Wheelchair accessible modes of transportation fall into many categories from personal, commercial, land based, aquatic, off-road, etc. With technology making leaps and bounds, most forms are becoming readily available for wheelers around the globe. Some of my favorites are: The Steamboat "Natchez" out of New Orleans, Old Towne Trolley Tours (based out of DC, Key West, FL, Savannah, GA, San Diego, CA and a few other historic locations) and the cruise industries (predominantly Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruises). Each mode of transport has its pros and cons and I would love to share a bit of my personal take.
The steam ship Natchez is a step back in time, with a two hour cruise down the Mississippi River on one of the only fully operational steam driven paddle wheels still in existence. The boat departs from historic Jackson Square in the French Quarter, with wheelers getting priority to board before the masses via an aluminum gangplank leading to the main deck. There is a dinner jazz cruise option for those that want to eat as they cruise. (Wheelers need to make reservations as there is a step down and limited tables out of the flow of foot traffic). Whether you choose to board and ride during the day on the rustic forward deck, or wait and catch the sunset jazz cruise in their swanky dining quarters, you will certainly feel the Creole spirit flow as that big paddle wheel churns down the mighty Mississippi.
Another great mode of transport for wheelers to enjoy is Old Towne Trolleys. I've had the pleasure of using them in Washington DC, Key West, FL and Savannah, GA. They have tours in St Augustine, FL and San Diego, CA as well. In my opinion, the greatest advantages of traveling this way was the amount of knowledge each driver conveyed during the tour as well as the price. They operate on a hop on and off basis, with designated stops throughout the perspective cities. The overall tour (if you were to board and ride without disembarking) would last approximately 60 to 90 minutes; all the while, with guides giving historical facts, comic relief and helpful hints along the route. At any point in which one wishes to get off and tour more in depth, you simply notify the driver and off you go (with limits based on accessible points of access). About every 30 minutes, a new trolley comes along and you can continue the tour or simply ride it to the next stop along the way. Not only are they super knowledgeable, accessible and easy to deal with, but on more than one occasion, they have given us insight into local cuisine or destinations that allowed for a more personalized vacation. Make sure to contact the Old Towne office to request a wheelchair bus so you can have accessible stop locations and you aren't waiting out in the weather too long.
Cruising is another mode of travel that strikes my fancy and is cost effective for most wheelers with meals, drinks, social events, pools, sun and fun included in the initial booking cost. I've tried Carnival and Royal Caribbean. Both had pros and cons and ports of call that would appeal to most. I've heard the stories of small rooms, limited accessibility and tiny bathrooms, but that hasn't been my experience on either cruise line. On-board Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Sea, we had a room that was downright massive; with a roll in shower, accessible balcony (with ramp over the water tight doors and a king size bed that fell within ADA parameters. Our room on-board Carnival's ship Fantasy was much smaller but not cramped by any means. The bathroom had a roll under sink, transfer bench into the shower and surprisingly a push button entry/exit door with key card reader into our room. Both ships had amazing wait staff and food around the clock, as well as entertainment of all shapes and sizes and dining that can be adjusted to suit most needs. The pool areas on both ships were fairly accessible (given that you are on-board a floating hotel with a couple thousand people) but be prepared to WAIT for elevators as they all fill up fast and no one seems to know that stairs are an option.
Remember, not all ports of call are accessible and there are tons of extracurricular activities to enjoy such as scuba, swimming with the rays or dolphins, etc. but those come with additional fees. Remember to pack all your medical supplies (TSA has no issues with those), motion patches (just in case), lots of sunscreen and a healthy appetite and let the drifting tides of tropical destinations wash your cares away.
Regardless of which form of transportation you choose, remember to enjoy the adventures of life!
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The opinions and experiences presented herein are for informational use only. Individual results may vary depending on your condition. Always consult with your health care professional. This individual has been compensated by Bard Medical for the time and effort in preparing this article for BARD’s further use and distribution. BMD/BMDA/0817/0517