when one person is moving 2-4 bags, it can actually be done.

One thing to keep in mind, both water buses take Euros only, no $ or credit cards.

The best part of Dubrovnik is the walk around the wall but that is not possible with a wheel chair. We enjoyed walking around the walled in city. A good portion of it is very accessible via a push chair and is well worth seeing. You will probalby have to get a taxi to the walled city but once there, there is no problem getting around, Our ship (Costa) actually anchored outside the walled city and then we tendered in and they alllowed wheel chairs on the tender. The street entrance has a large ramp and absolutely no problem to get into the walled area. I did try for several days to try to find an accessible tour via the internet and had no luck.

We've been to all the other stops: Athens, Santorini, Naples / Capri, Rome (Civitavechia), Florence (Livorno), Nice (Villefranche) and Barcelona, but not with our wheelchair-bound friends and thus didn't pay much attention to their accessibility. It does seem that one option is to just get a tour at the dock (i.e., a taxi) or rent a car and just lift your son into the taxi/car and store the chair in the trunk. We did that at one of the stops (took the push chair) since we couldn't find an accessible tour and it worked well; definitely the least expensive and most flexible way to do it.

Enjoy and may your travels be great. I'll gladly answer other questions if you wish.

October 24th, 2008, 03:42 PM
Do not think about renting a car in Italy unless you are prepared for some of the drivers they have: it can be wild and parking is a real problem.
Also keep in mind that Florence is at least an hour's drive from Livorno; your best bet there is to take one of the ship's excursions. However their coaches are not permitted in central Florence so you will have a lot of pushing to do. You may find a taxi willing to do this and they are permitted to drive in the center, but it will be expensive.
Same general comments apply to Rome which is over an hour's drive from Civitavecchia. You can not use the train because there is a flight of stairs to go down to get to train levels.:)