Ladyjustice is a veteran of cruising…on the ocean – not a troller of the bar scene. This October, God willing, LJ will make her 9th voyage as a cruise line passenger with Denny Griffin’s “Mystery Cruise” group out of Long Beach, California.
In some ways, oh how things have changed in 30+ years since LJ was in her 20’s and on her maiden voyage with three Chicago girls (previously unknown to her).
Although there are still those cruise lines that cater to seniors, many cruise lines have had to “reinvent the ship’s wheel” to keep pace with current interests and technology. Virtually gone are the days of “flowing evening gowns,” midnight buffets every night, and long receiving lines to shake the captain’s hand. Instead, we have rock climbing walls, elaborate slides, full service health and wellness spas and glass blowing demonstrations…to name a few.
The original Queen Elizabeth II has elegant décor in an old world way but is somewhat “stodgy” regarding activities in LJ’s opinion. It appears to Ladyjustice that the Brit’s idea of real entertainment is karaoke with lots of Tom Jones (Yes… the same lingerie receiving Tom Jones from the 1960’s); a British soap opera, Benny Hill reruns or maybe, if you’re lucky, an English style variety show as the big feature of the week.
And, did Ladyjustice happen to mention that this trip which was gay-friendly, and included a group of approximately 60 gay men and LJ as their only female in the group?? Yes, they lied about other women participating. What a shock when it came to the meet and greet cocktail party. No, matter, this blogger made the best of it and still had a good time! In addition, LJ possesses a great group photo of the event!
This writer has also experienced women’s cruises and family cruises (with the former couple, Rosie and Kelli O’Donnell). To be honest, these were LJ’s favorites. Ladyjustice loves all people. However, to be in the company of interesting women from all walks of life… is heaven!
With all of the good features offered, LJ has encountered discrimination travelling as a single/solo traveller and as a person with a disability! In fact, a former dream of this writer was to create a full-service travel service exclusively for single travellers. The U.S. vacationer is no longer a “couples only” experience. We have all kinds of singles – single professionals, divorcees, widows, singles with children etc. For years, LJ has been minimally successful in locating a cabin mate with whom to travel. They’re married with kids, they have no money, they have no vacation time, they have never been on a cruise ship and buy into the idea that they will be seasick etc. etc. And… despite her penchant for neatness, LJ can be reasonably flexible and compromise for the sake of a suitable/compatible person for seven days. Not so easy! Be aware that as a single, with few exceptions, you are obligated to pay a full double occupancy rate (Occasionally, you may find a 1.5 rate).
The usual excuses for not reducing the rates for single occupancy have been…. That they claim to lose too much money in lack of food and liquor consumption if a room isn’t double occupied.
[LJ’s response – You’ve got to be kidding… Do you know how much food is discarded on a cruise ship daily? As for alcohol consumption, that is bologna too, as others more than make up for LJ’s very minimal drinking.]
[Note: If you could see the “sticker shock” and utter disbelief LJ has seen at the termination of cruises when a party-hardy cruiser takes inventory of their “charge it and worry later” mentality! What a waste of brain cells and money to be in a constant state of intoxication… ] LJ believes that any cruise line would recoup their investment with solo/single passengers if such a service was offered.
A caveat: With the severe prolonged economic drought, all cruise companies are hurting for business. All the more reason to offer single occupancy rates that are fair!
The last time this blogger chose to challenge this ruling, she was told, the double occupancy rule is “an industry standard.” (i.e. You can’t fight City Hall). There are exceptions…An industry wide Congressional investigation was initiated by former Connecticut Congressman Christopher Shays, after honeymoon cruiser George Allen Smith IV mysteriously went missing on July 5, 2005 and is presumed murdered to this day…. But, this dear readers, is the exception to the rule… and that case would make a good blog for another time…
Thus far, the immoveable object (cruise line industry) had not met the irresistible force of Ladyjustice with all of her resources at hand!
Blatant Discrimination Due to Disability:
Back in 2002, this writer was a force to be reckoned with after the President of Olivia (Women’s) Cruises allowed her staff to abruptly ban this seasoned cruiser from travelling with them a third time as a single unless “someone accompanied LJ to watch over her 24 hours a day.” Say, what??
One would think that with the Americans with Disabilities Act in force, no problems would be encountered… in addition to the fact that LJ was and is a very low maintenance traveller. However, Sadly this was not the case.
Is the ADA Enforceable on Cruise Ships?
There is an ongoing legal argument that in which LJ became well versed. When and where is the Federal ADA regulations observed and enforced? Some legal experts say that it applies anywhere a ship docks in the US, because they dock at U.S. ports. Others say that as they fly under foreign flags- countries, and therefore they are not subject to such “potentially architecturally expensive” anti-discrimination regulations.
A third school of thought is that they are not subject to US rules once they are 12 miles out to sea ….This did not help LJ build her case. However, discrimination is discrimination!
The “Oh, No” Experience with Olivia Cruises
The following narratives are excerpts taken from a detailed letter written by this blogger, to “plead her case” to Judy D’lugacz, founder and President of Olivia Records and Cruses. (There was also a nightmare of a problem with an airline ticket which was excluded from this material). Never fear, should Judy read this blog in 2011, she might just cower in the corner in embarrassment!
“Hopefully, you will recall me as a two-time customer, prior to my communications with Olivia. I had been your company’s biggest fan in New England and had thoroughly enjoyed my pervious experiences….
Believe me when I say that if this situation were just a matter of forsaking one vacation option, I would leave it at that and move on. However, since Olivia Cruises is the type of vacation I can partake in fully and the only women’s cruise of it’s kind, it has far reaching ramifications for any and all vacations for me in the future!
“About eight years ago, I went on my second of two Olivia cruises, as the only travel company specifically for gay women. At that time, they had a staff member walk with me on a couple of the walking tours in France and Italy. I am ambulatory, but now use a cane for balance and have joint contractures making it slower /more difficult to bend. I require a handrail on stairs. Otherwise, I manage quite well. I live independently, own my own condo, drive extensively and am very involved in selected community activities.
I looked into going on a European tour recently, destination to Scandinavia in August. (The Club Med tours are too young and athletically oriented.) The very first comment made by your general manager was “On the previous cruise, they thought I had taken time away from the staff person who could have been working elsewhere and that her assistance cost your company between $2,000 to $4,000!”
In the first place, I don’t believe such a dollar amount …and how totally insensitive of her to make such a statement to a former good and enthusiastic customer! Such a statement speaks volumes to any bright and enlightened person. Everyone to whom I related this story was aghast at such insensitivity. Although you say you have downsized your staff, I would recommend some much needed training on disability issues and sensitivity training!
However, ignorance aside, she offered me a 2 for 1 package deal if I could find a travel companion. After considerable effort through friends, I did find someone from the Boston area who was interested in being my travel mate. We were booked etc… when I discovered that this same general manager failed to inform us of an extra $350+ for gratuities and port charges, which as a consequence excluded my new friend financially.
Had I not received a large tax refund, I too would not have been able to afford it.
After relating my story about my friend having to drop out, Ms. Cruz
(General Manager) then offered me a time extension until the end of May, for which I was appreciative and told her so. ….The final irony is that, after the deadline expired, through my postings and selective advertising, I have two others who would have also been interested in joining me.
I feel I am going to encounter such struggles as a solo traveller again if I want to enjoy the company of other lesbians in the future…
I’ve found case law within the past year (Case #011-0244-CIV-King/O’Sullivan, USA vs. Norwegian Cruise Line Limited) in which a small group of blind persons were prohibited from travelling solo or coupled in which NCL imposed “a laundry list” of extra requirements not asked of other passengers. They violated Title III of the ADA by denying the group fair and equal enjoyment of the cruise ship offerings. My point is that NCL doesn’t care that they are breaking the Federal law! From a corporate standpoint, you are probably more concerned about your contract with NCL versus compliance with the Federal ADA Laws.
I have been told by more than one attorney that this case would be relevant to my situation. I have also called the Department of Justice and could not get past the initial clerks. After another phone call, I was told that “Someone checked with NCL” and that even if I was allowed to solicit help from among other passengers on the rare occasion that I needed it, I’d need someone to “be responsible for me 24 hours a day.”
I guess cruise lines view all people with disabilities as invalids ready for the nursing home….. or potential lawsuits. How sad!
[Note: There are actually cruises specifically equipped for terminally ill passengers and those with severe physical disabilities requiring full time care assistants and all manner of adaptive equipment] However, LJ has to be “monitored 24/7??
My manager at work who is also an attorney was irate and stated that your company should have provided the extra $400 each to enable us to go since Ms. Cruz failed to sufficiently explain the two for one . He also suggested that I sue you. I have no intention of doing so, as I prefer to choose my battles. Being an Advocate for the gay and lesbian community, the families of homicide and the disabled is enough advocacies for one person to carry, isn’t it?
By reputation and personal exposure, I have found you to be a reasonable person. I certainly do not wish to totally alienate the only company that can provide me with a satisfying vacation.
You advertise diversity, the ability for women to be free. I submit that after nearly 30 years experience as a voice and pillar in the lesbian community, your definition of diversity appears very narrow. What about thinking out of the “purple lesbian box” to market to others who are disabled and represent other minorities? (Blah, Blah, Blah……)
Judy’s eventual response to this letter is… and was a bit of a blur… You see, when she did respond by phone, it was a bad night. It was a Friday evening after work, eastern standard time. There had been torrential rains that afternoon… and someone hit my car. Ladyjustice was not at her best that night, and even cried a little…
Pardon me for not extolling the efforts of a Company President who installed a necessary and mandated ramp for her employee who was wheelchair bound… Equality is much more than infrastructure and physical access. It is just as much about how a person with a disability is treated. (i.e., attitudes, words, and actions pertaining to their circumstances.
A few months ago, this blogger sent an e-mail message to “the powers that be” to the Olivia website inquiring about current cruises, and essentially saying, let’s give this another try. No response was received from Olivia Cruises.
Have any lessons been learned in nine years? You are welcome to draw your own conclusions. Is it the fault of Ladyjustice that the parade of eligible dates is not at the door?? LJ says absolutely not! (Please refer to previous blog – July 2011-Dating & Damaged Goods)
The Good Stuff: A Few Points to Consider As a Disabled or Solo Passenger
(Especially if this is your first cruise…)
- Do your homework regarding the type of vacation you choose.
- Do you want to focus on specific ports of call and tourist attractions or mainly stay on the ship and enjoy all of the amenities?
[LJ prefers the latter if ports are inaccessible for whatever reason.]
- When travelling solo/and or disabled give yourself an extra day to make connections. i.e. Stay overnight in the city where the ship docks prior to departure. This is to ensure that if an airline connection is missed, you won’t miss your cruise. This measure also helps to decrease stress and fatigue.
- When researching shore excursions, don’t rely on website descriptions only. What is characterized by “lift exertion” for one person may be “moderate or a greater challenge” for your abilities. Rather, call the cruise line and /or speak to staff once onboard concerning which trips to book.
- There are different types of “disabled cabins.” Some offer roll in showers whereas others are modified with less assistive devices such as grab bars.
- Be sure to book these “little details” in advance…
Shuttle bus connections to airports, hotels and ship ports. If you have connecting flights, and are ambulatory, book wheelchair assistance at the airport. (You may be taken off the plane faster and this assistance ensures that you get to the proper gate on time. Book any dietary restrictions, travel insurance, adaptive equipment needs well in advance with the cruise line.
- Learning your way around a cruise ship can take the entire length of the cruise. So, once you find preferred locations, look for landmarks and…Don’t be afraid to ask! Everyone is there to help. They are the hospitality business!
- Be aware that there are different dining options. There are two seatings. If you have a choice verses being assigned, chose the dining style and time you prefer. If you like to eat at a reasonable earlier dining hour and attend the early show chose the first seating.
If you prefer to spend more time on your excursions and don’t want to be obligated to “rush back” to get ready for dinner, choose the late seating.
If you like to meet others, you might choose the “dine around” program and eat with new people each night. Or, if you like to eat with alone without other couples or with the same group, that’s fine.
Dud Alert: If you are placed with a couple at a table for four who “don’t say two word” or are “a real bore,” you can make your exit and ask to be assigned to another table for the next meal.
[As a single/solo traveller, LJ prefers large tables so that she can always find a few people to befriend, just in case some are “duds.”
As a single, if you are gregarious, like, LJ, chances are, you can “fit right in” anywhere.
- Just because you see a set of elevators, don’t assume it will take you to your destination. Cruise ships have several sets of elevators throughout which don’t always “lead you to the “main floor”
- The safety drill donning orange life preservers at the start of the cruise can be disorienting and a little scary if you have a disability.
It used to be, “all hands on deck” in which you have to report to a specific station -designated spot on a designated deck of the ship, read and listen to specific procedures… just in case “an unlikely event occurs.” However, it seems like lately, they have taken “the lazy way out” and “Everyone Report to the Auditorium” and watch a video. In LJ’s opinion, this is not true to life if a real emergency occurs…. Return to the “old way of doing things.”
- Oh yes…. You cannot use the elevators. Well, this blogger can do the multiple sets of stairs, especially with the help of gravity.
Should Ladyjustice lose her balance, there are many people around to “catch her” Ha! It only hurts of embarrassment for a minute!
However, there are certain designated safe areas for the disabled in which to report via the “air traffic controllers” nowadays.
- As a person with a disability, don’t forget to relish the things you can do on your vacation! Don’t fret that you can’t climb mountains.
For example, Ladyjustice loves to spend time in the warm whirlpools… They are very therapeutic physically and a great way to meet people from all walks of life. Coffee bars, retail shops, ice cream nooks, music venues, glass blowing demonstrations and any activity on the water are all favorites for this writer!
- Those of us who may need assistance to carry baggage, get from one place to another etc… carry a wad of one dollar bills. This helps tremendously at the airport, hotel and prior to boarding the ship.
“If you are a girl,” this saves so much time not to be fishing in your purse for a tip every five minutes.