Wheelchair Accessible Island Princess Cruise to Hawaii
by Kathleen Dunn © 2005
We traveled on the Island
Princess round trip from
Los Angeles to
Hawaii and back. We left San Pedro on November 5, 2004 for
a 15-day cruise. I was traveling as usual with my parents. My mother uses
a wheelchair full time, and I travel with them as her attendant.
We had a wheelchair accessible cabin (E505) on the same deck as the library and Internet cafe. The cabin we had had an obstructed view and no balcony, but there are about 25 accessible cabins on this ship, so you pretty much can get any category. Ours could sleep 3 (one in a bunk) and had a nice bathroom with full roll-in shower, ADA height toilet, and easy access. Poor storage in the bathroom though...hardly any shelves. The closet space and drawers were adequate for 3, including an adapted pull down clothing rack in the closet (a little tricky to operate). There are room light controls next to one of the beds, and a variety of ways the 2 twin beds can be set up. The desk area and refrigerator were accessible too. The safe was a little too high to use from a wheelchair.
We chose traditional dining instead of Personal Choice as we like having the same table mates and waiters for the whole cruise, and we prefer a regular dining time (second seating). It is nice to only have to tell the waiter or assistant waiter once that my mother needs her food cut for her, or that she likes green tea (and that I want Darjeeling!). The food was good, but not great. The buffet is poorly set up for people using wheelchairs, and getting assistance there was iffy at best, so we pretty much stuck to the dining room for lunch and breakfast, too (open seating). We had to have words with the head waiter though as he kept trying to sit us in the wheelchair ghetto area next to the door, and rarely offered to sit us with others who did not also have disabilities or at the better tables near the windows. We did meet some other people in chairs this way though, and were able to compare experiences and stories.
Pretty much all areas of the ship were accessible, including most public restrooms and the spa area and gym. There are four pools (1 wading, 1 exercise, 1 outdoor, 1 indoor). The indoor pool had been advertised as having a pool lift, but none was in evidence. We could not get the wheelchair into the pottery class area or onto the landing of the Grand Staircase where many of the demonstrations of cooking, etc. were provided. There was a good system of access to the tenders using lifts and ramps for wheelchairs, and we never had to wait to get onto a tender very long as long as we let the first rush of the day go. There were two tender ports (Kona & Lahaina).
There was plenty to do during the days at sea (5 days over, 5 days back). We played very competitive team trivia twice daily. There were lectures and movies, as well as craft classes. I took several computer classes on Adobe Photo Elements (which I got just before the trip). The library was exceptionally good as was the game room (lots of board games, bridge, etc.). They had a CD listening area in the library, but a poor CD collection (take your own if you are picky about your music). TV reception in the cabins was good...we had TNT, CNN, etc. all the days at sea with no loss of signal, and they also showed movies. We did a lot of reading and, of course, had to nap occasionally too! My dad took ballroom dancing classes every day at sea. I had free Internet access because we are "Platinum" on Princess. Normally I don't use the internet at sea due to high fees, but I did take advantage of it this trip to check my e-mail. It was very slow though (satellite), so I was glad I was not paying by the minute. If you have a digital camera, they have a reasonably priced service at the photo shop where you can download your camera to a CD-ROM several times during the trip and then pick up your CD at the end of the cruise. We did not use this, but others recommended it.
We had 5 ports: Hilo (Hawaii), Kona (Hawaii), Honolulu (Oahu), Lahaina (Maui), and Nawiliwili (Kauai). In Hilo we were supposed to have a rental car, but were skunked by Alamo, and all other companies were also sold out, so we took the accessible shuttle bus into town, went to the farmer's market and walked around town. We could have gone to some other places that offer free shuttles if we had notified them earlier that we needed an accessible shuttle (but we thought we were going to have a car). In Kona, my mother stayed on the ship and got a manicure while my dad and I went snorkeling south of town via non-accessible shuttle, then went back to the ship, picked my mother up and went back to town for lunch and shopping. In Honolulu, we had a wheelchair accessible cab and went to the Honolulu Aquarium (very good, even if small) and strolling and shopping in Waikiki. We took the same cab back to the ship. In Maui, we rented a car and went to the Maui Ocean Experience (aquarium), which was very good, and had a great open air restaurant for lunch. In Kauai, it was rainy and windy, so my mother decided not to go ashore. My dad and I drove our rental car to Hanalei and made several stops to sightsee on the way. We have been to Hawaii many times before, so we know what we want to do. We did not take any ship's tours as our experience in the past has been poor with Princess in this regard, and they did not offer any accessible trips in their listed tours.
The worst part of the ship was the show room (as it is on many Princess ships. They have "stadium" type theater seating, with no way to get anyplace with a wheelchair but WAY in the back, off to the sides, with very poor sight lines. There were many wheelchairs and semi-ambulatory people, so the limited wheelchair seating was often occupied, so you had to get there early. The Universe lounge (their other showroom) was set up with ramps, tables and chairs, and you could get to any area in a wheelchair except the balcony quite easily. The only other bad place was the narrow and very heavy doors from the outdoor pool to the Horizon Court buffet...unless you are very strong you will need someone to open these doors for you if you have any mobility limitations. Most other doors were lightweight or electric-eye controlled power doors.
We stopped for 4 hours in Ensenada on the way home to meet the requirements of the Jones Act. I went ashore to take a few photos but did not go into town.
Overall it was a good trip. This ship will be doing winters on the round-trip Hawaii route and summers in Alaska, and since it is so new (less than a year old) it is still beautiful and pristinely decorated.
Enjoy Dunn's other cruises on the following pages.
Alaska: A Regal Princess Cruise
Trans-Pacific Crystal Harmony Cruise
South America: Holland America Ryndam Cruise
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