The Liberty of the Seas is the second biggest ship in the world, just behind the Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas. It measures an impressive 339 meters in length, has 6500 m2 in surface space, and has the capacity to transport 5700 people (4300 passengers and 1400 crew members). Even though we knew wheelchair access was going to have a few barriers in Europe, we took the challenge and embarked on a European cruise to Spain, France and Italy.
Saturday: Barcelona, Spain
The ship left at noon from the harbor in Barcelona, and for one hour access to the cabin is not possible. So with this time try to eat something and to get to know a bit the ship, which has 15 floors!
The Windjammer dining room is an all-you-can-eat buffet with some tables reserved for people in wheelchairs. Access to food and drinks was a little difficult because counters were high and there was limited visibility from a chair’s height.
Adapted cabins for disabled travelers are wider than the normal ones. The bed is at a correct height, although the mattress is quite soft and that makes the transfer bit complicated. Furthermore, the bed includes an “antiescara” mattress, which is a type of medical mattress. Handrails in the bathroom are at a good height. There is a bar in the middle that swings and seemed a bit high but works for some. A shower bench is permanently in the wall and flips down.
Sunday: Toulon, France
The ramp used to get off the ship in Toulon, France has a slight incline, which some in manual chairs will need assistance for. Electric chairs will have an easier time with the extra power. Toulon’s center is about 20 minutes from the harbor. We visited central places such as Toulon’s Port. The ship was clear on when to return. More information about Toulon is here. It is also possible to visit Provence or St. Tropez, which are located around a bit more than one hour by car.
Monday: Villefranche, France
The ship does not dock at the harbor in Villefranche, France because it is too big. Instead smaller boats, called tenders, ferry passengers to the coast. The ride takes around 10 minutes. Be careful with the tenders. When going back to the ship, we found out that the runway was narrower than the chair and several people needed to take the chair securely across.
Once ashore, most head to the tourist destinations of Monaco or Nice. We decided to go to Monaco. At first, we believed we could travel by train to Monaco as it’s only 20 minutes by train (4 stops) but we were told that the access to the train station was complex (no sidewalks and uphill) and that trains were not adapted. So, we decided to take a taxi, which cost 60€.
Knowing that Monaco is quite uphill the best option was the taxi leaving us near the Prince’s Palace, in the high part of the city. The palace is open and it can be visited, although we don’t know if the path is accessible. Guard change is done every day at noon. From the Palace’s square, there is a good view of Monaco.
Close to the Prince’s Palace, there is the Cathedral, where Grace Kelly’s and Rainiero III’s graves are located. Main Access into the Cathedral has stairs but there is another entrance that can be accessed for handicapped people on the left lateral.
After visiting the Cathedral and the Palace, we went down to the harbor area. In this area, the Circuit de Monaco is located. This street circuit is used for Formula One Monaco Grand Prix, a race that occurs for one weekend in May once a year.
Once in the harbor to visit the famous Monte Carlo Casino it’s needed to go uphill. With this route, it’s possible to stop and enjoy the views of the harbor and yachts as well as to appreciate the view of the exit tunnel for the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix. It’s possible to visit the casino for 10€, although it’s also possible to access the entrance without paying anything. The lift is located in the right lateral at the main entrance.
Tuesday: Livorno, France
We arrived in Livorno, France. Today there is a public transport strike. The center of the city is situated around 4-5 km and the only way to leave the harbor is by car or bus. The bus ($8 round ticket) that has been adapted for wheelchairs has already left.
The nearer tourist places are Florence (95km) and Pisa (22km). The only option we had to visit something was to hire a taxi driver who asked us 600€ for the whole day, to visit Florence and Pisa (8 people), but we were not willing to pay. So instead we took part in a Wii tournament, watched people practice surfing in a FlowRider pool, had some fun playing games at an arcade, like air hockey, and even enjoyed a show on ice called “Encore.”
Wednesday: Civitavecchia, Italy
At this stop, we decided to visit Rome, Italy with a taxi driver for 350€. The trip will take us the whole day, as Rome is located about one hour by car. The taxi driver took us to some of the biggest tourist attractions and even provided some historical background like a tour guide. We also visited Navona Square, Roman Forum, etc. but the best spots are the views over Rome from Giuseppe Garibaldi’s Square.
Thursday: Naples/Capri, Italy
Naples, Italy is quite a chaotic city and it’s a bit complicated to move around in a wheelchair. In the city center we visited Toledo Street, which was full of shops. The streets and sidewalks in Naples are made up of cobblestones, which can be hard to get around in a wheelchair so keep this in mind; a little patience is needed to explore this city. There is a ferry which takes you to Capri, Italy. We’ve been told the ship is accessible, but not the island.
Friday: At Sea
Friday we traveled back to Barcelona. It’s a day to enjoy the ship’s facilities.
Saturday: Barcelona, Spain
It took us all of Friday to travel to Barcelona, Spain. On Saturday we left the cabin and ship very early. The next group of passengers were waiting to board the Liberty of the Seas, which will leave again today at 5 pm. The crew has a lot to do to leave everything impeccable for new guests. So, at 7:30 am another new experience was completed.