Below is Keith's response:
Good question. The short answer is, at the present time, I don’t think any of them presently advertise or publicly admit to allowing people with scooters.
The reasons, I believe, are several. First, the river ships are not built for them. There is no way you could take a regular sized mobility scooter down some of the narrow gangplanks much less drive them down the very narrow hallways or manoeuvre them into the staterooms. You also cannot use them while on the ship; there’s just no room. Taking them on the excursions is also somewhat problematic. Many of the times you have to take a bus to the destination. Sometimes there are steep stairs and many of the streets, in the areas where the ships dock and conduct their tours, are cobblestone with limited curb cuts. There is also the potential problem of getting off the ship when it is ‘rafted’ (when two or three ship are tied up beside one another) to another. In that case you’d need to be able to climb to whatever deck they’re using for crossing from one ship to the next, go through the other ships and then off the gangplank on the nearest one to shore. If everything is connected on the middle deck that wouldn’t be a problem; if however it’s connected on the upper deck that may be a problem as you’d need someone to carry the scooter up the last flight (many of the cruise ships have elevators – not all so make sure you check – but they don’t go to the top deck so you’d need to be able to walk to the top deck and have someone carry the scoot up to the top deck) and then through the other ship(s) and down onto the dock. Problematic? Potentially. Impossible? No.
Why don’t they advertise it or willingly accept them? I think it’s because they’re scared of the word motorized. They may well envision a large scooter that is too wide for the gangplank and weighing in at up to 200 lbs. Not something that would be easy for the crew to deal with. For some reason they don’t wish to listen to reason and are presently sticking by their standard statements where they try and lump everyone into one category. Viking’s statement is “Motorized scooters are not typically suitable on international cruises and cannot be accommodated.
I don’t think the Travelscoot is a typical scooter and there is nothing they need to do to ‘accommodate’ it other than allow the person to bring it - accommodation for it is even less so than for a manual wheelchair (I say less, because it’s smaller than a standard manual wheelchair and it weighs less than a standard manual wheelchair) but they do allow manual wheelchairs.
Having said that, we did take our Travelscoot (BTW, I am in no way connected with Travelscoot, other than I own one) on a Viking River Cruise last year. We informed them of it and I needed to provide them with the specifics and a doctor’s note regarding its use. The Travelscoot was narrow enough to take up and down the gang planks. I was able to park it next to the two wheelchairs in the lobby (taking my battery with me into the stateroom). Please note that I was able to walk, with my cane and braces, the short distance to the room. This would be a necessity. I (or the bus driver) was able to place it in the luggage storage area under the bus for transportation. There were never any issues (just remember to apply the brake so it doesn’t go rolling around). Using it I never held anyone back and I was able to travel to most of the places (there were two places that I couldn’t take it and that was because they both involved multiple stairs and very uneven terrain) that were offered. I was able to use it on all of the streets. It’s light enough that I could lift it, if necessary, where there were no curb cutaways. Was it a simple matter? No, not all the time. But we could certainly solve any problems we ran into. Having said that, I often run into situations here in our home town or when travelling to other places. Most of these problems, I have found, can be solved. It’s no different on a river cruise.
If you’re interested you can read some of our experiences on this site, http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1932164
We loved our trip and would like to do several more. We are in the planning phases for one for next year but at the present time Viking is telling me that I’m not allowed to bring the Travelscoot. They admit that they can’t stop me from bringing one but tell me that I will not be able to use it on the excursions (however I’m more than welcome to ‘walk’ or bring a manual wheelchair even if it is larger and heavier).
I find some of their statements insulting and bordering on rude. Why are we wanting to travel again with Viking? Basically we really, really enjoyed our time. The crew (from the officers to chefs to wait staff to room service to program director to deck crew) really made the trip and we’d like to experience it one or two more times before we are not able to travel any more. I thought there would be no problems with taking the Travelscoot on another Viking cruise because we’d done it once and there were no issues for the staff and the few we had for ourselves we dealt with. However, we were referred to a ‘Senior Director of Reservations’ who is being quite obstinate. I think they have a large enough clientele base and don’t believe they need to cater to those of us who have disabilities. It will only change if people question them and challenge their ‘rules’.
Several of the lines now offer ‘disabled’ suites. I believe Scenic does. Although they don’t state that they allow scooters some companies are slowly making some accommodations. I would encourage you not to give up. There were several people on our cruise that came despite needing a mobility aid like a scooter but were told no by Viking. They regretted not fighting to take one as they had great difficulties on the excursions (it’s not that distance wise the excursions are that long but many of us have difficulties with walking and then standing for protracted periods and then repeating the cycle).