Thursday, June 08, 2006

Before we go

Following our extremely enjoyable 2005 cruise we decide to take a new P&O cruise in 2006. As most of the stops in 2005 were at tender ports, Christine, confined to her wheelchair, was only able to enjoy a small time ashore. Other passengers on that cruise recommended we go on a Baltic cruise as most of the ports there are fairly accessible.

Discussing our plans with Accessible Travel and Leisure aka Cotswold Cruise Club, we learn that accessible excursions are possible in St. Petersburg. An email to P&O later confirms this. We are already familiar with the layout of the Aurora and this time choose an outside cabin.

We'd flown down to Southampton before but the times of the flights have changed. The Saturday return flight is too early for us to catch and the Sunday return flight is not until late afternoon.

Checking the railway timetable we find there is a direct train from Southampton to Stockport about 1.15pm on the day we return. We decide that the easiest option is to catch a Friday afternoon train down to Southampton and stay overnight ready to board the next day.

We select an overnight hotel and book it. Some of the ones we consider are already full.

One cannot book rail tickets more than three months in advance. When I come to contact Virgin Rail about booking, I'm first informed that they can't confirm the return train and suggest ringing again a few days later. When I do, I'm told that the selected train only has one wheelchair space on it and it is already booked. I'm offered a journey that involves changing trains twice!

We conclude that we'll be better off flying down after all. I book the flights online with British Airways. I phone their Mobility Centre who already have our flight details. We give them information about the wheelchair and they arrange for all the help we will need
for boarding the aircraft to be on hand.

It actually costs less to fly than go by rail, even though our Disabled Rail Card gives us a third off rail fares.

I phone the overnight hotel and move our booking from the 9th to the 24th June.

A month before we are due to depart I telephone Airport Carz only to find that they no longer accommodate electric wheelchairs!

Fortunately we get to hear about Roland Travel of Dukinfield and book the transfer with them.

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