Some years ago I took my elderly disabled parents on their first ever cruise. We chose to cruise around The Canary Islands on P&O’s Oceana. The service and attention to detail on the ship was excellent but one incident really stood out for us.
Along with a small group of other people we booked an accessible tour around one of the Islands. We all dutifully turned up at the meet point on the ship ready to disembark and get on our transport for the day. One of the ship’s crew met us and her first words were “we have a problem.”
Apparently, the tide was higher than had been expected, meaning that the accessible gangway was at too steep an angle to allow us to disembark safely. We all groaned, although we have come to expect barriers in a lot of circumstances that we face in life.
The crew member continued “but don’t worry, have a seat and a cup of tea whilst the Captain tilts the ship.” We all sat down, clinging on to the table as we waited for a noticeable lurch to one side. In fact, we felt nothing. 25 minutes later we were disembarking and off out for a memorable day trip. As we left the ship late we were late returning. The ship was ready to sail, bar the accessible gangway which was still lowered. As soon as we boarded, the ship set sail.
Why is this incident worth talking about? For a start, the captain didn’t have to authorise this manouver, he could have told us to wait for the tide to drop. Instead he used the incident as a training exercise for the engineers. Secondly, it showed how he valued all his passengers and wanted to give them the best experience. Thirdly, we knew how the ship and her crew met the needs of the passengers and excelled in their customer service towards us.
The result? We were so impressed with the whole experience of our cruise and how the captain had gone out of his way to help us, that the first thing we did when we got back was to book another cruise, with P&O. Also, here I am, 12 years later, still talking about it. Disabled people are loyal customers. When they find a business that meets all their needs and gives great service they will return, and they will pass the word on to others.
Accessibility isn’t just about the physical environment, it’s also about attitudes. Getting it right results in repeat business and recommendations.