Wheelchair Accessible Enchantment of the Seas Cruise & Paradise Island
by Linda Huebner 2001

Linda and Chuck Huebner, of St. Louis, MO, share their  cruise aboard the Enchantment of the Seas and the many pleasures of Paradise Island.

I'm in a manual wheelchair due to the removal of a benign brain tumor that left me with no balance, poor coordination and other impairments. I can stand up, but I need something stable to hold on to and I'm slow.

We returned in May from a cruise (our 13 or 14th and our 3rd since I've been in a wheelchair) on RCI's Enchantment of the Seas. As we were relaxing and spending four days at sea, we opted for a verandah cabin. I found the cabin and bathroom to be very large and well equipped. Access to the verandah was a bit difficult, though. I was unable to go out there on my own and needed my husband to roll me over the ramp lip of  the sliding door threshold. Access was very good on board and I could go everywhere. All in all, cruising is about the easiest way to travel, especially if you do you homework and pick the right ship. (So far, my favorite has been Celebrity Cruises Mercury.) We prefer to cruise from Ft. Lauderdale and have found chair lift-equipped vans awaiting to take us to the ship. Debarkation was made even easier when my chair was pushed by a cruise line employee through the crowds and onto the ship.

After the cruise was finished, we spent the night at the Embassy Suites in Ft. Lauderdale. Our room was on the 8th floor of an atrium, which wasn't nice for this agoraphobiac! The
bathroom wasn't well handicap-equipped at all. There was only a grab bar at the BACK of the toilet. Thank goodness we could use my portable one OK. It only had a tub, but the grab bars were OK.

We flew Bahamas Air to Nassau, then shuttled to Paradise Island where we stayed at the Comfort Suites, across the street from Atlantis. Our room was pretty well-equipped except for the tub. T here were plenty of well placed grab bars. The sink was a roll up. We had to use a service elevator to get to the pool area.

Atlantis is amazing. It's pretty easy to get around. There are ramps and elevators everywhere, though you have to get a map of the facilities and occasionally have to backtrack a bit. We took in the show at the Atlantis and they were very accommodating. I highly recommend a visit there.

While we were on our trip, we took two noteworthy excursions: The Leland Sneed Snorkel Trip in St. Thomas was very good. My chair was carried aboard the ship by some good looking, strong, young men. Once aboard, the vessel was big enough that I could roll around. We cruised to Trunk Bay on St. John where we stopped to snorkel and  swim. They put me in a canvas captain's chair, (It's a good thing I don't embarrass
easily.) and used a block and tackle apparatus to get me in the water. There, I snorkeled as my husband pulled me from a life ring. I'm sure the crew would have provided more help if I needed it.

In Nassau, we took Hartley's Undersea Walk. Using their web site,  I e-mailed them before we left, asking if they felt they could handle me OK. Well, they did. My husband talked to Chris Hartley before the excursion, telling him what my limitations were. Chris had handled a double amputee before, so I was pretty easy for him and his crew. He gave a briefing in the upstairs of his boat. To get upstairs, the crew helped me climb the
ladder. (I should add that we had several Japanese people on our trip who didn't speak English. For them, he had cards written out with what they needed to know.) For the walk itself, we wore a heavy helmet with piped in air. We climbed down a ladder to about 16 feet under water. With the helmets on, you could wear glasses or contact lenses and not even get you hair wet. You could even take you pet down in a helmet. Underwater, I
could walk pretty good by holding on to a grab bar to keep the small group together. The hardest part of the whole trip was getting on and off the boat as I left my wheelchair behind. But, I bet they had a plan if I needed it. I highly encourage everyone, able-bodied or not, to take this worthwhile excursion.

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