Cruiselines ‘must make ships more accessible for disabled travellers’

A travel agent who specialises in selling holidays to the disabled has called on the cruise industry to make their ships more accessible or risk losing business.

Accessible Travel and Leisure agent and Travel Weekly Cruise Club member Tracy McFall said she had lost bookings worth almost £15,000 in the last three months as wheelchair-bound customers were uncomfortable about arrangements made to accommodate them.

Although cruise companies have no legal obligation to meet the needs of disabled customers, McFall, who uses crutches having contracted rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 18 months, is hoping improvements will be made.

She said: “The fantastic thing about cruises is that they cut out the flights if they are departing from a UK port. This is a huge help as there are people out there who can’t fly because of their medical condition. They can access the world on a cruise.

“Even with all the cruises in the UK we are still restricted on what we can offer disabled people.”

McFall added two of the bookings she lost were on P&O Cruises’ Artemis worth up to £7,600 because it proved impossible to disembark the ship in certain ports. McFall also lost a £7,000 booking with Norwegian Cruise Line as the company would not accept a customer’s electric wheelchair.

A P&O Cruises spokeswoman admitted that while the ability to disembark a disabled person depends on the angle of the gangway in a port, problems are worse on smaller ships such as Artemis.

She added: “P&O Cruises has always excelled itself on facilities for those with disabilities and we make every effort to accommodate passengers with impaired mobility.”

NCL UK sales director Nick Wilkinson said: “We appreciate feedback from our agent partners and will be contacting Accessible Travel and Leisure to resolve this issue. NCL welcomes all passengers onboard our ships, including those with disabilities.”

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