Wheelchair Accessible Trans-Pacific Cruise on the Crystal Harmony
by Kathy Dunn 2000

I Just returned from a 20 day cruise from San Francisco, CA to Sydney, Australia on the Crystal Harmony. This was my parents' sixth cruise on this ship, which has four wheelchair accessible cabins (two are at penthouse level). They were in 7108. Previously the bathroom had worked well in spite of the fact that all cabins have bathtubs. Their solution in the accessible rooms was to place a wall-mounted flip-down seat next to the tub, with a drain in the floor. Due to inadequate slope to the floor, the bathroom usually was completely wet during the shower even with the curtain closed, but it worked.

Imagine our distress upon embarking on this cruise to find that they had recently installed a 1 1/2" high, 2" wide wooden board all the way around the shower area, apparently to contain the water, which was not tapered. This lip ended about 12 inches in front of the toilet. Since we use a portable lift with relatively small wheels, which would NOT roll over this barrier, we were unable to use the shower for 18 days (after trying it once with two of us lifting the lift over this barrier...very dangerous).  We had to resort to bed baths and tipping the manual wheelchair back over the tub for shampoos.  The lip interfered with independent use of the wheelchair in the bathroom as the casters did not roll over it without doing a wheelie, and also was dangerous for trying to do a safe quad pivot or slide board transfer due to catching on feet and preventing proper foot placement for both the assistant and disabled person. It even created a trip hazard for the ambulatory members of our party.

In addition, the toilet bowel is even smaller than most on ships, and the toilet is placed too close to the wall. We had to remove the grab-bars to get our lift into the proper position to center the person on the toilet, and perineal hygiene on the toilet was very difficult. The ship was helpful in totally removing the toilet seat, which helped some, but did not resolve our problem. We have written to the Crystal Cruises corporate offices about these problems.

Otherwise, the cabin was acceptable, with good space under our bed to accommodate the lift and store suitcases out of the way. The closet did not have a lower clothing bar, and the refrigerator was at floor level, which might cause problems for some. The TV was difficult to see from the bed, but these were minor problems for us. We were using a prototype of a new lift designed for travel which is not yet on the market, but is much more portable and lightweight than any other available lift. Once we are given permission from the developer I will post more information about it, but you can see it in use at this link: http://www.angelfire.com/on/lift/index.html (There have been some revisions in the design since this site was set up, so it is not completely up to date).

There was good access throughout the ship to all areas except the Crystal Cove bar (three steps, no ramp), although path of travel was a problem in some of the smaller bars. The bridge was not accessible for tours due to narrow door width. The showroom (Galaxy Theater) is completely ramped and has the best wheelchair access of any ship we have been on; you literally can sit anywhere in the showroom. Wheelchair seating in the movie theater is in the middle of the front 1/3, and you can sit with your able-bodied party members, which was also better than most. In the dining room, only the round tables (4-6 people) were high enough for wheelchair use...the oblong (eight people) tables and square tables (four people) both required removing foot pedals as did the tables outside on the deck and Lido areas. The staff was very accommodating and always offered to push the wheelchair or carry trays at meals. The food was wonderful, as always.

Our stops were in Hawaii (Lahaina and Honolulu), Western Samoa, and New Caledonia (Isle of Pines and Noumea). In Lahaina, we tendered to shore and walked around the shops. Most are accessible, although many lacked ramps and had one step up. In Honolulu, we rented a Dodge Caravan with a ramp and tie downs and drove completely around the island. This was not cheap, but cheaper than the four of us taking a tour from the ship (none of which were wheelchair accessible), and we got to do what we wanted.  The source for this was: http://www.accessiblevanshawaii.com/rentals.htm
They delivered the van directly to the cruise ship terminal for us and were very accommodating.

In Western Samoa we did not go into town as we were there on Sunday when all the shops and most of the museums were closed, and again there were  no accessible tours or cabs. We walked about 1/4 mile from the cruise ship terminal to the Marine Preserve and went snorkeling. The facility (except bathrooms) was wheelchair accessible with assistance;  no steps, but also no paving.  My mother did not swim, but it would have been easy to get into the water here if she had wanted to. It is a beautiful coral reef and protected from big waves, with large shade trees and thatched shelters and picnic tables. Admission was only 2 tala (about $1 US).  It was lovely, warm (water about 84 degrees F) and uncrowded.

At the Isle of Pines (New Caledonia), access was also by tender, although my mother did not go ashore. There are paved roads but no sidewalks. Access to beaches varied, but would be doable with assistance. The water was colder here (about 76 degrees F), but the coral was gorgeous, and the snorkeling areas calm and protected. I am told that one of the small hotels here has a wheelchair accessible room, but we did not check it out. There is no accessible transportation here unless you can transfer to a van or car.

In New Caledonia, we walked into town (again, no wheelchair accessible transportation). There were some curb cuts, although very steep and dangerous in places, and at other corners the curbs were steep. Some stores were ramped, but you had to hunt for accessible entrances. The large park in the center of town was nice and accessible throughout.

In Sydney, the elevators at the cruise ship terminal were broken (this was four days before the start of the Olympics) requiring a long walk around to get onto the Circular Quay (pronounced KEY) walkway, which is accessible. Wheelchair accessible cabs are readily available here....10 % must be accessible by law, and many buses were also accessible in the downtown area.  We took a half-day city tour via wheelchair accessible cab which we arranged through http://www.wheelabout.com/ The price was reasonable, and we had a private tour of this beautiful city (just the four of us).

We did have to pay extra for the tour of the Opera House, which is only accessible through a private tour (same price as regular tour) or having tickets to an event. It is best to arrange this ahead of time, although we were able to get a tour with only one-hour notice. A wheelchair accessible cab fare to the airport here was $45 (Australian).  The airport is huge, with long hallways, and no moving sidewalks, so give yourself a lot of time and get help if you need it. Our flight home on Air New Zealand was very good. and we had appropriate assistance both in Sydney and Los Angeles.

Enjoy Dunn's other cruises on the following pages.

Alaska: A Regal Princess Cruise

Ryndam Mexican Riviera Cruise

South America: Holland America Ryndam Cruise

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