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  #1  
Old August 13th, 2012, 06:08 PM
MaggieA MaggieA is offline
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Default Best River Cruise Line for elderly visually and mobility impaired

My 86 year old Aunt says she has always wanted to go on a river cruise. I am having trouble figuring out which is the best cruise line to go on. (They all say they are the best)
My aunt is legally blind -- she has peripheral vision, and she walks with a cane. She is a slow, cautious walker esp for going down stairs. She is also hard of hearing, even with two hearing aids.

We are looking at cruises on the Danube since she would like to go to Prague, Vienna and Budapest, or perhaps the Rhine.

My aunt is a cultured, educated woman and good quality excursions would be very important.
Can anyone recommend a cruiseline that can really take care of all the details, the excursions, transfers etc that could accomodate someone like her, and also make it easier for me to help her go on this trip?
I read the CondeNast article on River Cruises and it seemed like the reviewer felt that the excursions were best quality on Tauck cruises.
Thanks for any help anyone can offer.
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  #2  
Old August 13th, 2012, 06:18 PM
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LHT28 LHT28 is offline
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Will she be travelling alone or with someone??

Most are a bit demanding depending on your physical abilities
Some have the headphones for the guided tours that may work for her
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  #3  
Old August 13th, 2012, 08:17 PM
Talisker92 Talisker92 is offline
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Dear Maggie,
I would strongly discourage your aunt from a trip like that. My wife is quite a bit younger, and has her mobility and vision intact. She finds it difficult to walk on the cobblestone streets in many of these towns.
We feel it would money not well spent as she probably could not keep up with the tour groups. The alternative would be to hire private cars to tour, but she would miss the interiors of places.
Also, the stairs on the river ships are quite steep, and she would have to deal with the
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Old August 13th, 2012, 10:40 PM
franski franski is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Talisker92 View Post
Dear Maggie,
I would strongly discourage your aunt from a trip like that. My wife is quite a bit younger, and has her mobility and vision intact. She finds it difficult to walk on the cobblestone streets in many of these towns.
We feel it would money not well spent as she probably could not keep up with the tour groups. The alternative would be to hire private cars to tour, but she would miss the interiors of places.
Also, the stairs on the river ships are quite steep, and she would have to deal with the
I must say I agree...

Your aunt could probably find a river boat that would meet her needs, as many do have elevators. But, she couldn't make it to the sun deck, wouldn't be able to enjoy the scenery (as a result of her diminished eye sight) and would be challenged to hear any commentary being provided. Most lines use VoxBox systems for shore excursions - and they do say that they can be used with hearing aids, but I haven't had that confirmed.

The cobblestones are brutal - even if you are sure-footed. And, many (if not most) of the buildings are not well set up for people with mobility issues. Lots of stairs everywhere. There is also the challenge of disembarking from the boat at some stops - as we have (on a few occasions) had to go the top deck to walk down a gang plank when the water level is low.

If she wants the experience of cruising the river - and would be content to stay on-board if the process for getting off on was too physically demanding, then I say "go for it"... But, she would need someone there to assist, and to work with the CD daily to identify appropriate excursions.

There was one gentleman on our Christmas market cruise that had a significant mobility issue following a stroke. His wife worked closely with the staff on the boat to identify which excursions he could manage. And, she always had an escape plan - just in case he got part way through the tour and felt he wanted to go back to the boat. Lots of money spent on taxis along the way, and he did stay on the boat a couple of days when there were concerns for his safety getting off the boat.

I wonder if your aunt would be better on a land tour - where you could build the excursions around her limitations with the help of a local guide. She could travel via train, and spend a few days in each of the cities that she wants to see.

If she really wants to cruise, then I would start with the deck plans of the boats (look for boats that have elevators, and easy access to the dining room) - and then look at starting a discussion with the various lines.

Good luck with your planning!!

Fran

Last edited by franski; August 13th, 2012 at 10:45 PM.
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  #5  
Old August 14th, 2012, 12:44 AM
swamp1sg swamp1sg is offline
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I agree that a river cruise can be physically demanding. I agree that a land trip might be better, but I have a few suggestions on how to give her some "cruising."

We recently returned from an independent tour of Germany. We have done a 7 day cruise on the Rhine but the people with us on this trip had not. We took a day trip on the middle section of the Rhine. It is a world heritage sight full of charming villages and castles. You can get off and spend time in a port and then get back on. There are cobblestones but the little towns usually hug the river. The main deck was very accessible and had food and drinks.

We have also done river cruises in Strasbourg, Paris, and London.

On our last river cruise, I had to wear a very heavy leg brace. It greatly hindered my movement. I will say that the hotel staff of the Viking Spirit was terrific about making sure I wasn't left behind. Often I hung back with Megan, an 86 year old Brit whom I adored getting to know. We were always in the "gentle walkers group." I seldom went up on the top deck because the steps were so step. The view was great from the lounge and we always booked a cabin with a balcony or large picture window.

Some cruise lines and travel companies offer 4 and 5 day cruises. You might want to consider that.

If your aunt is in good enough health, you might give it a try with the understanding that you will not be able to do everything. It will be challenging.

Good luck.
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  #6  
Old August 14th, 2012, 05:42 AM
caviargal caviargal is online now
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I had a group on Avalon in November of 2010, when we had the 20 inches of snow and every possible hindrance to a smooth trip came about.

One of my guests was in a walker and had to use it everywhere. The crew on Avalon as well as the CD were outstanding in their level of assistance to her. She managed on cobblestones and simply minded her steps.

They helped her get the walker on and off the buses and she did choose to stay behind and just enjoy the view in several ports when it was too much for her.

I asked her at the end of the trip how she enjoyed it, as I thought she would have felt her experience was negatively compromised by her limited participation, and she said she really enjoyed the trip, even when all she could do was sit and enjoy the scenery.

And they had Aquarium class so no elevator to their cabin.

I do think that it may be a good trip for her if her expectations are realistic as to what she will be able to do and if there is someone there to really watch out for her all of the time. This woman's husband was constantly at her side making sure she had assistance when she needed it.

I cannot imagine that any land tour would be easier, with packing and unpacking in every city and up and down tour bus steps.
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Old August 14th, 2012, 08:04 AM
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As has been mentioned, make sure the ship you are researching has an elevator. I don't believe it is the ship that will be the issue however. I did not find Europe to be 'disability friendly'. Most WC's were up or down stairs, they are difficult to find, and the cobblestones can be treacherous. Taking a folding wheelchair might solve some of the touring issues. We had a gentleman in a wheelchair on our last trip and the cruise line did everything to accommodate the chair on the busess but finding an accessible washroom was a very big concern.
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  #8  
Old August 14th, 2012, 11:51 AM
MaggieA MaggieA is offline
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Default Elderly multi-challenged aunt wants to go on River Cruise with me

Quote:
Originally Posted by LHT28 View Post
Will she be travelling alone or with someone??

Most are a bit demanding depending on your physical abilities
Some have the headphones for the guided tours that may work for her
Hi and Thank You to everyone who has kindly responded,

I should have clarified that my aunt wants me to go with her. She does already do some travel on her own, when she flies to visit friends and relatives, but she realizes she would need someone with her on this trip.
We already go to concerts, the Art Gallery and museums together here in Toronto, and the opera and movies. I am worried about how she would walk across a gang plank or deal with brutal cobblestones. I wonder if there might not be some better itineraries than the Danube cruise then.
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  #9  
Old August 14th, 2012, 11:58 AM
MaggieA MaggieA is offline
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Hi Swamp1sg,
Thank you for your helpful suggestions.
Do you think the Rhine tour might be easier than the Danube?
Do you think any particular cruise line might be better than another?
Thanks.
Maggie
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  #10  
Old August 14th, 2012, 02:29 PM
newlondon newlondon is offline
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MaggieA, You know the budget for your Aunt and yourself, but let me say on our Tauck cruise from AMS-BUD, we had someone that sounds like her clone. The Tauck staff could not have been more accomodating. When they felt she could handle the excursion, and she used a walker, they helped her into the mainstream; when they knew she could not they arranged a taxi. Ther are two outside decks on the Tauck boats so she would not be confined to indoor sight seeing while cruising. She sounds still curious, I would strongly suggest investigating Tauck.
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Old August 14th, 2012, 07:00 PM
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Maggie - I notice you are from Toronto - have you checked out Jerry Van Dyke Travels - they advertise an elevator to all floors and a chair lift to the sun deck.

I haven't tried them myself but have been looking at their website. I don't know their prices but thought you may be interested.
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Old August 14th, 2012, 07:58 PM
swamp1sg swamp1sg is offline
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Maggie: I really couldn't recommend one cruise line over another. They all seem to make an effort to help their guests in any way possible. Of the 3 rivers that I've been one the scenery on the Rhine with the castles was the most interesting.
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Old August 14th, 2012, 09:09 PM
franski franski is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MaggieA View Post
Hi and Thank You to everyone who has kindly responded,

I should have clarified that my aunt wants me to go with her. She does already do some travel on her own, when she flies to visit friends and relatives, but she realizes she would need someone with her on this trip.
We already go to concerts, the Art Gallery and museums together here in Toronto, and the opera and movies. I am worried about how she would walk across a gang plank or deal with brutal cobblestones. I wonder if there might not be some better itineraries than the Danube cruise then.
Hi - have been giving this some more thought now that you have clarified a bit more about her interests, and current level of independent travel.

I suggest you look at Uniworld - for 2 reasons. One - the couple that I met before (where the husband is significantly challenged with mobility following a stroke...) couldn't say enough about the support that they receive from Uniworld when travelling. She won't look at another line --> sort of a "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach, but they know this works for them. Second - Uniworld will include transfers even if you book your own air. --> and you may choose to do that.

I have 2 suggestions for itineraries. One - the Rhine between Basel & Amsterdam. Most of the stops are fairly close to town - so your Aunt could be involved with the excursion, yet you could stop if needed, and/or head back to the boat fairly easily. If you end in Amsterdam, you can get a direct flight back to Toronto on KLM.

The second - the Danube between Budapest and Passau. You would get Vienna (lots of culture there - although it is a bus ride to the downtown area...) - and I seem to remember that the downtown area is more lock stone instead of cobble stone. The Melk abbey is beautiful - and most companies provide a bus (short ride) to and from so your Aunt could see the abbey. Also - in Passau, there is a concert in the church - on one of the largest pipe organs in Europe.

Of course, you could always extend a day or two - although you might have to arrange your own transfers then. Easy to do in both Budapest, and in Amsterdam.

Just somewhere to start your research!!

Fran
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  #14  
Old August 14th, 2012, 11:33 PM
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Most places the gangway is very level & wide

The cobblestones & the inclines in some of the towns are another thing
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Old August 15th, 2012, 07:30 AM
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5326jan 5326jan is offline
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Have you considered taking an American River Cruise to "test the waters"? They will be more ADA compliant and she'll get the river cruise she dreamed of. If it works out well, then you'll know you can step it up to the next level of difficulty.

http://usarivercruises.com/ship/amer...se-line-ships/ about 5 different itineraries and sizes of ships

http://www.americanqueensteamboatcom...merican_queen/ Classic paddle wheel trips along the Mississippi River

Here is accessibility clause from American Queen: Accessibility
The vessel is equipped with several conveniences for guests requiring special assistance: two elevators and staterooms are available (see brochure for details). We carry wheelchairs onboard the vessel for emergencies only and to assist certain guests who need occasional assistance reaching the coaches or vessel. These wheelchairs are not loaned out or made available on an extended basis. If you require the use of a wheelchair most of the time, we encourage you to bring your own chair or ask our reservations staff for information about wheelchair rentals. The wheelchairs carried onboard the vessel are not available for general guest use. The crew will provide any needed assistance to move guests to and from the coaches; however, staff are not available to attend to guests in wheelchairs for the purpose of moving about the vessel or on excursions. Guests requiring the use of a wheelchair for general mobility should have a travel companion to assist during the voyage and excursions.



Good luck!
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