When I was younger I thought a cruise holiday was the bee’s knees. Being Love Boat fans, my school friend and I made a pact that one day we would go on a cruise together. We never did make it on a cruise which is probably just as well. We had a very glamorous idea of what the other passengers would be like and the romance we may find. I think the guest stars on the Love Boat set the bar pretty high in that regard.
As a family our first overseas holiday was taking BJ on a cruise when he was two years old. It proved a great way to start our more adventurous travels. BJ wasn’t using a wheelchair so we stayed in a regular cabin. At that time I wasn’t even aware there was such a thing as an accessible cabin.
Fast forward 17 years and I found myself on the P&O Cruises’ Pacific Jewel for the day. I am regularly asked about cruising and I felt it was time to be better informed, plus, I have to admit to being curious because cruising has become such a popular holiday option for Australians.
My memory of our cabin years ago was of quite cramped quarters so I was particularly keen to see the accessible cabins. Jess was my tour guide for the day and I asked her to show me the ship as if we had someone using a wheelchair with us. This gave me the opportunity to see how easy it would be to navigate the ship with a wheelchair. I was pleased to find the lifts were speedy but admittedly the ship didn’t have a full load of passengers at that point. Lifts are located in three positions around the ship; forward, mid-ship and the rear.
The accessible cabins on the Jewel were so much more spacious than I would have imagined.
The bed has room on one side for transferring from a wheelchair and has a bed grab rail which I haven’t seen before. The rail can be lifted up out of the way or left down beside the bed to assist the passenger. There is also an emergency call button which Jess found out is responded to very swiftly when it was accidentally pressed when she was staying in one of the accessible cabins on a cruise.
ACCESSIBLE CABIN BATHROOM
The bathroom is well laid out with a flip down shower seat and room to transfer from a wheelchair. There is a hand held shower, sink with room underneath for a wheelchair user and a toilet with grab rails on either side.
Everything is at a lowered height including the safe and light switches. Australian power sockets in all cabins mean that there is no need for travel power adaptors.
The rooms can be configured as a queen bedded cabin or as a twin bedded cabin.
MEDICAL FACILITIES ON BOARD
I was sooooo impressed by the medical facilities on the ship and it was so much more extensive than I imagined. Mary, the Senior Nurse, gave me a tour of the facilities and shared some examples of things that have happened on previous cruises.
The Jewel has two doctors and three nurses on board which I think is particularly reassuring. The facilities are just like walking into a compact hospital. There is a waiting room, doctor’s surgery and three, two bedded wards. The I.C.U room has hospital facilities with the ability to ventilate and provide similar care to any regular hospital. They can perform transfusions if necessary, x-rays and blood tests. There is a hoist in the medical centre, disabled toilet and room to manoeuvre with a wheelchair. Passengers are treated on board but if the ship docks in a port with good medical facilities a very ill passenger would be transferred to a hospital for continued care.
Treatment is expensive so it is essential, as with any travel, that you take appropriate travel insurance. A day in intensive care on the ship can cost up to $4000 and in the case of being transferred to a hospital on an island a passenger will then incur airfare costs to return home after treatment. Getting dropped off in Vanuatu for a ‘possible cardiac condition ‘ may result in a $60,000 air ambulance bill. Please read my blog regarding travel insurance for more information about this. You can read it here.
Things can happen even if less dramatic than the example above. Mary reported that on a recent four day cruise they treated three passengers who had fractures.
Parents like nothing more than a bit of time out and kids love the opportunity to meet other kids on holiday. When we cruised with BJ he went to the kid’s club and had a wonderful time but that was many moons ago so I really wanted to see how kid’s clubs had evolved and how they cater to our tech savvy children.
Before we boarded the ship I spied a family disembarking with a little girl using a wheelchair. As usual I couldn’t help myself; I had to approach them to ask about their experience on the cruise. The family very graciously answered my questions and said they had a good cruise and had used the kid’s club for their daughter. They did mention that as parents they were given a pager and were required to go back to the kid’s club if the group were moving to another area of the ship as the staff was not allowed to move their daughter in her chair out of the kids club area.
The kid’s clubs are broken up into different age categories and have activities appropriate to each age bracket. The all looked good for different reasons but I thought they had done a particularly good job at making the teen area “cool” or whatever the hip word for that is now. The teens have leather lounges to chill on, gaming and musical instruments. I think this area should satisfy even the most cynical of teenagers.
All of the kid’s club areas were wheelchair accessible but keep in mind there are some restrictions with what the staff are able to do for children with a disability so I would ask questions before booking if using the kids/teen club is essential to your holiday. For example staff cannot toilet children that need assistance
Turtle Cove 3-6 year olds
Shark Shack 7-10 year olds
11-14 year olds HQ
15-17 year olds HQ+
Research your cruise thoroughly as shore excursions are only wheelchair accessible at ports where the ship can dock. Wheelchairs are not able to disembark where a tender boat is required to transfer to the port.
FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD
As chief cook in our house, any holiday where I don’t have to cook is thoroughly appealing. The food seems to be a big talking point when people report on their cruise experience. I was keen to check out all the choices for dining on the Jewel and to be honest I was surprised at how many options there were. I had lunch with Jess, my guide, at the main buffet (soon to be replaced with a new and exciting concept called The Pantry) and there was a huge variety of cuisines considering it was only lunchtime. There was the choice of hot main meals like curries, baked fish, meats, salads, roast vegetables and pies or something lighter like baguettes with meat and salad.
I rather fancied the special dining experiences on offer. Hubby would say, “of course you did!”
Luke Mangan’s Salt Grill is a separate restaurant and dining experience. They serve high tea for $20 including sparkling wine (yes please!), lunch for $39 or dinner for $49 and the menu looks delicious. While I was in the restaurant I overheard a seasoned cruise couple making their booking for that night in the restaurant. They must have dumped their bags and headed straight to the restaurant. It pays to plan to avoid disappointment I suppose.
There is also the option of an 8 course Asian banquet in Luna Restaurant for $29.
I could also see myself partaking in the Chef’s table experience which is a degustation menu for $95 per person.
There seems to be no shortage of dining options on board and aside from the ones mentioned with an additional charge, all your meals are included on the cruise.
I spent some time checking out the bar menu (no drinking I promise) and I was surprised at the prices. $10 for a Strawberry Daiquiri and $3-50 for a cappuccino was much cheaper than I had expected. I think the drinks are very reasonably priced.
The pool area of the ship was probably the only area where I felt things are a bit tricky for a wheelchair user. There is a wooden deck which skirts the edge of the pool and I couldn’t see any easy way for someone using a wheelchair to get in and out. I know we would manage with BJ but he can transfer well. I think that a pool chair would be a fabulous addition to the ship.
After my visit I can certainly see great benefits in cruising and the accessible cabins and medical facilities really impressed me. Arriving on the ship and having everything available in one spot is a huge advantage. Entertainment and food are all included making it an easy first time holiday. Did I mention there is no tipping.
Book early to ensure you get an accessible cabin
I much preferred the outside cabins (one with a port hole) to the inside cabins
I particularly liked cabins 8101 and 8103 on P&O Jewel
Check the cruise itineraries and try to book one where there is wheelchair access to disembark for day tours.
And lastly, remember it isn’t the Love Boat but I am sure it will be “exciting and new” as their theme song promised.
For more information on P&O Cruises’ Pacific Jewel check their website.
This is not a sponsored post. I did a tour on the Jewel purely out of curiosity so I could provide information to our readers and because I love all things travel related.
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