Some months ago I emailed my usual request to Cunard’s Shore Mobility department to find out whether of not any tours had been organised with wheelchair adapted vehicles in the ports we were visiting. There was one in Sardinia, but we had tried that back in June and it had been an expensive failure because the pretty young lady driver could hardly speak any English. There was another in Gib, but we have been there on just about every European cruise we have been on and I hate the apes!
But there was one half day tour planned for Dubrovnik and we confirmed that for the 3 of us and the wheelchair.
On the ship 3 days before Dubrovnik I was told that it was likely that it would have to be cancelled as only the 3 of us were booked in. I explained I had booked it in Southampton and was surprised, if they were short of takers, why it not been advertised on the ship. I made it clear that I was not very happy. Two days to go and no sign of any promotion of the availability of places.
There were clearly conversations between the ship and Southampton and the day before, I was told it would go ahead. Great. Up early to be ready for an 8.30am meeting on the dockside.
The driver looked a bit grumpy, but our guide, Sanja was lovely. A Croatian girl brought up and educated in Slovenia, married to a police officer now in a senior position in Croatian state security. They have 2 daughters.
Sanja’s English vocabulary was amazing. She speaks 5 languages.
After brief introductions and an outline of the plan for the half day tour, Jane is installed in the vehicle. The driver is told that he needs to use restraints to hold the chair in place and he struggles with them.
The first part of the tour is a visit to Cavtat which is beautiful. A small town in a bay with a bustling harbour. We walk along the promenade alongside the sterns of the tied up yachts and we find that the largest of them by far is Penelope of Luxury Living, Southampton.
The crew are polishing the vessel and I explain to one of them, a young Englishman from Hampshire, that I am taking a photo because of the Southampton connection. They were cleaning because the new guests, one couple, were due to arrive shortly. When we later had coffee I googled the yacht to find that the weekly rental is 50,000 Euros in the Med or $66,000 in the Caribbean. I’d take it but for the fact it’s not wheelchair friendly!
We then returned to the adapted vehicle and set off for Dubrovnik. The driver seemed to forget that Jane was in the back. He took corners too fast and on one corner there was a scream from Jane. Her wheelchair had detached itself from the floor and Jane and the chair were thrown down on their side, her head hitting the backs of the seats in front of her. Mr Grumpy braked and stopped, blocking a junction. We climbed into the back, pulling Jane up. Jane was really shaken up. Luckily there were no cuts or bruises and no broken bones. There could easily have been. It was awful. Quite simply the driver had used 2 restraints instead of 4. He had failed to make Jane secure.
After a time we set off again at a more sedate pace and eventually arrived at the old city. Jane seemed to be over the shock of being thrown to the floor. Sanja was a terrific guide taking us down the main shiny street, the Placa, and pointing out the various buildings and their history.
The plan was that we would be collected for the return to the ship at 12.45. Sanja kept taking calls from the driver and from her employer. In the event we were an hour late returning. There will be a detailed email winging its way to Cunard when we get back.
As ever, Dubrovnik delights and a knowledgeable attractive guide with a great command of the English language is a big bonus.