Hi! My husband has muscular dystrophy and uses a power chair. We live in New Zealand and both enjoy travelling while we can. We have just returned from 5 weeks in Europe. We use Blogs and online forums extensively to help us plan our trips; nothing like asking people who have also experienced so called accessible bathrooms and transport for the real facts. We were really impressed with the access in many of the ports we stopped at, especially being able to access the beach down wooden walkways and even swim in the Mediterranean with the help of two life guards and a beach wheelchair. Unfortunately, New Zealand is way behind in catering for wheelchair visitors, especially in regard to access to tourist transport and accessible taxis in some of our smaller places.
Venice: We cruised from Venice to Barcelona with Holland America. This is our 4th cruise with HAL, and we initially chose this cruise line because our research showed that they have modified many of their ships (but not the smaller and older ones) to enable wheelchair passengers to access the tender deck via a small elevator. A bit of background here; many itineraries include ports where the ship anchors in the bay and passengers are taken ashore with the ship’s tenders. if the tenders are not accessible it means that wheelchair passengers cannot go ashore at this port. Holland America does have a range of accessible cabins, which can be booked and most of the rest of the ship is wheelchair accessible. They also have designated crew members that are on hand to assist when embarking and disembarking as sometimes the gangway is very steep. The crew are also very accommodating in the dining rooms with table selection and moving furniture to fit a wheelchair.
We initially flew to Venice; a 3 flight 30 hour journey from New Zealand and because we knew we would be very weary on arrival we booked and prepaid an accessible water taxi from the airport to our hotel. The company is called Sanitrans, www.sanitrans.net, it wasn’t cheap but was worth the money for the convenience and also for a scenic ride through the city to our hotel. The crew were waiting for us at the taxi pier at the airport. They have a hydraulic lift for you to board the boat so you can stay in your wheelchair. They then deliver you to the hotel landing and roll out a metal ramp for you to disembark.
We traveled around Venice mostly by vaporetto with disabled people getting cheaper vaporetto tickets, we bought some at the ticket booth at the aiport only 1.75 E each if I remember rightly. We also downloaded a map showing the facilitated bridges from the Accessible Venice website and also maps showing the accessible routes around each district www.veneziacittapertutti.it . Unfortunately, because of the bridges we couldn’t go say from San Marco to Rialto with the wheelchair we had to use the vaporetto but they were easy to access and the cheap tickets were a bonus. . Disabled people and 1 helper also get in free to the Basilica and the Doge’s Palace. The disabled access doors are noted on their websites. We found Venice a wonderful place to visit but you need to do your homework.
We stayed at Hotel Dona Palace in an accessible room following a friend’s recommendation who also uses a wheelchair. I think the hotel has only 1 accessible room and the room we stayed in has a shower seat and flat access. There is no curtain around the shower so the room gets rather wet but we used towels to keep the floor dry. The hotel was so central to Saint Mark’s Square and the vaporetto. The room had 4 big windows and shutters that looked down on the street and a balcony that looked down on the canal that goes to the Bridge of Sighs, we were serenaded each evening by passing gondolas. The courtyard bar also overlooked the Bridge of Sighs and it was very pleasant sitting and watching the passing gondola traffic. The room was on the first floor and there is a lift. Access to the breakfast room is via about 6 stairs but they do have a stair lift that my husband used. The staff were very helpful and the breakfast was delicious.
Looking down from our room to the courtyard bar and the water taxi landing.