POSTED 7 July 2017 BY Verity IN Summer
One of our guests, who recently holidayed with Richmond in Samos, has written a blog about her daughter-in-law’s experience of staying at the hotel and joining in with the activities on offer as a wheelchair user.
"Samantha’s disability progressed earlier this year to a place where she uses a self-propelled wheelchair all the time and is unable to stand or walk. If she and her husband had never been to Samos with Richmond before, I think they would have been very anxious about doing so – but we had holidayed there before as a family and knew there would be no insurmountable problems.
The journey out is, of course, long and tiring but travel assistance is available at the airports and with the airlines. We travelled from Gatwick on the Air Germania flight booked as part of our holiday booking with Richmond, asking Richmond to arrange travel assist for us at the airports and to put us in touch with Germania who pre-allocate seats near the front of the aircraft for the wheelchair user and their carer. At the airports, she and her husband were taken through security, etc, by the airport travel assist staff, and to the boarding gate via a route avoiding stairs and escalators. “Ambi-lifts” (something like cherry pickers) were in place for her to wheel onto and to be raised up to be level with the plane door, whenever other passengers needed to climb stairs. She was boarded first and her wheelchair placed in the hold once she had transferred into her seat.
The transfer from Samos airport to the Zefiros hotel is normally by coach...with no safe means of getting on for a wheelchair user! But with a phone call to Richmond, a suitable taxi was arranged and waiting on arrival at Samos, to take her and her husband to the hotel.
Once at the hotel, there is a long curved ramp up to reception alongside the entranceway stairs and then a flat surface from reception to the nearest guest room (which has a disability friendly bathroom). Level with the reception is a lounge area with a bar, opening on to a balcony with chairs and tables. There are stairs down to the restaurant and to the pool, but also another long curved ramp to the pool area and pool bar (where drinks, lunch and ice creams can be bought) and shorter, gently sloping ramps from there into the restaurant, the room used for ministry meetings and toilets. And level access to the road between the hotel and the pebble beach and waterfront. All of it was fully accessible for Samantha apart from wheeling herself over pebbles!
The hotel staff moved a chair from the nearest table in the restaurant which became “her” table for the fortnight. She used one of the sun beds round the pool most days, rather than those on the beach...and with temperatures in the 30s warming the water in the pool, Sam managed to spend time in the pool too, going in via wide, shallow steps in the shallow end after being helped to transfer to the top step and slowly moving down on her bottom from step to step. Also, she enjoyed joining with the pool aerobics let by the Richmond team! She did also one day go out on the sea. She would be unable to get into even the power boat, but the waterfront staff very kindly dragged the catamaran onto the beach and helped her transfer into it, sitting on the flat material in front of the mast with her legs out straight in front of her. It was then dragged into the sea, where an experienced member of the Richmond water front team sailed it with 2 others of the family to either side of her crewing. Everyone, as always, willingly went to great lengths to make things possible and make her holiday as enjoyable as they could.
The hotel minibus is not feasible for the wheelchair, but the hotel manager phoned for a taxi that could take a wheelchair, so that she could go into Pythagoria one day and be dropped at the bottom of the steep hill down to the harbour front (where the tavernas and the taxi rank are). Last year, when she was using a wheelchair with handles (for someone else to push) we went by taxi to the museum (which we discovered was free for a disabled person and their carer) and if she had wanted, she could have gone to Kokkari or Samos town by taxi.
If there are any wheelchairs users wondering would it be practical for me to holiday with Richmond in Samos? Would I cope? Would I have an enjoyable holiday? The answer we would give as a family, that includes Samantha, is a very definite yes!"