Handicapped(Limited Mobility) on a River Cruise

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#1
Brunswick, Georgia, United States
134 Posts
Joined Feb 2004
I am my wife have been talking about taking a European River cruise for the last couple of years but due to our work schedules were unable to travel. Now that we are in a better situation as started to seriously consider taking a River Cruise.
My wife though had a past medical condition that makes it hard for her to walk long distances without stopping and resting. We have been very diligent in reading all the postings in this forum and other forums related to river cruise travels and got the impression that European River Cruising might not be the best choice for a vacation for someone handicapped with limited or restricted mobility especially when it comes to enjoying the excursions that are offered over the course of the cruise.
Some of our concern came from reading about the limitations of using a wheelchair over the cobbled streets, handicapped accessibility to various attractions etc.
One reason for wanting to take a River Cruise is just to watch the scenery as we cruise the great rivers of Europe but we would not want to spend all our time on the boat and not get out and experiencing the country side away from the boat.
Would like to hear from anyone who has taken a European River cruise with someone who was handicapped or had fellow travelers on the cruise that were handicapped. Did they seem to enjoy the cruise? Was there any special accommodations provided by the cruise provider to assist the handicap in enjoying their cruise?
We would also like to find out if wheel chairs are available for rental once youarrive in Europe. We have a fold up wheelchair we have used in the past, but due to the small wheel sizes would be very limited trying to push over the cobbled streets.
The itineraries we are considering are: Amsterdam – Budapest, Basel – Vienna, Basel – Amsterdam (or in reverse).




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#2
Coastal North Carolina
5,499 Posts
Joined Dec 2005
I began a thread "Which River Boat Cruise for Disabled" which you can find down the list. I got some good information which will be a part of any decision we will make for summer 2009.

Meanwhile here is the web site for mobility equipment rentals: http://www.cruiseshipassist.com/ We have rented scooters for use on larger cruise ships and had good experiences. I don't know if they deliver to any of the river boats or not as this is all new to me.

It really isn't difficult to push a wheelchair over cobblestones once you get the hang of it. I'm 67, short and out of shape and managed pretty well pushing my 85 year old husband who weighed about 170 at the time. The larger wheels helped a lot!

We also weighed the pros and cons of not going at all vs. restricting some of our activities but still seeing as much as we could of Rome and the Eastern Mediterranean last fall. I would do it again in a heart beat as is evident by my posting on this section of CC.
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#3
72 Posts
Joined Jul 2005
I just returned from a Viking cruise on the Rhine. I didn't see anyone using a wheelchair, but one lady did have a walker. The walking on the tours was quite strenous in some ports. She did what she could and several times used a taxi which I assume was arranged by Viking. From my observation, I would say you could enjoy the scenery and some of the tours, but there would be some portions too challenging. You would also need to be able to get on and off the bus which didn't have a lift. Good luck.
Pink
#4
337 Posts
Joined Apr 2000
I've posted numerous times about my experiences with my husband in a wheelchair on two river cruises in Europe. Not only can it be done, it's not all that difficult.
And it certainly beats staying at home. Yes, there are cobblestones, and some places are not handicapped accessible. But the majority can be managed. I would recommend a regular wheelchair over the collapsible or "companion chair" types, mainly because of the cobblestones. We used the companion chair on the first cruise, and a regular chair on the second. We were able to negotiate some pretty steep places, and, in a couple of instances, out-did some of the able bodied passengers.
My husband enjoyed both trips so much, it made any extra effort on my part more than worth it. Be sure that the ship you choose has an elevator if your cabin is anywhere but the main floor, and also check as to whether or not there are steps between the lounge area and the dining room. We loved our balcony cabins, as we could sit outside and watch the world go by. We did almost all of the land tours, we were limited in one of the castles, where there were a lot of stairs. But we handled all the chair on all of the walking tours, and I can't remember a single one of the churches/ etc. that we were not able to negotiate. I think someone with a walker would have more difficulty than someone in a wheelchair.
I would say, go for it!
Be glad to answer any other questions regarding disabled travels and river cruising.
Karen Hahn
#5
North Carolina
31 Posts
Joined Jun 2008
We did Amsterdam to Vienna.

Things to ask about prior to booking:
Is there an elevator which goes to ALL the floors?
Will they be able to get you a taxi? How much? (some are expensive)
Ask for an itinerary and check the websites of those to see accomodations. Also ask on here.
Check out the pictures, deck plans, etc of ships you are interested in and ask specifically about them. Also ask on here.
Ask about buses and are they wheelchair friendly or do they have a step which will come down (in one place they did but didn't lower it until most of the people were on and then the cruise director asked him to lower it-what a difference that made!)

We had one lady on our trip who had one of those walkers that you can also use as a chair and it was a godsend for her. Most places we visited had elevators and those few that did not, she waited outside or nearby (the view was always so pleasant that this was never an issue). Of the entire trip, I can only remember two places that she could not go to but we all broke off occasionally and did our own thing, it was great. Also the walking tours have levels: fast, medium and slow. On the slow, they take lots of breaks.

There were a few times I did think that it would have been nice to have some place to sit and it wasn't available but one couple brought those fold up umbrella looking things and popped them open to sit down. But each place will have some type of cafe, etc so if you get pooped just have a seat and ask where you can meet back up with them. The cruise directors will be your best resources. They have been to the towns and are so helpful.

Have fun, don't let it stop you. These places are just too beautiful to be missed. Vienna was my favorite. Such a beautiful city, my head felt like it was on a swivel, there was so much to see. Horse drawn carriage ride was wonderful.
#6
Scotland
530 Posts
Joined May 2007
Hi, all good advice based on practical experience. I would add one comment related to the original query- Europe is not a place. Its lots of different countries and generic information that accurately applies to all of them is not available. Each destination needs to be checked out individually.
Good luck though and cynic that I am I sometimes feel "seen one old church seen em all!" Relax and enjoy the experience as a whole rather than a desperate destination box ticking exercise! Bon voyage
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#7
Brunswick, Georgia, United States
134 Posts
Joined Feb 2004
Thanks for everyones replies to my origional message. Having read them I was encouraged about taking a River Cruise but just recently I started studing more closely the literature provided by various River Cruise providers and became somewhat bothered when I read the following from a provider I was seriously considering. I hightlighted the statement that my wife is really concerned about. My wife does not need the use of a wheelchair on board the ship as she is mobile enough to walk short distances and walks up stairs. She wanted to be able to take a wheelchair when we are off the boat on excursions or on our own as has stamina problems walking long distances. I hope there are providers who are more handicapped friendly. Your Thoughts??

D
ISABLED PARTICIPANTS:
Any disability requiring special attention must be reported to Amadeus
Waterways at the time of booking. Amadeus Waterways will make reasonable efforts to accommodate the special needs of disabled cruise participants, but is not responsible for anydenial of services by carriers, hotels, restaurants, or other independent suppliers. Tour busses
are not equipped with wheelchair ramps and cabin doors are not wide enough to allow access by standard wheelchairs. Wheelchairs and walkers cannot be carried on tour busses, due to space limitations. Wheelchair passengers should be aware of these limitations. For safety reasons, passengers in wheelchairs cannot be carried on ramps in ports where the ship is at anchor. We regret that we cannot provide individual assistance to a tour member for walking, getting on/off tour busses and other transportation vehicles, or other personal needs. A

qualified travel companion must accompany travelers who need assistance.
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#8
337 Posts
Joined Apr 2000
Here's my experiences of three and four years ago with Grand Circle Travel on the Great Rivers of Europe and the Rhine and Mosel itineraries. We took busses a number of times, and the wheelchair folded up and was stored in the compartment under the bus. One does have to be able to get into the bus. The first year, my husband was able to do this without too much difficulty, the second time it was much more difficult, but with a boost, he was able to do so.
I've never experienced any times the wheelchair couldn't be taken on the bus. We used both a regular wheelchair (two big wheels) and a companion chair (four small wheels).
#9
North Carolina
23 Posts
Joined Jul 2007
We are seriously considering a Rhine River Cruise and I appreciate your input on this subject. I have a battery powered scooter that I use for travel period I am able to ambulate and would be able to maneuver a couple of steps for instance on or off a bus... on large cruise ships, I park my scooter and make my way to the table in the main dining room. The scooters made for travel and it's very narrow. Do you think that this would work on a Rhine River Cruise? Any input would be appreciated. Thanks
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#10
Brunswick, Georgia, United States
134 Posts
Joined Feb 2004
I did a European River Cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam in 2015 but my wife did not come with me as she was unable to fly. Some of my observations in regards to being able to use a scooter are:
1,Would need to make sure whichever boat you were on had a elevator or you will be going up/down stairs to reach different parts of the boat.
2. Due to the popularity of river cruising, more than once at a port we were tied up next to another boat that we had to walk through to get to shore. I do remember a couple of times having to walk up to top level of our boat to cross over to the next boat to get to gang plank to shore. I'm not sure in this situation the logistics of getting the scooter off the boat without having to pickup and carry by hand.
3. I have learned on our stops at the ports, there were a lot of cobble stone/brick roads, lanes etc that would
create a very bumpy ride. Also, from what I remember, a lot of streets/ lanes, alleyways are not flat and you are consistently walking up inclines some more profound than others.
4. A lot of the buildings you might visit at the ports may/may not have elevators to reach higher floors.

Final thoughts. Do your research on the different ships that you are interested on cruising on.
Call the River Cruise provider or have your travel agent call for you and ask questions. Make sure which ever river cruise Company you decide to go on will let you bring a scooter. (Perhaps a collapsible wheel chair would be considered but again a lot of streets are cobble stone/brick and will make for a very bumpy ride and put stress on the wheels/frame of the chair.
Not sure how long batteries last before needing a recharge, but might need to find out how long excursions are so can make sure you have the battery power for the excursion as don't know the availability to charge while on the excursion and most power in Europe is 220/240 vs 110 which we are use to in the States.

River Cruising has changed since I went in 2015 and I'm writing this using my experience over 2 years ago.
Hope this helps and have any questions please feel free to ask.

I hope you are able to take a River Cruise as one of the best vacations I have ever had.
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#11
Rhine, Germany
1,563 Posts
Joined Oct 2013
Perhaps this page by cruisecritic can give you some more info:

http://www.cruisecritic.com/articles.cfm?ID=1959

notamermaid
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#12
827 Posts
Joined Oct 2009
Hi cbc,

Good advice above.

Almost all of the higher end riverboats have an elevator, but not to the sun deck. Low bridges make that impossible.

I suggest you call whatever cruise companies interest you and give them the dimensions of your scooter.

IIRC, there were people who used scooters on our recent Danube cruise with Avalon Wwaterways.

Ira
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#13
South Florida & Shenandoah Valley, VA
4,750 Posts
Joined Jan 2008
One other thing to consider is that river cruise cabins are generally smaller than those on ocean cruise ships. When talking to any cruise line, check and ensure that there is storage space in your cabin if the ship does not provide a separate space (I've never heard of one that does).