Felix Josephs is a retiree based in New York who loves to travel and never let his mobility aids prevent him from seeing the world
View of the ship from the top deck
Every summer, my wife and I visit a new part of the world, together with our good friends D&M. We’ve been all over the USA, but never as far north as Alaska. Friends and family urged us – if you want to see Alaska, you must go on a cruise.
I am mobility challenged and walk with crutches. People say that cruises are great for people with physical disabilities, so we decided to put both theories to the test and take a week long cruise to explore Alaska.
View of Glacier Bay taken from the front of the ship
We traveled with Norwegian Cruise Lines on the Norwegian Pearl, an enormous and beautiful ship. I never book an accessible room, since, from experience, many of them don’t have a door on the bathroom to enable easy wheelchair access, and I have a need for privacy in the bathroom! We booked a mini-suite in the center of the 11th deck. This meant we were not too far from anywhere on the ship. The room was perfect – more spacious than the average cabin with a balcony with room for a table and chairs and a place to stand and watch the ocean. This was certainly my favorite place on the entire boat. The bedroom had enough room to walk around the bed so that it was easy to get in and out. I love relaxing in a hot bath at the end of the day and a perk of the mini-suite is that you get a bathtub, not a shower cubicle. But the bathroom … well, it had a door, so it was private! It also had a step up into the bathroom that was difficult to navigate, and a bath that was too high to climb in and out. I asked for a stool. The helpful staff brought me a three-stepladder, which made it even harder to climb in and out! There was no separate shower cubicle (bathrooms on most cruises are tiny) so I had no choice. I fell three times over the course of the week, but I would still choose a similar room again just for the balcony!
View of Alaska from our balcony
We love seeing the world and so enjoyed the option to tour every time the boat docked. Norwegian provided multiple tours at every port and it was hard to choose. Learn from our mistakes – there is a person whose entire job is to help you choose a good tour. We decided that we could choose for ourselves and this was not a good idea. Bad weather did not help. Whale-watching in Juneau in the rain offered hot drinks and snacks on the boat, but not a whale in sight. The White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad turned out to be a two-and-a half-hour train ride with very little to look at and an uninteresting commentary. The Southeast Alaska Discovery Center in Ketchikan was a mediocre museum and the lumberjack show afterwards, while lighthearted and fun, was a little too kitschy for us. It’s always fun to travel with friends and we spent a lot of time laughing at ourselves, but I’d love to go back to Alaska and spend some time on dry land really getting to know that part of the country.
View of Ketchikan from the ship
Life on ship, however, was wonderful! On the days we stayed on the boat we did not feel like we were missing out on seeing Alaska; we had lazy, relaxing days enjoying the lectures and entertainment on board. The highlight was certainly the day we cruised Glacier Bay. Sitting on the balcony with a hot drink and the most spectacular view, I felt small and in awe.
You should never miss the shows on a cruise which are usually very entertaining. I took advantage of the reserved seats for people with disabilities that were comfortable front row seats with extra legroom.
Lecture from crew members on board the ship
The main dining room was on Deck Six, accessed by a long staircase from Deck Seven. As only one elevator reaches Deck Six where there is ramp access to the dining room, I elected to walk up and down the stairs each time. Many meals were served buffet style, which I find difficult because I can’t hold my crutches and my plate at the same time. Often I went to look at the tables and then my wife or friends brought me food, but on the occasions that I asked the wait staff to serve me at my table they did so with a smile. In general, I found all the staff on the cruise to be friendly, patient and accommodating to my needs, which made the experience extremely pleasant.
View of the ocean from the dining room
When I made my booking and explained my mobility challenges, I was offered a scooter. I said no. I like to walk and it’s important that I get regular exercise; also I hate being on a scooter in busy places and everywhere on the boat was teaming with people! The hallways by the bedrooms are very narrow and there was often a cleaning cart standing outside a cabin. It was difficult enough to maneuver past on crutches; I do not think a scooter would have fit. It’s great that scooters are readily available for people who need them, but I’m glad I could manage without it. Interestingly, the movement of the boat did not upset my balance or make walking harder.
Would I do it again? I think I’ve learned that as a traveler, I prefer to spend more time in each place to really visit and get to know the area. You can’t do that on a cruise, but I enjoyed it for what it was – a bit lazy, very relaxing, and we had a lovely time!
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- Felix Josephs
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