We went on our first ever cruise in September 2018. We chose a cruise from Malta to the Adriatic Sea including visits to ports in Croatia and Italy over a seven day period. First things first; a bit about the accessibility of the MV Oceana (Click Here), our 5 star home for seven days while cruising.
A short ramp (gangway) is available to board the ship from the dockside but is not usable without assistance and crew members were at hand at each port and in fact insisted that mobility impaired passengers were always accompanied. The ship can accommodate 1,950 passengers, has numerous restaurants, bars and snack options plus a gym, pools and an art gallery. It has all the trappings of 5 star luxury. There is a bank of 6 elevators just off the main foyer with 2 prioritised lifts. There are a number of fully accessible and spacious washrooms throughout the ship. Travelling throughout the ship is not difficult and most parts are well ramped but the external doors are heavy with door closers and short ramps on either side; these could never be ramp free for water-tightness reasons. The floor covering in the internal areas is a mix of carpet and marble tiling but as wheelchair users are well aware rolling on a deep pile carpet is never easy. The deck areas posed no problems for me and my wheelchair and there is a chair hoist for the main swimming pool. The theaters had designated areas for wheelchairs and other mobility impaired travelers.
Our mini-suite was exactly as advertised with a bottle of champagne awaiting us on arrival. There was ample room for my wheelchair, the bed was a perfect height for me and the spacious and accessible en-suite was well fitted with appropriate rails and emergency pull cord. The sink was deep, marginally too high and the support underneath made getting close to the sink a bit difficult. We had a long narrow balcony balcony with 2 patio doors but it was narrow; one of the doors had an external ramp but had a large step on the inside which defeated the purpose of the external ramp.
Our first port of call was Split, Croatia which as just a short distance from the terminal and with Jean by my side we did in about 15 minutes. There were a few hiccups with footpath kerbs but it was largely accessible. The promenade is beautiful and fully accessible and I did find a spacious and accessible toilet. The mini-submarine that we saw didn’t look particularly accessible and I didn’t check it out.
Our second port of call was Venice where we taken by a wheelchair accessible bus to the fully accessible water bus terminal at Tronchetto. Gondolas are not really accessible for the mobility impaired but St. Mark’s Basilica is and even though photography is frowned upon I managed to sneak a few. There is an elevator to the external balcony. One the stepped bridges off St Mark’s Square was accessible with ramps between each step and our guide Pamella took a picture of us with the Bridge of Sighs in the background. I’m not sure about the wider availability of accessible toilets but Pamella was able to locate one. Venice is accessible but some of the lanes were narrow and the paving made wheelchair travel a bit difficult.
Our third port of call was Zadar, Croatia. A wheelchair accessible bus brought us to the old town where on arrival we visited a café for a cuppa which wasn’t to our liking and the toilets were not accessible and shortly after that the weather took a turn for the worse. We didn’t stay long before returning to the ship. We did see a yellow mini-submarine but again we were not tempted.
Our final port of call was Messina, Sicily. The town was only 5 minutes from the ship and despite some difficulties with footpaths we did manage to get to Messina Cathedral where we boarded an accessible tourist train for a trip around the city.
It was an accessible and enjoyable holiday for me but Jean didn’t enjoy it after the weather turned bad. It was so bad that the Captain decided that it would be unsafe to dock in Dubrovnik and thus the unexpected stop in Messina, Sicily.