We recently received a question from a reader concerning the viability of river cruising for those with mobility issues. Because it’s so applicable — and surely on the minds of other potential river cruisers — we thought we’d share it here.
Q: Are the Viking Longships handicapped accessible? What about the guided shore excursions? I need to use a mobility scooter: Would this be possible on river cruises?
The Viking Longships are equipped with elevators that run between Middle and Upper Deck, but does not go as low as Main Deck or as high as the Sun Deck. This is due to limitations placed on the height of European-based river cruise vessels, which forces cruise lines to house elevator machinery on the lowest deck in order to eliminate structures on the upper decks.
Viking’s elevators are some of the best. They’re wider, faster, and brighter than others. Many older river cruise vessels lack an elevator entirely.
Regarding scooters, unless you’re booking the highest-category stateroom aboard any river cruise vessel, you’ll likely find there isn’t room in your stateroom to store your scooter — and passenger corridors are typically too narrow to leave it there overnight.
Guests who need the use of a scooter may find European river cruising to be problematic in a number of ways. Gangways can have steep angles, although there are metal grips to aid guests who are on-foot. During the high season when ships are sometimes docked three and four abreast guests will have to travel between vessels. Even if your ship is suitable for a mobility scooter, there is no guarantee that the ship docked next to you will be.
Other considerations are the streets of Europe themselves. Although Europeans are forward-thinking when it comes to accessibility, there are lanes, buildings and monuments that are just not designed for someone on a scooter. Streets can be made of uneven cobblestones that can become quite slippery when wet, and may be difficult to traverse.
In the end, your ability to take a river cruise may depend largely on the extent of your mobility issue. If you are unable to leave your scooter without physical assistance, we would not recommend a river cruise; an overland journey or a cruise aboard a larger cruise ship would likely be a better choice.
If, however, you are able to leave your scooter but unable to walk long distances, you may want to still consider taking a river cruise. Many of the tours are conducted via motorcoach. Plus, you can always sit tight and enjoy scenic cruising aboard the ship, which in our view is still one of the primary reasons to take a river cruise.
As with anything, your mileage may vary. River cruising is a fantastic experience, but if you are keen to take one and absolutely must travel with a mobility scooter, we’d recommend having your travel agent get involved with the cruise line on your behalf to see what, if any, provisions can be made. Recognize that space is at a premium aboard river cruise vessels, and that they are constructed and deployed differently than large cruise ships.
We’re always interested in your experiences aboard, so please leave comments in the section below. Our goal is to build a collective cruise community of voices that help all to make informed cruise vacation decisions.