Tender port. These are two words that a wheelchair user planning for or going on a cruise never wants to see. When a cruise ship docks at a port of call, wheelchair users can disembark using a metal ramp, usually without much trouble. However, at a tender port, the cruise ship has to anchor off shore and bring passengers ashore using small tender boats. Just a few cruise ships have the capacity to board wheelchair users on tender boats, but many limits still exist. Fortunately, the brand new Celebrity Edge and its groundbreaking Magic Carpet moving platform are revolutionizing the tendering process for everyone, but especially for wheelchair users.
The Magic Carpet
How do I describe this incredible feat of cruise ship engineering? Celebrity calls its “Magic Carpet” the highlight of the Edge. The “world’s first cantilevered, floating platform” is capable of moving around the ship from top to bottom. It’s about the size of a tennis court and can change functionality as it moves from deck two up to deck 16. When it’s on the bottom deck of the boat, guests will use the Magic Carpet to board the ship’s tender boats. On the upper levels, the feature will host late-night parties, dinners, and barbecues.
More than 100 feet long, 20 feet wide, and 90 tons in weight, the Magic Carpet was developed in collaboration with renowned British architect Tom Wright. This is the same Tom Wright who helped design the 7-star Burj al-Arab in Dubai. It has a maximum occupancy of 100 people, so securing a spot for dinner and drinks is a highly prized achievement. It was originally designed to just be used for tendering, but the ship designers realized it would only be used 20 percent of the time. Such a unique feature needed more utility, so architects found a way to move it up and down the side of the ship.
The Boarding Process
To use the Magic Carpet to board the tenders, wheelchair users (and all other passengers) head down to Deck 2 to the Destination Gateway. Crew members will direct you to the side of the main roped-off areas of waiting passengers. When they’re ready to take you down separately, you’ll wait at the top of a short stairway while they prep the electric stairlift for you. The maximum weight capacity of the CAMA C6 platform lift is 225 kilograms (496 pounds) and the maximum length is roughly 47 inches. Please keep these specifications in mind, as you may have to go down in a manual chair (if possible) separately from a heavy power chair or scooter. The crew are extremely helpful and want to make sure you are safe and comfortable.
Once you get to the bottom of the stairs, you’ll go down a short metal ramp with a roughly one-inch lip. Then you’ll be on the Magic Carpet! You’ll be directed to one of the two plexiglass gates that open to the tender boats. The crew will bring out a long metal ramp that clips into two grooves at the edge of the platform. This will help keep it steady, as the tender boat will likely be bobbing around. I would guesstimate that the width of the ramp at its narrowest point is approximately 30 inches.
To get on the tender, several members of the crew will hold both the tender boat and the ramp as steady as possible. Then you just roll onto the ramp (which has raised edges to keep you from rolling off to the side) and onto the tender boat! You can then just roll straight ahead into a wide space between two rows and sit tight right in front of a huge window for a great view.
Disembarking the Tender
Once you’re back at the Magic Carpet, the disembarkation process is pretty much just the reverse of boarding. The metal ramp will be laid down for you and you’ll roll off the tender boat onto the platform. You’ll go back up the small metal ramp and take the chair lift up to the Destination Gateway.
Things to Consider
As I mentioned earlier, please know what your mobility device’s specifications are so you know if and how you can get to the Magic Carpet and use the ramp to board the tender. I am gauging some distances based on the dimensions of my personal Whill Model Ci power wheelchair. Also be aware that sea conditions can prevent you from safely boarding the tender, and that (for you and everyone else on the ship) is up to the Captain’s discretion. Passenger safety is always paramount.
I must also note that we did not have the opportunity to disembark at an actual port. I don’t know how the ramp would work from the tender to the various docks around the world, or how your ability to disembark at various ports would be affected by tidal or dock conditions. While the Magic Carpet opens up some amazing possibilities for wheelchair users, always remember that there are several factors that still go into our ability to use a tender, and there are no absolute guarantees.
Are you ready to book an accessible cruise on the amazing new Celebrity Edge? Contact me at Spin the Globe/Travel so we get get started!