September 2014 - Norwegian Breakaway to Bermuda
My husband Manfred and I went on the Norwegian 'Breakaway' which left from NYC at the end of September, 2014. Boarding the cruise was very easy and as a handicapped person, I was treated very well. The wheelchair service was great and a scooter (my independence vehicle) was waiting in the room for me.
Although the room was a balcony stateroom , the scooter barely fit into the cabin doorway, and nightly, leaving it between the bathroom and the bed was our only option. During the night, one had to squeeze through the wall and the scooter to get to use the bathroom which, in my opinion, was a danger to us in an emergency.
O’Sheehans, one of their many alternative,complimentary restaurants, was a delight, because it was right next to the elevators and wonderful for a handicapped person to drive into. The service was impeccable, and it became a meeting place for our friends (2 other couples in our group). We also enjoyed the Brazilian restaurant, the Italian restaurant (La Cuchina), Savor( a complimentary alternative), Taste (another compluimentaray alternative), as well as the Cirque show during dinner. The show, Rock of Ages, was fabulous, (even though cocktails had to be placed in cup holders which were located under your arm pit). Other cruise ships make their theater more nightclubish by providing ample,comfortable seating, with tables for cocktails. The casino was fun and no one complained about where I parked my scooter.
The last 3 days of the trip were a nightmare for me. I went on an excursion where I fell into the bottom of a glass bottom boat. I hit the back of my head really hard during the fall. The excursion was great, the crew was lovely, but I did get a big lump on my head and was very bruised. An employee of the excursion ship, and a crew member of the ‘Breakaway’ took my name and room number and asked if I wanted to see the doctor, I said, ”Yes”, and was told to go to the 5th floor. I went, but, the sign said to call 911 because the doctor had left. I didn't need emergency treatment - just wanted to be checked out due to my head bump and artificial hip. No calls from ship personnel, or from the excursion crew were made to me as a follow up to my fall.
During cruises, I always enjoy the independence the scooter gives me where I can go places by myself and where my husband can enjoy his hot tub and not have to be a caregiver for me (my words, not his). I parked my scooter in a corner, near the elevator (during the day, when I enjoyed reading on the balcony of my suite) because I could not get the scooter into the cabin by myself, The cabin door opened out, and it was too difficult to get the scooter into the room by myself because I had to fight the door and the narrow entry. I would not leave the scooter in the hall because it is far too narrow for people to pass with the scooter parked. Instead, I left it in a corner where there were no doors, phones, passageways, etc. My scooter was confiscated, without notice to me (my name and room number were on the scooter at all times). I thought it was stolen at first and got very upset. We called security, and apparently it was considered a fire hazard and was taken away by the crew without notification to me. We were about to meet friends and I painfully walked, with my cane, to meet my friends at O’Sheehans. My husband called the number to get the scooter (they brought it to the room) and then he brought it to me at O’Sheehans.
I found out that I could call 00 and they would deliver the scooter in 5 minutes, to my room, anytime I needed it. At first I felt it took away my freedom, causing me to review mentally, my bout with Parkinson's. I met with a young man in charge of the stewards on the 9th floor, and he explained to me that although my scooter was not obstructing anything, if the captain or any ranking personnel felt it was an obstruction, it had to be removed. I can understand that. He told me, he would personally take care of the scooter himself, if it happened again. It did happen again, and he kept his word and got it to my room in 5 min. My question is why isn't this information written somewhere and passed on to the handicapped passengers?
Debarking was awful. People who were carrying their own luggage, left first. They were sitting in stairwells, blocking them, elevators were stuffed and unable to accommodate a scooter. The gangway was 5 to 6 people deep, with young children, baby strollers and lots of luggage. Despite the efforts of the crew, to make an alternate path, it remained that way until people finished debarking with luggage. We observed this mob scene from O’Sheehans for about an hour and a half. I waited about a half hour before I could get downstairs, to O’Sheehans, of course. And the only reason we were able to do this was because I left my scooter in the room and walked everywhere, despite my pain. We went to the theater where I had to stand and wait for an available wheelchair (about 15 min - a long time when you’ re in pain).We waited an hour and a half there and I finally said to my husband , our ride is going to leave, I will attempt to walk it. I did, and it hurt badly - that's how my cruise ended.
My final thoughts on the cruise was that I had a good time, but I am a positive person and I try not to dwell on the negative. However, maybe the ranking personnel should spend less time confiscating scooters from the handicapped and more time planning a safe and timely debarking of passengers. I would recommend the Norwegian ‘Breakaway' to future cruisers, but wait until they make a few adjustments before you go, especially with regard to injured passengers, debarking and handicap policies.