Date: Sat, 19 Jun 1999 20:45:32 -0500
From: Sylvia Edwards <s.words@MINDSPRING.COM>
Subject: No one asked, but.... misadventures

My face is turning purple waiting for someone to ask me to tell more about being trapped on the cruise ship. I don't look good with a purple face and I want to vent a bit. I also hurt my tongue by biting it during the discussion of wheel chair accessibility.

The link?

I was stuck on the sixth floor of the ship because the elevator with a door too narrow to accommodate a wheelchair broke down and the expectation was because I could manage to stand up to fold up the chair to fit in the elevator, I was fit enough to walk down four flights of stairs.

I did manage to get down the steps, but I also spent the last week of the vacation in great pain. (Since I had tripped off a step in Naples and twisted my "good knee," I blessed *ar* daily for insisting I take the wheelchair.)

Traveling with/in a wheelchair, definitely changed my perception of accessibility and all the little things I take for granted. The fact that the 1954 ship was NOT close to ADA recommendations added to my awareness. IF I were wheel chair bound, I would have not been able to leave my assigned deck. IF I had been alerted that accessibility was limited, I would HAVE saved my money. FTR, I had notified them that I was handicapped and was assured I'd have few problems.

What did I notice: The few ramps available were VERY steep and required being guided down backwards so I would not be tossed out on my face. (One ramp was soooo steep I had to walk down it in order to avoid tipping backwards) Access to ships requires climbing stairs.... Getting on and off the ship to go ashore required walking down and up the steps while someone carried down the wheelchair. I envied those who skipped down the steps and ignored those behind me who were impatiently waiting for me to hurry up.

After the trip ashore, the crew had at least three wheel chairs available for others who became lame after climbing over the various obstacles. I seemed to be in less agony than at least two others who began the trip without a chair.

All doorways were too narrow for a wheelchair and most thresholds were raised. I became expert at getting up and over and *ar* became skilled at folding, lifting, and unfolding the chair. The entryways to the outdoors, the cabins and bathrooms required stepping over a four inch high "wall".... I guess the wall was to prevent water seeping in or out. NO bathrooms were handicapped accessible... NO safety rails. The halls were so narrow that the wheelchair required right of way rights.... that not everyone was willing to give.

The ship had seven decks. The elevator could accommodate only five people at a time and did not go to the top deck. I didn't think using the recreational equipment (pool, sauna, exercise room, etc.) or attending the evening celebrations worth climbing over the ledges and up the steps; thus I never made it to the top deck.

I did become familiar with the interior route from stem to stern (or whatever--fore and aft?) on three floors. I cheated during the "Titanic" drill and moved up to the appropriate station before the drill siren was sounded..... There was NO way I could go to my cabin, grab my life jacket, race from my cabin to the elevator (fore), climb out onto the deck, and dash to my "muster" station aft on deck five!!! I mustered early and left late. *ar* retrieved the requisite life jacket. I sat by the rail while the others lined up in two rows on the interior wall. I don't want to think about what would have happened in a real emergency. The final straw was being ordered off my exit accessible deck to the sixth floor.

When it was our turn to disembark, the elevator quit running (It quit on us at least four other times, so we knew whom to notify to "fix" it.) Our friendly staffer turned our problem over to a ship's officer who climbed up the stairs to tell me ,"Lady, you HAVE to get off this ship." I told her I'd love to, but her elevator was broken. "Yes, it is," she said. "And we won't be able to fix it until later. YOU must leave the ship." I did. Only to discover that our luggage was lost, the customs officials were miffed by the wait and a monsoon was in progress. When we recovered our luggage, all the contents were soaked.

The only thing that lifted my spirits at that point was knowing I was on my way to meet Bayla. We had a wonderful lunch and fun conversation. Her home is spacious and offers a most glorious view of tropical paradise. Rain dampened our plans to dip in her pool. We left Bayla's and headed towards Orlando.