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Classic Ships and the Handicapped Traveler

After traveling and touring many newer ships it was interesting to sail on a classic cruise ship again. This year for Spring break we chose the Oceanbreeze so that we could see the Panama Canal before the US handover at the end of 1999

by Linda Allen MBA MCC (27-7-98)

A different perspective
My family has always been a fan of the older, smaller ships. Now that I am more aware of the many amenities that are available for travelers with handicaps on the newer ships. I saw this vintage ship from a different perspective. Although she was perfect for my active family, as a travel agent I would be concerned about selling this type of ship to anyone with a handicap without first assessing their ability to deal with the ship itself.
OceanBreeze Although these comments are based on my most recent sailing, you will find the same type of concerns with many of the older vessels.

The Oceanbreeze
She started sailing in 1954. She is a Premier Cruises ship and sails on Sunday from Montego Bay calling at the Panama Canal, Cartagena, San Blas Islands and Puerto Limon.
Only in the last several years have cruise lines been actively addressing ADA issues.
It is therefore very important that the traveler tell the agent of any medical or physical concerns that may be present so that the correct ship can be chosen and, in some cases, so that the ship can be notified of special needs.

Handicapped traveler aboard
During our cruise there were two passengers who used a wheelchair. They were able to walk short distances and could slowly make their way up the stairs used as a gangway. Stairs were used from the time the plane lands in Montego Bay and throughout the ship. There is only one small passenger elevator and it is only barely able to handle a wheelchair and an attendant.
There are no handicapped cabins. Still when I spoke with one of the ladies in a wheelchair she was delighted with the trip.
She found the staff to be very helpful and was enjoying the ship. The many raised doorways and slanting floors could be a problem not only for wheelchair use but also for seeing impaired passengers. Signage is not in Braille and no special arrangements are made for hearing impaired passengers.

The staff
Strong points for this ship include a friendly, warm atmosphere from the staff and the passengers who sail. The larger staff to passenger ratio allows more attentive service which is noticeable.
The large amount of deck space both covered and uncovered allows passengers to find their own favorite place to spend relaxing hours enjoying the sea. The Oceanbreeze design is very easy to navigate. (This is the first sailing that I have not needed a map to find my way around for the first day or two.)

Conclusion
If you do have a disability and decide that this is the right ship then I would travel with a companion who could offer assistance as needed. Do keep in mind that this ship is not appropriate for someone who is totally confined to a wheelchair.

For further information: Cruises by Linda Allen

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