Earlier this year I made my way to Port Melbourne to board the Dawn Princess for 13 days in New Zealand. It took me a day and a half to realise that New Zealand wasn’t the holiday, but in actual fact it was the cruise. People were happy just wandering the ship and gazing out at the water.
The novelty of the cruise
There were over 2000 passengers on board and more than 900 crew. Each day I would notice someone new and be in shock as to how many people there were. Often I would sit by the pool or sit at the bar with a cocktail while reading a book and someone would come up to me just to say hello and introduce themselves. It always surprised me how they had noticed me but I hadn’t noticed them, despite staying at the same “hotel”.
What excited me the most was that as part of the overall cost of the trip, all food was included in the fee. Food was available 24/7 and room service was free. You had to pay for all alcoholic beverages, soft drinks and special coffee orders.
The ship was huge and had 15 decks. If you walked around one deck twice that would amount to a one-kilometre walk.
I did take a scooter with me but I was determined to walk on the ship. While it was hard for me to push the frame on the moving ground, I got around OK. People came up to me and expressed their admiration and revealed they could never imagine doing what I did. I was just trying to enjoy my holiday
One problem I found was the doors to get outside were purposefully heavy to keep water from coming inside. Most of the time there were people around and they opened the doors for me. Other times I was able to use the automatic doors which enabled me to access the outdoor bar and pools.
Even the doors to our rooms were heavy but thankfully I could open them. However my friend, who doesn’t have much upper body strength, was unable to open her bedroom door and had to have someone open the door for her.
Some of our stops didn’t involve docking and so we had to get onto a smaller boat to dock. I was able to access the smaller boat as I could step on and off it and then use a manual wheelchair on land. My friend, who is unable to walk, had planned to get onto the smaller boat by using a sling. This sling is placed underneath her and held up either by a hoist or people. Sadly the crew on the Dawn Princess refused to do this due to occupational health and safety issues, and so she missed out on three of the stops.
When I was on land and getting to know New Zealand, I took a scooter a friend had lent me. I have to be honest here, it was great. I was able to zip around and keep up with my friends. I did miss my legs but I would have been exhausted if I walked everywhere. I was able to zip around Auckland with my friends and take in the streets, the people and the sights without getting tired.
Would I recommend a cruise?
Would I recommend a cruise for people who have a disability? While the crew were extremely helpful and the price was extremely reasonable, for those who need it I think it is important to travel with someone who can offer that extra support for personal care and access.