I have never been so excited and anxious all at the same time, as I was for my first cruise! I travelled on the MSC Sinfonia and did the cruise was from Cape Town to Mossel Bay and back to Cape Town.
I did all the reading and research prior to the cruise but the info regarding wheelchair access really was limited. I wasn't even sure how I would board the ship!
We arrived at E berth just after 11h00 on the day of departure. Dropped our suitcases off first and then started the check in process. The departure and arrival's area is all ramped and wheelchair accessible. It is a working harbour, so it's like a warehouse or storage space but it's clean and it's accessible.
It's a slow process as all hand luggage is scanned and any prohibited items confiscated until after the cruise. Once we went through the hand luggage check, we had our photo taken further down the passage and then you queue again to check in and receive your plastic card which is everything on the cruise! You use the card given for buying and for access to your room. This card is like gold! From the check in counter you then wait to board the cruise ship. If you in a wheelchair like me, you get to bypass the queue. For wheelchair users there's a separate entrance, which the staff help you go up. It's the same entrance which is used to load the luggage on etc. It's quite wide; my wheelchair is 70 cm's from rim to rim and then there was still space on either side. Once on board I was whisked straight up to my cabin, which I don't recommend doing as I actually needed to queue at the accounts counter. You need to link a credit card to your cruise card or load money onto it. And yes that's the most important thing, so do it first and get it out of the way. So I had to find my wingmen in the queue and wait to link my credit card. It's a slow process. I stayed in cabin 9149, which is 1 of the wheelchair accessible inside cabins. Inside cabins have no windows. Be warned.
The doorway is I think 80cm's wide. On entering the cabin they had made up the 2 single beds as a double bed, which really does limit the manoeuvring space. As I was staying on my own, we had housekeeping sort out the beds, which gave me much more space to move around. The bathroom doorway is also 80cm's wide and the door opens outwards into the cabin. Bathroom has a small roll in shower, toilet and basin with easy access and grab-rails. There's a hand held shower, which is also height adjustable and 1 of those little shower chairs to sit on. I was worried about the bathroom as I wasn't sure about access and the space but it really was fine and is more than do-able. The towel rack is a bit high, as is the shelves to store your toiletries but I just used the counter space. The basin plug didn't work so well, so wash quickly! And when showering the water did tend to drain away slowly (also depending on the roll of the ship) and flowed over the little shower lip. So be careful of that. Cupboard space has ample hanging space and comes with a lowered rail. The safe is also inside the cupboard and is easily assessable for a wheelchair user. Then there's the usual stocked bar fridge, TV etc.
All levels of the ship are wheelchair accessible. You just need to know which lifts go to which level and which end of the ship you are at. I got so lost, so many times! Good fun though! All the entertainment areas are accessible, that includes the different lounges, bars, disco, restaurants, shops, library, pool deck and even the upper most level which has the walking track. The pool and Jacuzzi weren't accessible from what I noticed.
Be warned if you using a wheelchair, the carpets are thick and the going is not so easy, unless you have a pusher with you. Some of the doors leading outside are those really heavy doors, so some help was needed but everyone was willing.
Disembarking was a bit slow but then again, there are over a thousand people all going in the same direction as you. So be patient, you'll get off.
Would I go cruising again...? MOST DEFINITELY! I can't wait to go again!