Cruising the Italian Riviera

 By: Lori Cunningham

Last summer, after a quick jaunt in Rome, we embarked on a Royal Caribbean cruise to see more of Italy. Before leaving California, we had checked into the price of renting a scooter before boarding the cruise ship for my then 83-year-old mother-in-law, Sue.

The rental price for the ten-day cruise was well over $500. Yikes. Knowing that we would likely want to use a scooter over and over again for our trips with Sue, we thought it’s better to buy or rent a scooter from the U.S. and bring it with us.  

Our Go-Go® Sport* worked out great in Rome. We were hoping for the same ease of use aboard the cruise ship and our Italian ports.

Boarding the Ship!

Boarding the ship was flawless. It’s a bit of a long walk from registration, outside the ship, to the ship’s entry.

We had one elevator ride, which was plenty wide enough for several scooters. Then we accessed a number of elevated ramps and winding walkways. 

Packed with our extra gear (jackets, backpacks, etc.), Sue’s Go-Go scooter handled the ramps beautifully. I can imagine pushing a wheelchair up the ramps would have been much less enjoyable.

Once onboard, we headed straight for our cabin. We were concerned whether the scooter would fit in our room or not. We ended up parking it out in the hallway, right outside our door. With the key kept safely in our room, we did not worry about the scooter being stolen.

Sue riding down the hall of a cruise ship

To get to dinner, of course, involved traveling down a LONG hallway. With the Go-Go scooter, it was no problem for Sue. In fact, she often picked up a hitchhiker along the way!

We all loved the flexibility the Go-Go scooter afforded us. It really gave Sue a lot of independence. She could go back to the room on her own after dinner or a show and not worry about one of us needing to take her back.

She could stay in the room when she wanted and leave if she wanted. Sue was not dependent upon us for her mobility.

There was no shortage of wheel-driven mobility needs on the ship. We saw a ton of Go-Go scooters and wheelchairs. But unless you have strong conditioned arms, the long hallways of a cruise ship can prove difficult for independent wheelchair users.

Cruise ships are geared up for mobile accessibility. We had little trouble aboard the ship. We were even able to park Sue’s Go-Go scooter very close to the spa in the ship’s Solarium.

At dinner, we would park Sue’s scooter at the front of the dining room and she would walk to our table. I’m sure if she couldn’t walk, the cruise line would have found us a table closer to the entrance to accommodate her.

The biggest thing we were worried about was traveling to the sights.

Sue viewing the David sculpture

Sue didn’t miss much on our trips. With the help of her Go-Go scooter, she didn’t miss David!

We booked tours with mobile accessibility vehicles to pick us up from the shore where we docked and take us around. Florence was great. We walked a lot and Sue’s Go-Go scooter rolled a lot!

Albeit a little bumpy, the cobblestone streets were easily mastered by the Go-Go scooter. Although one of our tours included the Medici home, which had an elevator that only took us halfway. Sue ended up walking up most of the stairs with her trusty cane and helpful granddaughter.

Do You Know the Way to Pompeii?

We were most excited about our visit to Pompeii. We had set up a personal tour with a local archaeologist. He met us at the site. He told us that we could maneuver a scooter for the most part, but there would be some mobile accessibility issues.

A city buried in 79AD when Mt. Vesuvius erupted can’t be good for mobile accessibility, can it?

Surprisingly enough, we were able to successfully maneuver around the roads and sights of Pompeii about 90% of the time. Now mind you, we did have a few issues to contend with.

First, the pathways are narrow. Plenty of room for the scooter, but if you go during the busiest period in the summer, that path tends to be crowded, making it harder for scootering. But we found the path doable.

Second, back in 79 A.D., they cut their roads lower than the pathways for their houses. The roads were used for horse carriages and sewage. People would throw their sewage down the main street, which was sloped to go out of town.

To cross the street, Pompeiians built large square stone blocks to cross to the other side. Carriages could still go over them, but they kept the townspeople’s feet out of the muck.

This worked great for 79 A.D., but not so great for a scooter today. Two or three times, we needed to have my husband and tour guide take the scooter across while my kids and I helped Sue. If you have the help, I recommend it. If you don’t, there is still plenty to see without exploring the town’s houses.

Sue riding down a scooter ramp

As antiquated as Pompeii was, they added modern ramp conveniences to make mobile accessibility easier.

If you ever get the chance to visit Italy, Pompeii should be on your list. It is truly amazing how archaeological excavations have been able to unearth a whole city, one brush stroke at a time.  You’ll walk into homes and even still see faded colored paintings on the walls.

To see actual pottery, dishes, weapons, all wholly preserved from that era is remarkable. There are even actual people who were petrified from the volcano and preserved in lava and dirt in the position they encountered the lava. Sad but truly incredible. 

Sue in front of the leaning tower of Pisa

We did a quick trip to Pisa on the way back to the ship from Florence. It was amazing to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa, completed in 1732. A sight to behold.

Having a Go-Go scooter made our once-in-a-lifetime trip to Italy possible for the five of us.  We saw some amazing things and we will always remember this trip with Gramma. Had we held onto the fear we all had about mobile accessibility in Old World Italy, we would have truly missed out on an extraordinary trip.

If you’d like to visit faraway lands (or even local ones), don’t let the fear of traveling with mobility accessibility issues take a grip on you. Never before has it been easier to see the world. Airlines, hotels, and public sightseeing places have made it more accessible than you even know. Family memories are special. Plan your trip now.

*FDA Class II Medical Device designed to aid individuals with mobility impairments.

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