|P&O Cruises’ Adonia. Image: P&O Cruises|
P&O Cruises in the UK is reported to have has introduced a new rule that wheelchairs and mobility scooters have to be stored inside cabins when not in use, with as a result, angry disabled passengers threatening a boycott of P&O.
P&O UK director Carol Marlow said that a safety review at the end of last year raised concerns that wheelchairs and scooters left in corridors blocked escape routes during an emergency, according to a report in the UK’s Daily Telegraph.
Passengers who use scooters claim the policy is discriminatory as it forces them to book more expensive accommodation.
It appears that collapsible wheelchairs can be stored inside any cabin, but passengers who use a scooter can only book a disabled cabin, which has a wider door, suite or mini-suite, with one regular cruiser telling the Telegraph he is booked on cruises with P&O until 2015, but beyond that is considering land-based trips, saying that he had found an advert publication for a foldaway scooter that fits into a small bag but was told that was also not allowed. Another wrote on an internet forum after learning of the changes: "I don’t think they deserve my business".
The report says the policy came into force on P&O’s Oriana on March 18 and Oceana on March 30 and is being rolled out to the rest of the fleet this month, with the new rules also applying to sister Carnival company, Cunard.
Ms Marlow added, “Too many motorised scooters were being left outside cabins because of a lack of space.” “Passengers with scooters must have cabins large enough to store them inside.” “We don’t want to lose passengers, but health and safety comes first.”
She also said that the decision complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), UK Equality Act 2010 and EU maritime passenger rights legislation brought in on December 18 last year, and it means there is now a limit to the number of scooters allowed on each cruise, which varies depending on the ship.
Ms Marlow said P&O’s two largest vessels each have 31 disabled cabins and 27 suites and mini-suites, but the smallest, Adonia, has only three and 10 respectively, with once these are filled, no other scooter, collapsible or not, would be allowed on board, but wheelchairs that can be folded away into the wardrobe will be allowed.
According to Ms Marlow, “Suites and mini-suites do cost more, but wheelchair-accessible cabins don’t necessarily cost more than an equivalent-sized cabin".
She advised passengers to book early because numbers are limited.