I was saddened yesterday after I read the email that told of Nautilus Tours and Cruises closing their travel agency for wheelchair travelers. After I started Accessible Journeys in 1985, Nautilus came along as another go-to agency for travelers with wheelchairs.
Back then, like it is today, it was a small accessible world. There were only a few agencies in America and a handful of travel agents who were responsible for mapping out the adventures of wheelchair travelers in America.
Nautilus was started in 1988 by Lou and Yvonne Nau. Their agency created wheelchair accessible adventures and cruises almost everywhere and they are fondly remembered by many of their clients. In 1995 they decided to retire and asked Joan Diamond and Jill Bellows to continue the company.
Joan had specialized in travel for persons with disabilities for over 20 years and she served as the Western Regional President of SATH (Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality. Jill had been in the travel business for over 30 years, was a Master Cruise Counselor and was also a teacher in the tourism department of Los Angeles City College.
During Joan and Jill’s time, Nautilus they specialized in travel arrangements for persons with physical disabilities, their families and friends and they developed and escort tours and cruises of Scandinavia, France, Italy, Holland, Alaska, Belgium and Ireland.
When I received a return email from Joan, she told me the decision to close Nautilus was due to her health and Jill’s health, and that has made it impossible for them to maintain a business. As for Nautilus continuing as a business venture, Joan told me there are no forward clients, no refunds necessary and no consumers adversely effected.
As for Joan, she’s not retiring. She plans to continue to specialize in travel arrangements for persons with physical disabilities and she will also be attending the SATH cruise.
Nautilus joins two other pioneering travel agencies for travelers with wheelchairs that are no longer in business; Evergreen Travel run by Betty and Jack Hoffman and Whole Person Tours run by Bob Zywicki.