Ft. Lauderdale accessible taxis, medical rentals, Celebrity Century, San Juan, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Nassau, airport transfer
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By James Glasbergen
For my second cruise I decided to try a 7-day Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Celebrity Century. It worked out conveniently that our first cruise ended on a Saturday morning and the next one began later that afternoon, so we just went from one ship to the other. After disembarking the Sun Princess in Ft. Lauderdale, we immediately called for an accessible taxi to bring us to the Century. Although it was docked only one pier over from the Sun Princess, it was not close enough to walk with all of our luggage. We were quite early as we arrived at the terminal at around 11 a.m. and the ship did not depart until 4:30 p.m. Fortunately, we were allowed to board the ship right away, although we were not able to get into our cabin until 12:30 or 1:00 p.m. The Islands Cafe was open though, so we were able to hang out there and have a light lunch.
Soon after we arrived in our cabin, our luggage appeared outside our door. The hoyer was delivered to the room as well. The Medical company that we rented it from had it brought over from the Sun Princess in the morning. I was quite happy with our cabin. We stayed in cabin 5056, which was one of the "accessible" cabins. There was a lot of room to move around (, , , , ), as well as a nice bathroom with a roll-in shower (, , ). Like our cabin on the Sun Princess, there was a small lip going into the bathroom (), but there was a ramp for it (). One thing I did not like about the cabin was that there was only one 110-volt socket to plug something into. There was a 220-volt socket as well, but that was useless to me.
Accessibility around the ship was quite good. The nightly entertainment took place in the Celebrity Theater, which had wheelchair seating at the back of the theater (). Unlike the entertainment on the Sun Princess where there were usually two shows each night, there was only one nightly show on the Century, although it was a different show for each of the seven nights. The Grand Restaurant was also accessible. We had first seating for dinner, and we were seated at a table close to the door. There was also a breakfast and a lunch buffet in the Islands Cafe. The workers in the Islands Cafe were quite helpful as they were always offering to take my tray and help out in the buffet line. The thing I was most happy about on the Century was the gangway. Unlike the Sun Princess where the gangway had steps, the Century's gangway was ramped (). This made it a lot easier at the ports as I was able to get on and off the ship as I wanted with no hassles.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Our first port of call was San Juan, Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, our ship did not get in to port until 4:30 p.m. and we left again shortly after midnight, so there was very little time to do any sightseeing. There was a tour companies in Puerto Rico that had buses with wheelchair lifts and offered accessible tours. However, they only offered tours during the day because most of the attractions closed at 5 p.m. and it started getting dark at 6 p.m. That was unfortunate because it would have been nice to take a guided tour of the city. Instead, we just walked around Old San Juan on our own for a while. Getting around was pretty easy. There was a nicely paved path along the City Wall, so we followed the path all the way to its end, which was just below El Morro near the entrance to the harbor. Along the path we passed by a cool fountain called Raices. It depicts the Amerindian, African, and Spanish origins of Puerto Rico as human figures with dolphins at their feet. We also came by the San Juan Gate, which is the last of six original massive wooden doors along the city wall that centuries ago were closed at sundown to protect the residents of the city.
St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
The next stop was St. Thomas. Since we had already done an island tour of St. Thomas on the previous cruise, we decided to just walk around town for a while. There was a mall called Havensight Mall which was about a 5 minute walk from the ship. After that, it was about a 15 minute walk to get downtown where there were a lot more stores and markets. The sidewalk that took us there went along the waterfront and was pretty good for accessibility. There were a couple rough spots that required a little manoeuvring, but other than that it was mainly wheelchair friendly with curbcuts everywhere.
The third island that we stopped at was St. Maarten. The cruise terminal in St. Maarten was the nicest one of any of the islands I have been to. There was a water taxi service that brought people from the cruise terminal to downtown Philipsburg. However, it was not accessible so we made the 20 minute walk downtown instead. It was not a bad walk at all. There was a nicely paved sidewalk that went from the cruise terminal to the downtown area, and a lot of people opted to walk instead of taking the water taxi. Wheeling around Philipsburg was pretty good as there were a lot of curbcuts at the main roads. Where there weren't curbcuts, it was no big deal to go on the road. The beach in downtown Philipsburg was also wheelchair friendly. There was a nicely paved path along a big section of the beach and there were also sections where the sand was hard enough to allow a wheelchair to wheel right on to the beach ().
Nassau, the Bahamas
Our last port of call was Nassau, the Bahamas. I was able to find a tour company which had an accessible bus. Our ship did not get in until 2:30 p.m., so I arranged for them to pick us up at 3 p.m. for an island tour. Since it was not a regularly scheduled tour for them, they charged $90.00 per hour for a minimum of two hours, which I thought was completely outrageous. I still decided to take a 2-hour tour because I figured I was there and I would rather see the island then walk around the port for a few hours, but to me $180 for a 2-hour tour is highway robbery. To top it off, the tour was not even very good. We started off by going to the Atlantis Resort and Casino on Paradise Island where we basically just took a brief peek into the lobby. Next, we drove around Nassau where we saw a number of points of interest, such as Government House and Parliament Square. Our driver was in a hurry to get to a particular fort before it closed, and when we finally got there we were too late. It actually closed a half hour earlier than the driver was told it closed, so we missed out on that. Instead, we drove around a bit more and ended the tour about 15 minutes early. I did not mind though because I found the tour incredibly boring. Looking back, I wish we would have spent a lot more time at Atlantis because there really wasn't a whole lot to see in Nassau.
Ft. Lauderdale Airport/Transfer
After disembarking the ship in Ft. Lauderdale, we found our luggage and went outside to find our ride to the airport. I had booked airport transportation through Celebrity when I booked the cruise. There was a Celebrity representative outside and she directed us to an accessible van that took us to the airport. The handling of my wheelchair at Ft. Lauderdale airport was a little crazy in my opinion. The airline representative insisted that I had to be out of my chair an hour and a half before the flight so that they could wrap up my wheelchair in plastic and then bring it away. They wrapped up my two manual chairs immediately when I checked in my luggage. Then I had to return later at which point they helped transfer me into one of their wheelchairs and then wrapped up my electric chair completely in plastic. Then they had four guys lift my electric chair onto a cart and wheel it away. I have never had this experience at any other airport where they actually wrapped my wheelchairs completely in plastic. I was told that this is standard procedure at Ft. Lauderdale airport. It has nothing to do with security, either. It is done solely to protect the wheelchair from getting damaged in the cargo hold during the flight.
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