Setting the pace

I read with great interest Wesley Wilson’s letter regarding his handicapped wife’s negative experience with Vantage Deluxe World Travel on their September ’04 river cruise in Europe (July ’05, pg. 27). Although Mrs. Wilson often stayed on board rather than take shore excursions that required considerable walking, the cruise company nevertheless asked her to leave the ship.

I took a cruise myself with Grand Circle Travel from Eastern Europe to the Black Sea aboard the riverboat Aria, May 25-June 10, ’05, and there were several handicapped passengers. Some required wheelchairs, while others could do with walkers.

One passenger in particular stood out as being very incapacitated, as she suffered from severe multiple sclerosis and literally had to drag her body and legs throughout the ship. Our crew and program directors were extremely sympathetic and assisted her at all times.

Unfortunately, particularly in the case of the program directors who were responsible for over 100 passengers, time and attention were necessarily taken away from 99% of the passengers to accommodate this one person. Our group also was substantially slowed down when taking land tours, boarding and disembarking from the boat and coach, etc.

What really blew me away was that this individual had actually purchased the extension to Transylvania with all of its steep hills and cobblestones. I was there four years ago, and climbing Dracula’s Castle in the Carpathian Mountains was no easy feat. In fact, some able-bodied men in our group decided to sit it out when they saw for themselves its challenging climb.

If seriously handicapped people must travel to foreign lands, they should take with them their own personal nurses or caregivers to accommodate their disabilities so as not to negatively impact on the other passengers who have also paid their hard-earned dollars to visit these faraway places.

I have always said that if I become physically disabled and must depend on others for assistance when traveling abroad, that is the time for me to either stay home and watch the Travel Channel and cruise the Internet or to hire someone to go with me.

Hermosa Beach, CA