I was very nervous before taking a 14-day land / cruise tour to Alaska, because I am attached to the wheelchair. Despite the fact that I can stand, I can not walk. When moving in a wheelchair, there is always a glitch with something that is supposed to BP, obedient and not from the & # 39 is.
Our journey started in Anchorage, and then took us to the Copper Center, Fairbanks, Denali National Park, Mt. McKinley and Talkeetna. After the land tour, we boarded a cruise ship in Whittier and went south through the Inland Passage to Vancouver, the port dock in Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan.
Overall, the trip was excellent from the point of view of accessibility, although there were a few hiccups that we encountered along the way. I led them to the cruise line & # 39; s attention and to share them with you.
Below is a summary of tips and tricks that I do with my own personal experience, if you are planning a trip:
- Never assume that if someone tells you a room, transportation, transfer, etc. meets ADA standards, it's there. There is a wide difference in the interpretation and speculation, when one says that it is "ADA compliant." You should make a list of specific issues that require specific responses from a travel agent who is really knowledgeable about your specific needed areas.
- When I started planning my trip, I was working with the cruise line directly. I talked with the agents who actually cruised on the boat we took, that could give me information about a wheelchair-friendly ships and help me choose a room. I also talked to their department access to housing affordability relative in the hotel rooms and things like transfer / intercity bus / rail lifts. These people were very helpful. I do not want to work in an independent travel agency, I learned from experience that certain things do not always get the answer right, or get 'lost in translation' when it goes through a third party.
- I booked my trip almost a year in advance, so that I could get exactly what I wanted. For example, I wanted a room on the deck, which contained a buffet, grill and outdoor pools / seat / movies, to eliminate the use of the elevator. He also saved us $ 1400 to get an inside room – outside open deck was just outside our door so we did not need the room balcony.
- We booked in September, because there were fewer crowds to move to the cities, and there are small children. I believe that when I am in my scooter, I have to be always looking out for others; so many people – especially children, do not look at me. In addition, we do not have to deal with mosquitoes at this time of the year, we saw the northern lights, beautiful autumn colors, and the days were cold – 50-60 degrees. Cooler temperatures were good for me, as my MS is very sensitive to warm, humid days, which often occurs in the summer months in Alaska.
- I sent a letter in writing to their access department that I was "confined to a wheelchair", requiring elevators for all types of transport and roll soul for all the numbers, if any. I recommend sending a letter, if you are completely limited, since it will cover you later, if there are problems, in my case it was done.
For example, there were three motor coaches arrived, who do not have elevators. Fortunately, I have a small (125 pounds). And my husband is strong, so I was able to be lifted up into the carriage. Otherwise I would have to stay that would violate my trip, and canceled one of my tours. In the future, this is what I would do and what I would recommend others to do: Check with desk Tour every hotel that you stay on it once again to confirm that the vehicles with an elevator will be available for you to over the next few days. You can also re-confirm any other special needs that you request ahead of time, such as a roll-in shower. Twice I got a room without sliding into the shower, and then found out that this room was given to someone who did not require one. If I was traveling with my sister instead of my husband, I would not be able to take a shower, because it can not raise me in the bath, which had a chair to put in it.
If you are a & # 39; a wheelchair user part-time, please note that there are 5-7 steps, entering the long-distance, and they are quite steep.
Bridges were elevators, as well as some tourist buses in Denali National Park.
Surprisingly, the availability in Alaskan cities – even the smallest interior space – very good. If I use the toilet, I need help with my husband. We managed to find a restroom that was both big enough for us, even in roadhouses we stopped to eat during our trip. Note: Toilet rail can accommodate two people, so if you are someone who needs a helper, you will need to prepare yourself in other ways for 5-6 hours drive away.
If you think about a cruise or tour, I suggest to start planning their events a year in advance, because the handicap accessible rooms are limited and fill up fast.
Finally, because of the unpredictability of my the MS, I decided to buy insurance in case of health problems happen that would prevent me from going.