On a recent stop in Lisbon we encountered what could have been a major problem for us that ended up being a learning curve for everyone involved.
In planning for the cruise we had contacted a Lisbon tour guide that we had used on a previous visit and hired him for the entire day to take us to areas outside of the city that we wanted to see. Our ship was to dock at 6:00 am and he would be there at 7:00. He was booked until 4:00 pm, allowing us plenty of time before the 5 o'clock departure. The rate had been negotiated and agreed to.
After an early breakfast we proceeded to the gangway only to be told that wheelchairs and scooters had to wait until 9:00 to be able to get off on a lower deck ramp due to the tides. We were also informed that we had to be back on the ship before 2:00 pm to be able to use the alternate ramp. Due to a communication problem, we were not informed of this the previous day and, even if we were, it was too late to change our ground arrangements.
We informed the personnel at the gangway that my travel scooter only weighed 78 pounds and broke down into four pieces and could be carried down the steps. I am able to walk short distances and the ramp would not pose a difficulty for me. The crew members apologized but would not allow me to disembark at that facility.
We then proceeded to Guest Relations and, after being told the same thing by the counter staff, we asked to speak to the Guest Relations Manager whom we had met several times during the transatlantic crossing. She appeared within minutes and we told her about our problem and asked if there was anything that could be done so that we could enjoy our scheduled day ashore as planned.
She asked about the scooter, we demonstrated how it came apart and re-assembled and assured her that I could manage the gangway. She then went to her office and reappeared just a few minutes later and escorted us to the disembarkation area. She had two additional crew members summoned and, while I sat on a chair, they broke down the scooter and carried the parts down the gangway. I followed carefully holding the hand rail and the scooter was put together on the pier. I hopped on and we went to meet our driver waiting at the gate.
We returned to the ship at 4 o'clock and waiting at the boarding gate were another pair of crew members. Unlike when leaving the ship, the two simply lifted my scooter... hiked up the ramp with it held on high like a prized trophy and I slowly climbed the stairs while the other boarding passengers gave me space.
We again met the GRM and thanked her for her help. She explained that her crew were not too familiar with some of the new mobility devices now available and that everyone involved had learned from our problem that morning. We also found out that, following our morning adventure, two other special needs passengers, one with a three wheel version of my scooter model and the other with a different brand, had appeared at the gangway and, in both cases, the crew were able to swiftly and professionaly get them down to the pier thereby not delaying them until the wheelchair ramp one deck down could be safely put into service.
Proper communication can solve a lot of life's problems.
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