Cruise line to cancer survivor: “Bring your own wheelchair”

Anne O’Connor’s friend, Annie, is a cancer survivor. She’s taking a special Danube cruise with her parents in December to celebrate the completion of another round of chemotherapy. She’ll need a wheelchair for the voyage, but her cruise line is being unhelpful.

Does a cruise line owe its disabled passengers a free wheelchair? Hers did not.

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Annie is cruising through Central Europe on the Danube Waltz, which is owned by Viking River Cruises. It’s a small riverboat. Viking’s policy is crystal-clear. From its policy statement (PDF):

As a general rule, Guests with disabilities who require the use of a wheelchair on board our ships must bring and remain responsible for their own wheelchair, which must be collapsible.

So what made me contact Viking River Cruises on Annie’s behalf, anyway? Read on.

Here’s O’Connor’s note to me:

I’m writing on behalf of a friend, whose husband is taking their 18-year-old daughter on a European cruise to celebrate her finishing another long round of chemotherapy.

The girl, Annie, has already lost a leg to cancer at age 14 and the disease has reoccurred twice.

When they contacted Viking in regards to their trip in December, they were told to bring their own wheelchair. Living in NJ, you can imagine the extra hassle that would mean, not to mention how could her husband push a wheelchair and handle the luggage?

I realize that this ship is smaller than most (the cruise is called the Danube Waltz, from Budapest to Passau) and the ship might not contain one, but can’t we contact someone in Europe to provide a rented wheelchair?

Any assistance you can provide would be most appreciated.

It is one thing to have a policy that everyone needs to bring their own wheelchair. Actually, that’s understandable. You don’t want a cruise line to get into the wheelchair rental business.

But I thought Viking River’s reply to Annie’s family could have been a little more customer-friendly. Yes, it has this policy. But why not offer a list of companies it works with, who will provide a wheelchair rental during her cruise?

Also, the policy says “as a general rule,” which implies that it might offer a wheelchair under certain circumstances.

I asked Viking if it could help its customer.

A few days later, I received an update.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Viking contacted my friend and they apologized and said of course they can provide a wheelchair.

You don’t know what a relief this is for them, it’s hard enough to travel with someone who is handicapped, they couldn’t imagine dragging a wheelchair halfway around the globe.

You do a wonderful service and I love reading your stories and advice. Keep it up!

I’m happy to help. And nice work, Viking River.

(Photo: Huz head/Flickr Creative Commons)