This is the ship which has had lots of publicity about the ownership of two and three bedroom apartments on the ship by world travelers. In addition to the 110 apartments (70 owned and 40 still offered for sale in every port to 30 or 40 non-pre-qualified visitors and their brokers) there are 88 studio residences available by the night for stays as short as 3 days. Of these studios only two are handicap accessible, but both are without the terraces offered on most of the studios and the window views are completely blocked by lifeboats!!. The rest of the studio cabins do not have room for the wheelchair. In fact there is barely room for an ambulatory person to squeeze between the end of the bed and the built-in drawers on the wall opposite the bed. The baths are roomy and the walk-in closet is large.
In addition to the lack of accessible studios with a view, the ship repeatedly used its gangway with 20 or more steps as the only access and egress for the ship in San Francisco, Ensenada, and in San Diego after the tide changed. In Sausalito and Monterrey the ship used its own tender to shore which required going up and down 8 steps to access the tender and stepping down into the tender from the ship and out of the tender to the dock. In Monterrey there was a steep ramp from the dock to the pier at Fisherman's Wharf.
In San Francisco it appeared that a ramp could have been used from deck 4 instead of the gangway stairs from deck 5. In San Diego the port provides a large ramp on hydraulic legs which would have allowed it to adjust to the 6th deck exit when the tide changed, but the ship's crew instead chose to use the gangway stairs to keep open the 5th deck doorway. Had we been told when we left the ship in the morning that the ramp was going to be removed at the tide's change at 4 p m, we could have arrived back at the ship 5 minutes earlier to allow use of the ramp instead of the stairs.
In each case the crew was happy to carry the wheelchair with my wife in it up and down the stairs, but this is a very dangerous and uncomfortable way to get on and off a ship.
Most of the public restrooms are not handicap accessible. The elevators in the aft area barely hold the wheelchair, but the attendant has to squeeze to the side for the door to close.
In Los Angeles the handicap parking spaces opposite the dock were closed to visitors and passengers and we were told that we had to use a parking lot about a quarter-mile away and ride a shuttle bus which had no handicap access from the ship to the parking lot and back. What we weren't told was that the shuttle bus stopped running at 6pm and didn't start until 10 am. At that point I raised sufficient cain with the security officers at the LA Cruise Terminal that they opened the parking lot next to the terminal for us instead of using it only for the port employees. The ship's management had given no thought to where the passengers and guests would park rental cars for the 3 days we were in port. The port of LA is in San Pedro, about 40 miles from anywhere you would want to go in Los Angeles.
The bus which the ship's management had arranged for return from Ensenada to San Diego airport had no handicap accessibility. It also had no shock absorbers, no way to flush or ventilate the toilet and was missing 3 ceiling panels where the air conditioning was supposed to be.
Fortunately, my wife can walk short distances and climb a few stairs so we managed to get around, but she did not go ashore in two ports where the stairs for the gangway were very steep due to the tide level.
The ship is magnificently designed and decorated with great woods, granite and other design features, but no thought has been given to handicap accessibility despite that fact that at least two of the apartment owners are using wheelchairs. The food is not good at all in 3 of the 4 restaurants. The main restaurant, The Marina was open only one night in 12 and never for lunch. Tides, the only restaurant open for lunch had the same menu for lunch and dinner and was still using the menu set in May when we sailed in September. The other two restaurants are open only for dinner. There are no activities onboard the ship during the day and in the evening there is a small casino and a trio that plays music for a few hours in the main lobby or the nightclub on alternating nights. There is a pool which I saw in use only once, an empty theater showing only TV programs, an empty card room, some putting greens and driving range nets, but no one to provide golf clubs or golf balls except for one hour a day. Every day in port a parade of looky-lous were brought on board to tour the ship in an ongoing effort to sell the remaining apartments. I found this very disturbing. Apparently, so do the owners because while we were onboard the place was crawling with appraisers and engineers advising the renters of the apartments about a buy-out offer they want to present to the present investment group that owns the vessel. The scuttlebutt on board was that the apartment owners want to take over ownership of the ship and change the agents in charge of selling the remaining apartments and increase the rates for the cruise passengers. This had the staff concerned about the future of their jobs. This did not provide a very relaxing environment for a cruise.
We are booked for a cruise on the Silver Whisper in October from New York City to Bermuda and back. I have been promised that they will provide ramp accesss to and from the ship in NYC and Bermuda. We shall see.
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