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  #1  
Old August 16th, 2012, 07:52 AM
swinster swinster is offline
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Default Cruise info required from Southampton (or UK) for disabled passanger

Hi All,

I recently post this thread title in the Money Saving Expert forums (http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/...1#post55181621) and one of the replies pointed me here. I have recieved some great advice over there with regard to general crusing info such as tip payments, addition expenditure (such as restaurants and drink that aren't included in the "All inclusive"!), and cruise lines as well as great info about accessibility, cabin location, and excursions.

We are thinking for taking my mother-in-law on a cruise for her 80th. We will all be newbies to this type of holiday but my mother-in-law suffered a stroke last year that has left her all but paralysed on one side. She is able to walk a few steps now but most of her movement is going to be restricted to a wheelchair. For this reason we were looking to sail direct from the UK (probably Southampton as we are based in Swansea) to somewhere warm for around 10-14 days - this means the med or Cannery Islands.

There are going to be at least 4 of us (to help with shared caring) so will look for a couple of cabins - one of these will need to be accessible. It looks like the cost of this type of cruise is going to be in the £1000 pp region for an internal cabin, so that gives us outr budget.

We have so far looked at Royal Caribbean (Independence of the Seas), but have also been directed toward cruise.co.uk and iglucruise.com as potential agents for cruises.

What has come to light is of course the need for insurance. Does anyone have any good idea on travel insurance for my mother-in-law?

Other hidden expenses are also a concern, such as parking at Southampton for 2 weeks.

If anyone has and good tips on anything from cruising, hidden expenses, accessibility or insureance, I would be grateful to hear about it.

Chris
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  #2  
Old August 16th, 2012, 08:58 AM
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Chunky2219 Chunky2219 is offline
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I'm a walker and wheelchair user and find Southampton a very good spot to cruise from. You ask a lot of questions! But here's what I can tell you for starters:

Southampton has several cruise terminals but generally all have a separate boarding line for wheelchairs. It often means you will get to jump the queue a little bit.

Several lines go from there. You can see the entire calendar, complete with some ship details if you look on the website. http://www.cruise-southampton.co.uk/ Some folks might disagree with my description and I have to confess to not having been on all of them, but here is a prejudiced view..................
  • P&O are the most "British" of the lines and the only one where you pay in £ sterling. The rest, you pay in US$.
  • Princess is silimar but a bit more upmarket and international.
  • Royal Carribean International is of the same type, but maybe with a younger clientele.
  • Celebrity is a bit more upmarket.
  • Cunard is generally regarded as the top of the pile.
  • The premium lines like Seabourn are irregular Southampton visitors and usually don't do return trips - you have to fly back.
  • Generally, the smaller ships (1700-2000 passengers) are more suited to an older crowd, whereas the mega ships like Ventura, Azura, the Princess ships and the big RCI boats have a younger end and often get filled up later with cheap deals out of the newspaper. Celebrity is probably an exception to this. I'm happy if anyone takes issue with this view, since I've avoided the big ones and am working on second hand inforamation.
Average age profile on board varies, with some of the P&O and RCI ships being quite young. On the larger ships and especially on RCI you will find water slides and rock climbing walls, with a population to use them. At the other end with Cunard you will find daily bridge clubs and a string quartet in the bar. All will have evening entertainment of varying quality but generally including productions shows, a comedian, a singer, a magician, etc.

This thumbnail picture is very superficial, so I suggest you get plenty of brochures, work this forum well and pick a ship and an itinerary that appeals to you.

All are suitable for your MIL, so long as she has someone to help her. You are right to be looking at a wheelchair accesible cabin and these usually book up fast. You might get away with a normal cabin and a shower stool, but I wouldn't recommend taking the risk if you are first timers.

Declare the issue when you book and all lines will ask you to complete a questionnaire in advance of sailing, but just about anything can be accomodated on board such as restaurant seating. Be aware though that they expect you to do the caring - the crew are generally helpful but not specially trained. Some ships will have a disabled coordinator on board - you should ask in advance and seek her/him out but it is not the end of the world if this is not available.

I suggest you find an itinerary which does not have any tender ports, or at least as few as possible. If your MIL can take a few steps then she can go on a tender with her wheelchair to follow, but this is very dependant on weather and you might as well avoid the risk. The Carnaries are good for this and reasonably accessible, but some places (Gran Canaria as an example) have horrendous kerbs even on pedestrian crossings. If there are plenty of you this won't be so much of a problem.

There are several parking options in Southampton - from the people who take your car away at drop off (CPS) to those who are a bit cheaper but keep your car remotely and drive you in. I prefer the former. If you book early then most of the lines have a deal which includes free parking. Another alternative is to find somewhere local to stay the previous evening where they do good parking rates. Some of the big hotels do this, but we know of a lovely little farm and also an inexpensive country manor where they will let you leave your car and drive you into Southampton for boarding.

Hidden charges? Yes, plenty for the unwary. All have a standard daily "gratuity" to add to your bill - this varies so see the brochure. You can cancel this on board but this is pretty mean and bad form so I'd say you should roll this into your expected holiday price.

Some lines add 15% to the price of drinks. Some let you take reasonable amounts of your own wine and spirits on board to consume in cabin. Others (RCI and Celebrity) are very stingy about this and your booze will be sent to the naughty room for the duration of the cruise. Soft drinks can be pricey and if you are on a tight budget you could take plenty on board. Drink prices range from comparable to a pub in the south to a bit of a shocker if you want to hit the cocktails and high end wines.

Excursions are generally about twice the price of what you could arrange for yourself but at least you get the peace of mind of knowing the ship won't go without you (usually). Some lines will offer excursions in wheelchair vehicles but these are not universal. Where not available you will need to stow the chair and help your MIL up the steps on to a coach. You won't be able to find out details of this before booking. All lines have disability help lines in the UK and they are generally very helpful with information but the quality does vary enormously. Persist if the first response isn't great.

Can't help with insurance. You won't be allowed to sail without it, but as you will have found from MSE, the best bet is to use t'interweb thingy and look, look, look. Most companies do not have a problem with a disablilty providing things are stable and there is no current treatment. Being 80 is going to be more of a problem, but you will find cover and I'm sure someone in that age bracket can help. Also, post the question on the Cunard forum - you see plenty of happy cruisers in that group on their ships

The forum doesn't allow travel agent recommendations so any posts will get deleted. The two you have identified get a good rep. We always use a larger one, which advertises as a cruise club and I believe is the largest in the UK. I have never been able to beat their price elsewhere and the service is fantastic. Others will tell you to book direct with the cruise line but personally I've never found any benefit from doing this.

After you book, watch for subsequent price drops. P&O, Princess, Cunard will not let you have the drop but you might be able to get an upgrade or some on board credit. RCI and Celebrity will usually honour the price drop and I've had three BIG reductions so far this year. A good travel agent will sort this for you; if they don't then keep pushing or speak to the line directly.

My overwhelming advice is just to do as much research in advance as you can and be prepared. Cuising is a super, super holiday for someone in a chair and I suspect you will take to it as well.

Enjoy!
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Last edited by Chunky2219; August 16th, 2012 at 09:16 AM. Reason: typo
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  #3  
Old August 16th, 2012, 11:15 AM
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Chunky2219 Chunky2219 is offline
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p.s. I should have added.................

Cabin location - midships is better than forward or stern if anyone is worried about mal de mer. Something with a window or a balcony is also a good bet. Canaries and the Med both involve a crossing of the Bay of Biscay, which can be fun. But don't get overly concerned, the ships are much, much more stable than the average car ferry and it really has to get lively for you to notice it.

Usually, the only drinks for free are juice in the restaurants and coffee. Everything else you pay for. Some lines do all-in (e.g. Thompson Cruise) but I'm assuming you want to go a bit further up market and they don't go from Southampton anyway.

Canaries and Med are both good but don't forget Norway if you are looking for 14 days. Several lines are doing there this year and 2013. The ports are generally okay by wheelchair but beware that some of them such as Gerainger and Andelsnes are tender only. The scenery is spectacular.

I hope all this helps.



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  #4  
Old August 16th, 2012, 11:28 AM
LondonTowner LondonTowner is offline
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A very good and detailed response from chunky2219. We have sailed from Dover and Portsmouth with Fred Olsen and parking has been cheap. We like FO as the ships are small and as they cater for an older clientele there are hardly ever any children on board. As the crew are used to older people they are very helpful. I don't use a wheelchair normally, but have taken one on a couple of cruises as walks can be quite a distance at the cruise terminals.

Although FO do include the gratuities on to your account you can ask them to tke it off and tip whoever and whatever you want. Neither do they add 15% service charges on drinks like some cruise lines and all charges are in Sterling.

We did a Canary Island cruise last December and found almost everywhere accessible. We never book ship excursions as they are so very overpriced.

If you are going to travel within Europe you should get an EHIC for medical treatment PLUS holiday insurance. We buy ours through Direct, but there are loads of companies. You need to get various quote as prices vary.

One of the key elements of enjoying your cruise is to do lots of research beforehand. You will find loads of information on CC and Tripadvisor.
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  #5  
Old August 17th, 2012, 07:14 AM
swinster swinster is offline
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Cheers guys. I will be looking through insurance agencies today and continuing to read up on the various lines, itineraries and general info.

I had though about Norway and Scandinavian, but rather just for my partner and myself. Both of us would love to see the Aurora Borealis at some point, but its not the sort of thing that would appeal to the MIL. She finds that she get very cold now as she has little movement and sit for long periods in the chair.

Cheers

Chris
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  #6  
Old August 18th, 2012, 01:15 PM
swinster swinster is offline
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FYI

The standard ETA insurance will not cover the MIL, however, the do an extended version that did provide cover. Approx £400 for medical only cover, £575 for all travel related insurance.

Unfortunately, Essential Travel's upper age limit is 74, so no go.

Flexcover - Gold cover (so all travel related insurance) + Medical Screening for her stroke - £320

LV - Essential £83, Premier £96. Both have her condition listed, however, neither premium covers ANY claim listed for her pre-existing condition - which kinda defeats the object of the insurance!

Age UK - £282 - All covered

Saga - £310 - All covered.

All of these were quoted for a single trip, two week break at the end of September to the Canary Islands
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  #7  
Old August 18th, 2012, 03:15 PM
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Chunky2219 Chunky2219 is offline
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Try John Lewis, which is provided by Axa. They have a huge list of pre-qualified conditions. I recently phoned up to get three other conditions priced, once of which I assumed would lead to a big charge. All were free.

Can't vouch for the age issue though - your MIL has 30 years on me.

Incidentally, your chances of seeing the northern lights on a cruise are slim. You have to get quite well north to be in with a good shout. Cruises there are generally in Spring/Summer to give people a chance to see the midnight sun. No darkness = no northern lights!

It's still a great place to see though.
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  #8  
Old August 19th, 2012, 06:32 PM
LondonTowner LondonTowner is offline
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Fred Olsen do a cruise to see the Northern Lights. We went on a Fjords cruise last year in June and all ports of call were accessible. We had a couple of days when it was warm, probably about 23C. Although most days it was probably around 15-16C.
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