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Western Caribbean Excursion

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I am in a manual wheelchair and my husband and I are looking to take a Western Caribbean cruise on RCCL this winter. We went on Eastern Caribbean last fall, so thought that western would give us something a little different yet still in the caribbean.


Do you know of any excursions in Ocho Rios, Cozumel or Grand Cayman that would be accessible? I would love to do Stingray City, and am interested in hearing how accessible that is. I can transfer but don't do well getting into vans (too tall) but I can be lifted if there is someone who can lift (my husband has a bad back). I would love to snorkel in Cozumel and figure that maybe I won't do anything in Ocho Rios because it doesn't seem like there's much accessible there.


Has anyone tendered with Royal Caribbean? How does it work with a wheelchair? Can you give me any advice?


Thanks so much!



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Hi Barbara,

I can't answer your question about shore excursions because I was still "on foot" when we last did the Western Caibbean.

I can tell you about my experience with a wheelchair on an RCI tender. We were on the Adventure of the Seas. It was pretty easy, BUT, you had to be able to take some steps. I had a folding chair, and they folded it, and put it on board. The boat crew then helped me from the dock to the tender, and vice versa upon return, but I don't think I could have done it if I couldn't have stepped aboard. They let me sit right in the center of the tender, so I didn't have to climb up or down into the main seating areas. I DID have to take a couple of steps (with help) into or out of the boat. If you are unable to take a few steps, I don't know if you would be carried totally onto the tender or not.

I keep hearing about these great "crawly" systems to get a wheelchair into a tender, but I've yet to see one.

There is a very helpful bunch on this board, and someone will come along and give you the exact answer you need.

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Hi Barbara,


RCI is suppose to have tenders designed specifically for wheelchairs. However, it seems from all reports I've read that you have to request this tender service well in advance and hope that the crew knows how to operate it and that it's on the side of the ship that's facing the port. We will be sailing RCI this May with 2 tendered ports. I will be requesting the use of these special tenders but have little expectations that it will work as I hope. I'll let you know once we return from our cruise.



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Actually, I do not believe that RCCL has tenders designed for wheelchairs. They have installed at a wheelchair lift at one tender exit on each ship. However, as DesrtDmtr stated, I do not know how often they are available. I know from my own experience that the ship may not be using the tender exit that has the lift. Regardless, they still may make you wait until the crowds have gone ashore and they will not let you take a tender if the seas are rough.


As for excursions. I believe from previous postings that there is wheelchair equipped transportation in Grand Cayman and there may be accessible transportation in the other ports. However, given that you are in a manual chair, if you can transfer into a car, you should be able to hire a taxi to take you where you want to go. Specifically:


Cozumel: A few years ago we hired a taxi to take us on a tour of the island for a few hours. On our last visit we went to Chakanaub (sp?) Park. Much of the park is accessible. There is a sea lion show as well as dolphin and sea lion swims which you could watch even if you can not participate. There is also a mini-ruin and gardens. In addition, the sand is hard enough at entrance to the beach that I was able to take my husband to an open air cafe where he could enjoy a beer while watching us snorkel. The main downtown shopping area is also reasonably accessible for a manual chair as is the shopping area near each of the piers.


Grand Cayman: My husband has never gone ashore there as the sea has always been rough. My memory is that Georgetown is reasonable accessible. You could also take an island tour. I do not think that swimming with the stingrays would work. Even if you could take a cab as opposed to a ship tour bus or minvan, you would still need to get on/off the boat. In addition, the water is fairly shallow so you spend more time shuffling your feet rather than really swimming. It is a great experience if you can figure out how to manage it (and if you are not squeamish!). I would contact the tourist board for suggestions or to see if there are any especially equipped boats.


Oco Rios: We have been there twice. The first time we joined a group for a tour in a minivan (my husband is tall enough that he can access the front seat of a minvan.) We went Fern Gully, a hotel with gardens, Dunns River Falls and, of course, shopping. The gardens of the hotel and Dunns River Falls were not accessible, but my husband enjoyed listening to a steel band outside the hotel and watching men play dominoes outside the Falls. The first level of shopping in the duty free area was accessible. On our second visit, we hired a taxi which took us out into the hills beyond the city which was interesting, but sad due to the extreme poverty.

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My wife and daughter did the Dunn River Falls, I on the other hand decided to take the RCCL shopping tour. The transportation was the typical smaller bus that is always a real pain to get into. The shops in the area we went to all had a step 8-12 inches tall, so I never went in. Jamaica was the port I most looked forward to, and also my only bad experience in two cruises. I was warned ahead of time to stay on the boat and enjoy the quiet, alas I knew better. This is a very poor area so if you do anything I would recommend doing it thru the cruise lines.

We did stingray city in the Caymans I easily transfer so everything went well. The only real problem I had was getting out of the water into the boat, I would not hesitate to recommend it but I would notify the crew that your going to need help getting out of the water that way they can have some bodies on a short leash. As far as tenders go I find them to be easier than the ramp. You don't have to fight the little old ladies to get back on the ship.

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