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Scooting Around Allure: Empowering Guests to ExploreNovember 14, 2011 By: Susan Young
|All photos courtesy of the author|
The last-time I took my mother, Doris J. Young, along on an Allure of the Seas cruise, she sat in her cabin or was “parked” in her transport wheelchair in the Royal Promenade while I attended to business responsibilities onboard. At 86, she’s sharp as a tack and walks okay, but just can’t go far mobility-wise.
While she loved everything about the humongous ship, she lacked the freedom to explore it without someone pushing her along in the transport chair. So when I learned I’d be attending the CruiseOne conference and sailing onboard Allure of the Seas again this year, I opted to bring my mom again.
But this time, I secured a three-wheeled electric scooter from CareVacations, which has been renting mobility equipment to travelers since 1988. Here are gleanings from a first-hand experience scooting around the world’s largest ship.
|The author's mother, Doris J. Young|
Booking over the phone was easy and quick. CareVacations has 25 U.S. reservations specialists to assist agents and their clients at 877-478-7827.
We were asked to choose between a small, medium or large scooter. At first we thought the small one might be best, but when we learned the battery on the medium model had more power so the user could explore longer, we selected that one. The seat also had a little more seat space.
CareVacations’ pricing for rentals is based on three criteria – the specific equipment being rented, the cruise home port and the length of the cruise or hotel stay. For example, an electric scooter rental for a seven-day roundtrip cruise from Port Everglades costs $185 for a lightweight model, $225 for a mid-sized scooter and $275 for a heavy duty model.
Payment is required at the time the rental is confirmed. To protect ourselves against damage, theft or loss of the scooter during our rental period, we also purchased insurance at $70. It’s a good peace-of-mind option.
It’s best to have your stateroom number ready when you call to reserve equipment. If you don’t know it, you can alert them later as well. Why is the stateroom number important? CareVacations places the scooter inside the cabin before boarding, so it’s ready to go when the guest arrives.
We used a transport wheelchair to bring my mother onboard, and when we arrived at our cabin, presto, there was the electric scooter parked inside.
We were staying in a standard Central Park cabin with a picture window, and the cabin was fairly small. The scooter had been placed by CareVacations in the only space easily accessible for the equipment – in the entry hall between the bed and bathroom.
But once we were actually living in the stateroom, it just was too crowded with the scooter in that locale. So that necessitated parking the scooter in the hallway during our cruise.
If you’re an agent with a client who wants to use a scooter onboard, it’s a good idea within the cruise booking process to evaluate and select a stateroom or suite that can accommodate the equipment, or, alternatively, a stateroom that’s near a spot where the client can park the scooter outside at night.
In our case, the Allure of the Seas hallways had recessed areas that easily allowed us to park the scooter near our cabin and still allow people and the stateroom steward’s service cart to pass. Royal Caribbean had many scooters parked around the ship in corridors, but it’s best to check with the cruise line on their policy.
When we walked into our cabin the first day, the scooter key was in the ignition, a sign on the scooter seat said “all charged, ready to go” and we received a small blue nylon pouch to hold the key; it was attached to a lanyard my mother could wear around her neck. For safety's sake, the key always should be removed when the scooter is parked.
In addition, a blue nylon bag left by CareVacations on the scooter contained an electric re-charging power cord. CareVacations had advised us during the booking process that the scooter cords are fairly short and that it's helpful to bring along your own three-prong extension cord; I bought one for about $10 at Walgreens en route to the ship.
An information sheet left with the scooter also advised us what to do if we needed help with the scooter onboard or ashore, with phone numbers and other details. While we were advised to read the instruction book carefully, mother had operated scooters before in the grocery store, so off we went.
That was a big mistake. Strongly advise clients to read the scooter instructions before setting out to explore the ship. All scooters have different quirks and operating specifications. Put the instruction booklet in the back pocket of the scooter, if it has one. That way it will be accessible anytime.
Yes, my mother was extremely adept at driving the scooter, but when we got to one of the ship’s lounges to check in for the conference, the scooter suddenly wouldn’t start. It was the first of several times during the cruise the scooter just wouldn’t go.
But, alas, we learned that was entirely our fault. When we took time to actually read the instructions, we soon figured out that she was keeping her hands on the throttle when the scooter was in a “stop” mode.
Her own hand movements were creating the problem. Once she adapted her technique, the scooter worked perfectly throughout the cruise.
An electric scooter gives your cruise clients with mobility issues the freedom to explore. Suddenly, the Allure of the Seas -- despite its size -- was my mother’s playground. She drove the scooter to the buffet restaurant, onto the Boardwalk, through the Royal Promenade and along the pathways of Central Park.
She went farther than ever possible had she just been walking on her own, or even had I been pushing her in a transport chair.
On several occasions, my mother looked out our picture window to the Central Park walkway below to observe an older man or woman gasping for breath and clearly looking for a place to sit down while younger family members surged ahead to go here or there. “That guy should have rented a scooter,” she remarked to me.
It’s really all about taking advantage of all the ship has to offer and doing what you want, when you want. While I was in the onboard CruiseOne conference sessions working, she was able to get out and about.
Her biggest issue onboard was getting lost in trying to find our cabin, 9637. Somehow she ended up on deck six not deck nine. After motoring around and around looking for 637, a helpful Royal Caribbean cabin steward assisted and led her around looking for the cabin. He couldn’t find it, of course, because that floor didn’t have a 637.
Then an officer in a white uniform noticed her, asked if he could help and then both he and the crew member led her around and around again looking for 637. “Don’t worry, we’ll find it,” the officer said, “Come with me.”
But they didn’t and she didn’t have her key card with her. Finally, they called me from a phone, and I could hear them laughing in the background. All three of them were chuckling as they realized she was in 9637 and was on the wrong floor.
Overall, that type of caring and courteous experience toward a "scooter guest" was repeated throughout our time on the ship by Royal Caribbean officers, cabin stewards, dining room and buffet restaurant staffers, and others who looked beyond the scooter to see the fun, sharp lady driving it.
Most guests were also accommodating and courteous, as we learned that a scooter driver really needs good clearance and a clear path when driving in and out of elevators, down hallways and into tight spaces in crowded restaurants.
Throughout the cruise, my mother was able to meet and greet people on her own – no longer tied to me pushing her in a transport chair. She particularly enjoyed meeting and chatting with a couple and their two teenagers from Denmark at several points during the cruise.
One important tip? Tell your clients to really watch out for the kids. A scooter doesn’t chug along too fast but, even so, it could truly injure a young child. Think of a ship as a toy store. Kids see something and they run to it, often not looking before they dart.
And with Allure of the Seas -- with its carousel, Shrek characters and colorful draws around every corner -- well, enough said about kids running here and there. At times, my mother had to release the throttle quickly when a kid darted in front of her as the scooter was slowly motoring along.
My mother opted to explore via scooter on the ship but not ashore, although CareVacations told us she could take the scooter off at foreign ports. The ship docked, rather than used tenders, at all its shore ports, so it would have been feasible. We just felt, for our first time using the scooter, it was best to stick to the ship.
We only needed to charge our scooter twice during our entire cruise. Each charge lasts about 10 hours they say. We did need the extension cord (the one CareVacations recommended) in order to charge the scooter in the stateroom. Our cabin configuration and the scooter's size just didn’t allow us to get the scooter close enough to the outlet.
Today’s mega ships are humongous, and even mid-sized ships are far bigger than they were a decade or so ago. Our experience with the electric scooter was positive. I’d definitely rent a scooter again for my mother. We also found the CareVacations rental experience easy to navigate.
Our only issue with the scooter occurred when we didn’t fully read the instructions right away, as we were advised to do. Once we did that, it whisked my mother wherever she wanted to go.
When it came time to leave the ship, we left the scooter in our room, and used a transport chair to take her off the ship. “See you next time buddy,” she said with a smile and a view to her electric rental scooter, as we departed.
Renting a Scooter
Multiple firms provide mobility and medical needs equipment onboard cruise ships. We noticed at least three different firms’ names on the equipment we saw onboard Allure of the Seas.
CareVacations rents wheelchairs, power mobility scooters, power chairs, walkers, oxygen, oxygen concentrators and other personal oxygen conserving (POC) devices, as well as bed-and-bathroom safety items. Agent commission on CareVacations’ rentals starts at 10 percent.
If you have clients who need their rental equipment for the embarkation/disembarkation process in order get on or off the ship, CareVacations says it's often able to deliver and pick up the equipment directly from your clients prior to cruise embarkation or after disembarkation.
The firm also says it will deliver equipment to hotel properties. In port cities worldwide; that’s helpful if the client is taking a pre- or post-cruise land stay.
For the holidays, clients or agents might want to purchase a gift certificate for their friends, family or loyal clients who are cruising and need an electric scooter. Gift certificates can be arranged at 877-478-7827.
For more information about electric scooter or other mobility or medical equipment rentals, visit www.carevacations.com.