A 69-year-old male passenger booked aboard P&O Cruises’ Ventura was denied boarding because of his electric wheelchair, which had not been previously declared under the cruise line’s special needs and accessibility policies.

Ultimately, the disabled guest was told he could board the ship but only without his wheelchair, an option that was not possible for his mobility.

The guest, Mike Ashton, was to have sailed on Ventura’s May 4 departure with his wife, daughter, and mother-in-law. When the family arrived at the Southampton cruise terminal for their 7-night cruise, however, he was informed that he’d not be able to board unless he left his motorized wheelchair behind.

Photo Credit: Sterling Images / Shutterstock

P&O Cruises’ policy is that scooters need to be declared in advance in case of emergency to ensure there are sufficient personnel to assist travelers with limited mobility.

Ashton was booked in a wheelchair accessible room and claims he never received emails alerting him to fill out the onboard needs questionnaire. The form is available through the cruise line’s online portal and declarations must be made in advance, not on the day of sailing.

To avoid losing out on the entire cost of the family’s cruise fare, Ashton’s family members departed without him after tearful goodbyes at the cruise terminal.

“I said goodbye to my crying daughter. I felt humiliated and embarrassed. I felt guilty. They made me feel more disabled and I felt discriminated against. I felt hopeless and very lonely,” said Ashton.

Ashton was able to drive home, and was in touch with his family onboard the cruise ship during their holiday – which also celebrated his daughter’s birthday.

“We are so sorry this happened to Mr. Ashton and he was not able to board,” a spokesperson from P&O Cruises said. “The on board needs questionnaire is on My P&O Cruises (our online portal) to be completed – it is not sent out by email. It is also very clear on the front page of My P&O Cruises that this is to be completed if needed.”

The Mobility Aids and Equipment page of P&O Cruises’ website does clearly state the policy about declaring mobility scooters in advance.

“If you do not advise us in advance of your holiday that you will be bringing a mobility scooter, you won’t be able to bring your mobility scooter on board. There are no storage facilities available for devices that are denied boarding, so this could also result in a you being denied boarding,” the policy reads.

Cruise Ship Mobility Scooter (Photo Credit: Joni Hanebutt)

In fact, the policy is restated several times on the same page, including very directly: “If you do not advise us in advance of your holiday that you will be bringing a mobility scooter, you won’t be able to bring your mobility scooter on board.”

Read Also: Mobility Scooter Causes Fire Scare on P&O Cruise Ship

The declaration policy applies to both mobility scooters as well as standard wheelchairs. The reasoning for the declaration is not only to ensure adequate staff in case of an emergency, but also to be sure a scooter has the proper dimensions to fit inside the stateroom.

This incident comes as more cruise lines are seeing issues with mobility scooters and taking steps to ensure everyone’s safety and accessibility onboard.

Carnival Cruise Line, for example, has recently clarified its scooter size policies and been very forthright that larger scooters will not be permitted onboard. Scooters, wheelchairs, and similar equipment may also not be stored in public areas or corridors when not in use. Carnival Cruise Line and P&O Cruises are owned by the same parent company, Carnival Corporation & plc.

Any guests who require mobility equipment of any kind for their cruise travels should carefully study their cruise line’s policies to be sure they are in compliance with what size and style of equipment is permitted, and how it can be used onboard.

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