Gibraltar, United Kingdom
For the disabled cruiser visiting Gibraltar, the most important things for anyone to do are to; (1) get up the rock; and (2) get inside the rock while up the rock. Sadly the upper rock is a naturally formed shape, which does not lend itself very well to flat access, and the restricted mobility access provisions are not good.
However, the most important thing is to establish if there is a way you can get up the rock. There are various ways to go up the rock if you are a cruise ship passenger. (1) Under own power. Non-viable, due to distances, inclines, etc; (2) Cable car, you would need transport to get there, then you will encounter stairs at the bottom station and stairs at the top station. It is not wheelchair friendly. This would only be an option if you can walk short distances and stairs; (3) Organised cruise shore excursion by bus/coach. Their policy is that you must be able to get into and out of the bus unaided, and they do not have space to carry wheel chairs. For someone with limited mobility, and if wheelchair is essential even for short distances, this not practical; (4) Taxi tour/ minivan tour. Gibraltar taxis are minivan people-carrier type vehicles. There is invariably a step up to get into them. These would be available from the cruise liner terminal.
There are a very small number of wheelchair adapted taxis. They are of the form where the wheelchair user is rolled up a ramp into the back of the taxi, and then it is strapped into position, the user remains in their wheelchair. You would need to book these in advance. It is strongly advised that you to contact the Gibraltar taxi association.
For St. Michael’s Cave, the Disabled Cruiser in a wheelchair can go in from the entrance (which gives you a good view over the main chamber of the cave, but no further). You can then reverse out the entrance.
The great siege tunnels are a return the way you came in self guided tour. The floor is relatively smooth, with only the odd step, it does slope downwards as you go; and you need to come back the way you came in. Hence you should certainly be able to go in the entrance, then make a judgement call about where to stop.
The first level of the Skywalk, the glass walkway, is wheelchair accessible by lift. The skywalk itself, however, is not particularly accessible to anyone using a wheelchair or with any other mobility issues as it is situated halfway down the steep hill from the cable car station (unless you arriving in a taxi tour).
The sidewalks and streets in Gibraltar are largely wheelchair accessible, with curb ramps at the majority of intersections and road crossings. The Main Street is a largely pedestrian zone, lined with shops, restaurants and bars. The sidewalks lining this corridor are level and offer fantastic wheelchair accessibility. While the sidewalks and pavements contribute to the character of the city, some surfaces may present more challenges than others for wheelchair users. While the majority of pavements in the city are relatively smooth, some areas that employ brick or stone pavements have aged, making the use of a wheelchair more difficult. There is rough cobblestones in certain areas around the Marina.
Gibraltar, United Kingdom
Gibraltar is located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula and shares a northern border with Spain. It is just under 4 square miles in size.
The Rock of Gibraltar stands 1,400ft high and both Spain in Europe and Morocco in Africa can be seen from the top. The cable car journey takes 8 minutes from Main Street. At the top, there is a restaurant, pub and shop. The famous Barbary apes can be visited at The Ape’s Den, located partway up the Rock.
Other attractions include the Upper and Lower St Michael’s Caves (the latter not being for the faint of heart!), dolphin watching and diving.
Where You’re Docked
Both sides of the Cruise Terminal in Gibraltar are used for cruise ships, facilities include a bar and cafe, telephones, arts and crafts shops and a Tourist Information office. The Terminal is located about a mile away from the center of town, and is a fairly easy stroll. However, the Port does operate shuttles for a charge.
Taxis are readily available in town but these can be fairly pricey for such short distances.
Good to Know
When close to the apes, do not touch or feed them — after all they are wild animals. They are looked after by the government, and veterinarian care is provided by the Gibraltar Veterinary Clinic. The apes are fed a daily supply of fresh water and vegetables, fruit and seeds as supplement to natural food resources — leaves, olives, roots, seeds and flowers.
On Foot: Gibraltar covers about 4 square miles, so you theoretically could do everything on foot, but it’s impractical because of the vertical geography of the Rock. The town center is just a mile from the dock and is a relatively easy stroll. The Disabled Cruiser will be happy to learn that many of the downtown street crossings are outfitted with traffic and pedestrian signals. Tactile pavements are installed on sidewalks at crossings and curb ramps. Such features improve the safety of wheelchair users.
By Bus: Public buses are an easy way to get around this small region. There are five bus routes in Gibraltar, and buses run to most areas of the territory apart from the Upper Rock. Take Route 2 from Line Wall Road south of Casemates Square if you want to head out to Europa Point, the bottom tip of Gibraltar. You can buy single tickets or day passes for a few pounds or euros. For the Disabled Cruiser, Gibraltar operates a public transportation system that is wheelchair accessible and open to all. The majority of city bus stops are wheelchair accessible, though some are directly alongside streets with no sidewalks. Each of Gibraltar’s city buses are wheelchair accessible. They feature an electronic boarding ramp at the rear door, and a wheelchair accessible parking space.
By Taxi: In town, taxis are readily available but fairly pricey relative to the short distances traveled. If you want to share a mini-bus up to the top of the Rock, you’re looking at a cost of about £15, and you’ll have to pay the Nature Reserve entry price on top of that. For the Disabled Cruiser, if you are in need of a wheelchair accessible taxi you can book one by contacting the Gibraltar Taxi Association. Reservations must be made in advance for accessible cabs due to there limited supply. They are often booked well in advanced by cruise travelers in port.
Currency is the British pound, though banks issue their own notes and coins. British pounds are accepted everywhere, and euros are accepted almost everywhere.
Ask for change in British pounds because it is hard to exchange Gibraltar currency outside the territory. ATMs dispense either British pounds or Gibraltar pounds. A Gibraltar 5 pence coin makes an unusual souvenir because it has a monkey on it. Shuttles at the cruise dock accept U.S. dollars. Gibraltar is a VAT-free jurisdiction.
English is the official language in Gibraltar, but most locals also speak Spanish. Other languages are Berber, Arabic and Hindi because of the varied ethnic groups who live here. Hebrew is spoken by the Jewish community, and Maltese is spoken by some families. Locals sometimes speak Llanito, unique to Gibraltar and based on Andalusian Spanish.
Gibraltar is tax free and offers an abundance of shopping opportunities including many British stores such as Marks and Spencers. Popular souvenirs include stuffed monkeys and Gibraltar Crystal which is entirely handmade and produced locally. The glass factory is located in an old army barracks in the town square. Linens are also popular souvenirs.
Many of the popular lunch spots serve typical British style food but local dishes such as Calentita and Panissa (similiar to Falafels) and Spanish tapas are available in bars and pubs along the marina and seafront.
Points of Interest
- Apes’ Den – Gibraltar’s top attraction, tailless monkeys, known as Barbary Apes, congregate in this viewing area. The last remaining population of the species on the European continent, these playful primates are thriving.
- Cable Car – A rapid ascent of the Rock of Gibraltar affords spectacular views of Europe, Africa and the sparkling Mediterranean. The Top Station is steeped in military history and home to the acrobatic Barbary Apes. The Disabled Cruiser will encounter stairs at the bottom station and stairs at the top station. It is not wheelchair friendly.
- St. Michael’s Cave – Explore the underground chambers of the Rock’s largest cave filled with fine stalagmites, subterranean passageways and an unexpected amphitheater. The cave’s formations are dramatically lit and displays detail the cave’s history. Just a note for the Disabled Cruiser, the cave isn’t very disabled friendly. After passing through a small gift shop built into the side of the rock, you’ll enter into the upper portion of a large ancient cave. Sadly, the cave’s interior, which contains many levels and tunnels, is not accessible. A wheelchair lift does exist to take you to a level above the rear seating area of the auditorium, but you’ll need to navigate steps to move further.
- Europa Point/Rock of Gibraltar – The Rock is strategically placed where the Atlantic and the Mediterranean meet. The picturesque southernmost point is home to the striped lighthouse, the Shrine of our Lady of Europe and a domed mosque. Well maintained wheelchair friendly promenade area, with cafe overlooking the bay accessible by public transport is available for the Disabled Cruiser at Europa Point. Getting up to the Rock of Gibraltar is more of a challenge for the Disabled Cruiser and best done utilizing a wheelchair accessible taxi.
- Great Siege Tunnels & Upper Galleries – Walk in the footsteps of British soldiers who carved tunnels out of solid limestone so that cannons could get through to the northern side of the rock, during the Great Siege of 1779 to 1783. The Great Siege Tunnels are wheelchair accessible for the Disabled Cruiser. The first couple hundred meters are relatively flat, and offer access to information displays of the history of the tunnels, several cannons, and incredible views through the gun turrets. The paved pathway that leads through the tunnels. The deeper you go into the tunnels, the steeper the pathway gets. The paved pathway that leads through the tunnels are wide and in a good state of repair.
- Gibraltar Museum – Housed in a restored, 18th-century building, the museum showcases the cultural and natural history of Gibraltar through the ages. Displays detail the Rock’s geological origins, military involvement and connection to the sea.
- World War II Tunnels – The Rock’s WWII tunnels are the site of an exhibition featuring historic photographs and a complete tunnel map. Explore the facilities and various cave formations along with the stunning views from Jocks Balcony.
- Kings Bastion – When the King’s Bastion was built, it was the most important defensive position of the Rock’s westerly defenses. Its shape was based on traditional ideas of bastion fortification: it was a large arrow headed construction which projected from the curtain wall into the sea.
Gibraltar Accessible Excursions
One of the “Pillars of Hercules,” Gibraltar is an historic landmark with British and Spanish influences. Guarding the entrance to the Atlantic, the great rock still serves as Britain’s threshold to the Mediterranean.
There are no organized accessible shore excursions in Gibraltar. Disabled Cruisers are encouraged to use the handicapped accessible taxis for a private tour of Gibraltar.