Disabled but still love to travel

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650 Posts
Joined Feb 2009
My 60ish DH has Parkinson's and has traveled on ocean liners numerous times. While there are some activiities he sits out, he typically gets off the ship while in port every other day to conserve energy.
I have always dreamed of taking a river cruise in Europe, I would like some advice from those of you with experience.
Would it be reasonable for us to travel by river boat? DH can walk with intermittent assistance and does really quite well. I don't think he would manage to keep up with tour groups on foot, however he is satisfied people watching and enjoying the ship.
Would it be a waste of money to consider a river boat cruise? I would love to take this trip with my DH, but could travel with my sister as well. I for one am not afraid to venture out on my own and can make friends easily on guided tours
What do you folks think? As a newbie, what would you recommend? We like at least a 10 day + adventure. Also which company would you recommend?
Thanks and God Bless
4 Posts
Joined Sep 2012
Hi, I will let others speak as to whether they think your hubby would enjoy his time. But My husband and I (in our early 50's) are taking the 15 day Viking Grand European on July 13th next year and we would love to meet you guys and go off together and see the sights. We plan on doing our own thing and take some of the tours. It seems that river cruises are very laid back, i.e.: do as little or as much as you want! Hope to see you!!

-Shelley and Will
Northridge, CA
109 Posts
Joined Jul 2011
We were on the Uniworld Beatrice on the Danube a few weeks ago.

There was a disabled lady and she and her husband did not go on any of the regular excursions. Instead, they had a private tour by car in each of the ports. The Cruise Manager on the ship made all the arrangements for them.

There was an elevator on floors 1, 2, and 3. Not on the lowest level.
I believe there was a chair lift to get to the sun deck.

Happy cruising, cb
South Padre Island, Texas
3,576 Posts
Joined Apr 2008
Being somewhat limited in mobility as your husband: Ports are not the problem, the TSA and the intrusive criminal attitude taken of us precludes my flying!!
Fortunately DD lived in some exotic places before all the restrictions, ( such as Brussels, Bancock)so we could visit them as well as DD in one trip. Cruises do not allow 2 or 3 days in a city to Really explore it.
Pensacola, FL
443 Posts
Joined May 2009
My DH has limited mobility. He is not required to use a wheelchair, and he can walk short distances. For instance, he walks the Wal-Mart as long as we do not go fast and he has the cart to hold on to, as he has some balance issues. He does use a cane most of the time. I called Viking about 'accessible staterooms' and the agent I spoke with suggested that River cruising would NOT be a good choice for my DH as often when arriving in a port they will tie up next to 1 or 2 other boats and to get ashore passengers have to go from their own boat PLUS across 1 or 2 other boats before they are ashore. This did not sound like something that we thought of as ideal, so we most likely will not take a River Cruise. I also do not see myself paying for a cruise that includes shore excursions and then paying AGAIN for private shore excursions. They do sound wonderful but I suppose it will just be something that does not make our bucket list. Our DD and her wonderful family recently moved to Germany, over the next few years we will be visiting them at least a few times and they have promised us great sightseeing. So this will be a great replacement for the River Cruising that we will not be doing. Which ever you decide to do I wish you great luck and happiness.
Milton On Canada
938 Posts
Joined Sep 2008
Last year on AMA there was a gentleman in a wheelchair travelling with his wife and family. They got off the ship at every port, if it was one where we were docked in town, they walked into town with the slow walkers group. They did have some difficulties with the wheelchair and the cobbled streets, inaccessible stores, restaurants, washrooms etc. They did some of the bus excursions and the bus stored the wheelchair in the luggage compartment. There was no access to the sun deck except by the outside stairs but there was an elevator inside to access all but the lowest level. AMA was very accomodating as far as I could tell. Everywhere you go on the tours the pavement is uneven, you have to be constantly looking down to make sure you don't trip. Lots of uphill walking as well to many of the sites.
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591 Posts
Joined Feb 2010
We have just returned from a river cruise on the Seine. This was our fourth river cruise in Europe. I think there are some things that you need to carefully consider before booking a cruise. The ships are not a big problem for a person with limited mobility. They do indeed have elevators and chair lifts to the top decks. Our ship only involved three steps up to the dining room.

The main problem is the docks. Unlike ocean liners which usually dock at relatively flat docks the docking areas vary significantly from port to port and time to time depending on the tides and water levels. Sometimes the gangways are very steep and slippery. Often there are long flights of steps once you reach the dock. River boats often dock two to four deep in the larger ports and passengers must traverse the other ships to reach the shore. Someone above mentioned doing private car tours but you still have to get on and off the ship and many areas are pedestrian only and vehicles cannot get close to the ship.

At one port passengers from a neighboring ship had to go to the top deck of their ship, cross a gangplank to the sundeck of our ship, climb down the outside stairs to our lobby, cross the lobby, and go up a steep ramp in the rain. This was a challenge for those without a disability.

Because of limited size riverboats have limited facilities and limited activities on the ships. They focus primarily on the ports. Depending on the itinerary and specific port the tours sometimes involve bus rides and others have long walking tours.

Another concern is that many of the historic sites on European river cruises involve steps without railings, hills and cobblestones. All of these would be challenging to a person with limited mobility.

We have been from Amsterdam to the Black Sea, The Netherlands and Belgium in the spring and the Seine from Normandy to Paris.

The conditions I mentioned were true for all the cruises. Only you and your husband know how challenging this would be. I suggest you check out other posts on these boards and check any itinerary carefully before booking. Also talk to a representative of the cruise line before booking.

I have traveled with a person with limited mobility and have found that air travel is possible because of the mobility services offered at airports so I don't think this would be your main concern.

I hope this is helpful and not too discouraging.
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650 Posts
Joined Feb 2009
Thanks everyone for the sound advice.
River cruising would not be ideal for our circumstances and probably stressful.
Sounds like a good trip with my sister.
556 Posts
Joined May 2007
I`m sure you and your sister would enjoy that. Sounds like the most practical solution and that you are a kind and considerate person. I know this sounds awful but I thought I`d air it. On 2 (out of many ) trips we`ve had disabled people people travelling in the same group. One man expected us to literally carry his wheelchair uphill and down dale. I was very sorry for our guide who had to do this and try to corral some other guests into helping out. This man never thanked us. Just pretended it wasnt happening I suppose. Generally, people are kindly and well disposed to those with disabilities. However, with a bad back and damaged knees I was not very happy to be left, on one occasion,responsible for a wheelchair bound woman on one tour. The group had gone on and left us. I was left feeling responsible and obviously couldnt just leave her. I had to find a toilet in a busy German town with cobbles galore and somehow get her there and help her.I`m not a nurse or used to this at all. This left me dizzy and stressed with residual back pains etc etc. I felt taken advantage of yet guilty for feeling so. Is it fair to "rely on the kindness of strangers?". Luckily these were rare occasions but highlight potential dilemmas facing us all as we get older.
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Previous cruises: QE2 X3, Viking Pride X1, Arcadia X1, Avalon Scenery X1, Avalon Creativity X1, QVX1. Viking Douro X1