A blind Paralympian from British Columbia who was taken from a cruise ship on Sunday characterized the incident as a “coaching moment” for the travel industry.
Donovan Tildesley, a swimmer who carried the Canadian flag at the 2009 Paralympics, told Global News he has traveled extensively alone.
So he was astonished when, at Sunday check-in aboard the Virgin Voyages Valiant Lady, he was informed that there was no room for him.
“Therefore, I’m seated at the patio bar… I’ve just finished my second drink when two people from the ship approach me and say, “We’ve received some awful news.”
“As a blind, solo traveler, we are unable to meet your safety concerns, thus you must terminate your voyage immediately and disembark.”
Tildesley reported that the staff arranged for his return to a Miami hotel while he struggled to comprehend what had transpired.
He was especially perplexed because his travel agent had indicated in writing that he was blind and traveling alone.
“At first, I assumed it was a prank. Really? Something like this is occurring in 2022 with a firm that professes to be as progressive as Virgin?” he stated.
“I have traveled the globe alone. I have traveled to South Africa on my own. This season, I have skied double-black diamond runs and in the backcountry. And you’re saying it’s dangerous for me to be on a cruise ship?”
According to Global News, Tildesley received a phone call on Sunday evening from Virgin’s senior vice president of fleets, who apologized and said that there had been a “miscommunication.”
Since then, the firm has volunteered to fly him to Honduras on Tuesday so he may board the ship and would pay for his cruise.
Virgin Voyages stated in a statement that it “fell short” of its promise to providing the greatest level of client care…
It stated, “We understand what must be done to prevent this from happening again and are equally dedicated to making amends.”
“The safety and well-being of our passengers will always be our top priority, and while this action was taken out of an abundance of caution, we accept full responsibility for the situation and appreciate the opportunity to make amends.”
While Tildesley is disappointed to lose a few days of his week-long vacation, he hopes the incident will produce a positive outcome.
“This is also a teachable moment for individuals in the travel business and cruise ships in general. “Just because someone is blind does not mean they are incompetent travelers,” he explained..
“It is necessary to walk the walk. It is insufficient to state on your website that you have completely accessible ships with braille elevators. You must have a plan in place for when the passenger boards your vessel.”