‘Trainable moment’: Blind Canadian Paralympian removed from cruise ship

A blind BC man and Paralympian who was pulled from a cruise ship on Sunday says the incident is a “guiding moment” for the travel industry.

Swimmer Donovan Tildesley was Canada’s flag bearer at the 2009 Paralympic Games and told Global News he traveled a lot solo.

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He was therefore surprised when, after checking in on board the Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady‘ On Sunday he was told the ship could not accommodate him.

“So I’m sitting at the sundeck bar… and I’ve barely finished my second drink when two people from the ship walk up to me and basically tell me we have bad news.”

“We have determined that as a person who is blind and traveling alone, there are safety issues that we cannot address, so you must end the cruise now and get off the ship.”

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Tildesley said the crew arranged for him to return to a hotel in Miami, still struggling to figure out what happened.

He was all the more perplexed that his travel agency had informed him in writing that he was visually impaired and that he was traveling alone.

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“I thought it was a joke at first. Really? Something like this is happening in 2022, with a company as progressive as Virgin claims it is?” he said.

“I have traveled the world alone. I went to South Africa on my own. I’m skiing double black diamond runs, including backcountry this season. And you’re telling me it’s not safe to have me on a cruise ship? »

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On Sunday evening, Tildesley received a call from Virgin’s senior vice president of fleets, who apologized to him and told him there had been a “misunderstanding”, he told Global News .

The company has since offered to take him to Honduras on Tuesday to join the ship, and will cover the cost of his cruise.

In a statement, Virgin Voyages said it had “failed” to meet its commitment to the highest level of customer service.

“We know what needs to be done to prevent this from happening again and we are also committed to getting it right,” he said.

“The safety and well-being of our passengers will always be our top priority, and while this has been done out of an abundance of caution, take full responsibility for the situation and be grateful for the chance to make it right.”

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Tildesley said that although he is disappointed to have lost a few days of his week-long cruise, he hopes the incident can generate a positive outcome.

“It also presents a real coaching moment for people in the travel industry and for cruise ships in general. Just because someone can’t see doesn’t mean they’re not a traveler. competent,” he said.

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“You have to follow the march. It’s not enough to say on your website that you have fully accessible ships and braille on your elevator. You need to have a strategy in place for when that passenger will board your ship.

Global News has asked Virgin Voyages for comment.

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