Travel Notes from Coast to Coast

by Andy Vladimir on July 1, 2006 - 3:09pm

QUEST Vol. 13, No. 4

Fruit of the vine

Rosenblum Cellars
Rosenblum Cellars is one of several interesting wineries open to visitors in the East Bay.

If you’re a wine enthusiast and visiting San Francisco, you might want to consider a side trip to the East Bay area, where there are several highly regarded wineries.

Rosenblum Cellars, which specializes in zinfandels and Rhone varietals, is located in the Todd Shipyard building in Alameda, Calif., and has been named one of the Top 100 Wineries by Wine & Spirits magazine. Although the formal tasting room is located upstairs, the winery will set up a special tasting table for visitors unable to use the stairs; bathrooms are wheelchair-accessible. Call (510) 865-7007 or visit

Also in Alameda, at Alameda Point, is St. George Spirits, a craft distiller that produces a single-malt whiskey, a line of vodka and eaux-de-vie. The distillery provides accessible ramps and bathrooms. Call (510) 769-1601 or go to

In Oakland, near Jack London Square, two interesting wineries share the same facility. JC Cellars (510-749-9463) is owned by Jeff Cohn, consulting winemaker to Rosenblum Cellars; he focuses on Rhone varietals and syrah.

Dashe Cellars (510-452-1800) produces zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon and merlot. The husband-and-wife owners combine wine-making experience and University of Bordeaux training. Dashe’s wheelchair-accessible tasting rooms and bathrooms are on the ground floor of the facility.

All the wineries recommend that you contact them in advance to ensure tour and tasting accommodations.

If you’re going to San Francisco, check ”Access San Francisco,” published by the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The Big Apple

Greeter Carr Massi
Greeter Carr Massi (right) shows Lower Manhattan to a visitor from Germany. Photo by Arthur Gold

If you prefer the East Coast to the West, and have always wanted to visit New York but feared it might be inhospitable or dangerous, we have news of help: Big Apple Greeter (212-669-8159).

This nonprofit organization matches visitors interested in particular neighborhoods with volunteer residents eager to share their knowledge and love of their city. Included in the organization’s Access Program are some 50 volunteers with disabilities ready to welcome travelers with disabilities.


Rachel wants to go on a cruise visiting the Caribbean and Mexico but is having trouble finding a satisfactory one because some stops as well as ship’s tenders are inaccessible. She has a tracheostomy and a 12-pound portable ventilator with an 8-hour gel battery, and uses a wheelchair. She can transfer with assistance but can’t go into the back seat of a taxi or van because of the ventilator and battery.

Andy Vladimir’s reply:

I love to take cruises around the Caribbean, but the truth is, what you can do when you get off the ship is limited. Caribbean ports are, for the most part, inaccessible.

Cruise ship

In fact, getting off the ship can itself be a problem. As you note, some tenders (the small boats that carry passengers from the ship onto land) are inaccessible, and both weather and the configuration of individual ports can make even accessible transfers impossible.

Mexico also has inaccessible ports. There’s one exception: Many Mexican cruises go to Cozumel, which has two ports. From either port, you can roll off the ship for shopping. That’s easy, and there’s lots of it.

But the tours offered from Cozumel — to Tulum, to the beach, snorkeling — involve the use of tour buses, which I can’t get on. Tulum’s Mayan ruins are interesting, but the area is rocky and just hard to get around. For me the beaches are inaccessible, as are the trips involving boats.

Now that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything — I try to go everywhere and see what I can. And the cruise ship itself offers enjoyable activity. The newer ships — especially those on Royal Caribbean and Princess, and some on Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Line, Holland America and Celebrity — have made a lot of accommodations for people with disabilities (see “Choose to Cruise,” February 2001 and April 2001).

Here’s some general advice. First of all, pick the ship in your price range that has the itinerary you want. Pick the newest ship possible. The Voyager class Royal Caribbean ships are especially accessible.

Accept that you’re not going to be able to do everything at every port, but choose a couple of things you’d really like to do. When you get on the ship, go see the shore excursion director. Tell him/her what you’d like to do and ask how he or she can help you do it.

Usually the director can send a message to the shore agent at the port, who can arrange for you to hire whatever kind of transportation you need. I sometimes pick a tour that sounds interesting and then ask if they can help me plan a trip to the same places.

If planning doesn’t work, just show up. My next option is to get off at the port, look around for some kind of van or whatever I can get into and then negotiate a deal. Sometimes I ask to be taken to the nicest resort around, and I spend the day there. It doesn’t always work, but it works enough of the time to keep me somewhat satisfied.

My most important advice is: Have a good time!

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