If you have a disability, that shouldn’t mean you can’t enjoy going on vacation or a cruise. Cruising is actually an excellent way to see the world and get away, especially given the fact that cruise lines are very conscious about ensuring passengers with disabilities are accommodated for.
However, we understand that when you have a disability you need to consider how you will be performing daily activities that most people simply take for granted – particularly when you will be going somewhere unfamiliar such as a cruise ship. We have researched all of the major cruise lines to assist you and provide you with everything we possibly can regarding accessibility issues on cruises.
Fortunately, cruises are one of the accommodative traveling methods. Cruise lines have really come a long way when it comes to making sure their cruise ships are accessible. So whether it is lower guest service desks or modified elevators, there has been a great deal of effort put into ensuring that cruise ships are accessible for passengers who have disabilities.
There are many cruise lines these days that have automatic doorways to access public desks – especially in corridors with high amounts of traffic. In addition, ships are equipped with elevators for getting from one deck to the next. Royal Caribbean has lifts for one hot tub and one pool on board at least. This cruise line offers lowered slot machines and playing tables in the casino as well.
Each cruise line will have its own accessible features that will vary from one to the other, and even ships that are part of the same class may be different. When you are selecting a ship, generally newer ones are better, however, don’t completely discount older ships. Some of these vessels are refurbished, and many cruise lines do make their ships more accessible for passengers with disabilities. Some of these features include new cabins that are accessible, a button for opening glass doors automatically before exiting or entering a ramped threshold, lower closet rods, bathroom grab bars and roll-in showers. Pool lifts were installed by Celebrity Cruises on all of their ships – which is a chair that takes the individual into the water.
So how can you find out whether or not the restaurant menus are in Braille, or what the width of the doorways is, or other details that can make a difference for your trip? Start by visiting the cruise line website (search under “accessibility” or “special needs”). A majority of cruises lines offer a dedicated department for help passengers who have special needs. Call them to ask any questions you might have. Before booking a trip, review all of the relevant information carefully to ensure the ship handles your requirements, and also find out what the policy of the cruise line is for solo travel. There are some cruise lines that require people with disabilities to have a companion traveling with them.
After you have booked your trip, the accessibility department of the cruise line will ask its passengers with disabilities to fill out a form that describes their needs and limitations. For instance, Royal Caribbean requires that you give them 60 days notice before sailing to request sign language interpretation services and 30 days for providing a raised toilet seat. Each Norwegian Cruise ship has an access officer aboard, who is the contact person for passengers who have disabilities.
To help you, we have researched all of the major cruise lines to provide you with everything we possibly can regarding accessibility issues. We constantly update our website to provide relevant and new information.
One of the most enjoyable things about going on a cruise is to get off in port and go on excursions. Not every excursion can cater to people with disabilities. However, the wide variety of activities that are available means there are things for everyone to enjoy.
When searching for excursions to enjoy, cruise lines all provide descriptions of their tours along with notes regarding how strenuous they are. Frequently a handicap symbol will be included for excursions that are accessible. If they don’t, then you can interpret that as meaning they aren’t appropriate for people in a wheelchair. We recommend that you speak with the booking staff of the excursion after you are on the ship. They will have firsthand knowledge of what is available, depending on what your mobility status is.
We also recommend that you send an email to them around one month before going on your cruise. Asking a few basic questions can help you find out which excursions on your cruise are accessible.
Passengers who need to have excursions that are wheelchair-accessible may make arrangement via a local tour operator or travel agent before they leave. A customized private tour may include checking out ruins in the mornings, having lunch at a restaurant and then spending the afternoon museum hopping or shopping. Just be aware that a private tour with an accessible van seating four to six individuals may be a lot more expensive compared to a bus that seats 40 passengers.
Unique challenges can be presented by each destination. Lack of curbs, steps and cobblestone paths all can present obstacles to people with reduced mobility. Even when you are planning on exploring a location on your own, you should still get in touch with the local visitor bureau and find out if there is any public transportation that is wheelchair accessible and what the terrain is like. Transportation – whether it happens to be vans with ramps or buses that have wheelchair lifts – can be impossible or difficult to arrange in certain locations. There are many more options available when you are able to take a couple of steps to get on a bus.
To help you, we have researched all major ports of call in order to bring you all the information that we can regarding accessibility issues. We update our website continuously with relevant and new information.
Our goal is to help disabled cruises enjoy cruising to the absolute fullest on excursions at various ports of call in addition to on the ship.