Cruising with disability: Why You Should Consider a Cruise for Traveling with Disabilities

Cruising with disability: This year, millions of travellers will cruise, visiting both nearby and distant ports of call. Some of those individuals will require additional support, which could include anything from dietary requirements to other difficulties like autism. Mobility disabilities include things like using a wheelchair or cane.

If you have never taken a cruise before and you have a family member with special needs, now is the time to give it further thought. The cruise industry has made great strides toward making cruises accessible to all. Even though there may be obstacles to overcome, there are typically hordes of individuals willing and able to assist you in having the trip of a lifetime.

Why the Best Ports May Be in the US and Canada

Festive Holiday Cruises, Holiday Cruises, best Holiday Cruises, best Festive Holiday Cruises
(Credit: Cruise Fever)

As a result of the stricter accessibility laws in the US and Canada, cruise ships that dock in these countries are frequently better prepared to handle passengers with disabilities, according to Mike King, owner of Travel Leaders, a global network of travel agencies with offices in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 provides safeguards against disability-based discrimination in the United States.

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Examine the descriptions of their accessible rooms and services as you consider your alternatives (itinerary, ship size, cost, etc.). Although there may still be locations on any ship, according to Chuck Mardiks, spokesman for Celestyal Cruises ships, “where the assistance of another person is required to exit and re-enter,” look for newer ships that include ramps for wheelchair-bound passengers to exit from interior to outside decks.

Reserve a Cabin That’s Accessible

Solo Cabins

While accessible cabins differ depending on the cruise line, ship, and cabin type, they all have certain features. They usually begin with a cabin that lacks a door sill at the entrance. The door to the cabin or stateroom is 32–34 inches wide (instead of the typical 22 inches or so), making it simpler for those in wheelchairs or walking aids to enter. The bathroom door is 32 to 34 inches wide, and it either has a ramp or is level with the cabin floor. Wheelchair users can use the restroom with grab bars built and a lowered sink/vanity. The toilet seat is elevated. Usually, the shower contains a fold-down bench and a handheld showerhead.

The safe and the clothes rods in the closet are both lowered than they should be within the cabin. The balcony is normally wheelchair accessible, but make sure it’s large enough; ordinary cabin balconies don’t always have enough space for a wheelchair to turn around (suite balconies are often considerably more big).

Three levels of accessible staterooms are offered by Carnival Cruise Lines and Holland America Line, which is owned by Carnival: “fully accessible” with turning space, accessible routes throughout the cabin, and accessible bathrooms; “fully accessible – single side approach,” where a wheelchair user can access only one side of a cabin’s bed; and “ambulatory accessible,” which is for people who don’t regularly use a wheelchair, scooter, or other similar device.

According to Disney Cruise Lines, all of its accessible cabins have at least 32-inch entrances, refrigerators, roll-in showers, fold-down shower seats, handheld showerheads, ramped bathroom thresholds, and grab bars in the bathrooms and showers. Additionally, Disney’s island Castaway Cay offers free beach wheelchairs on a first-come, first-served basis. Castaway Cay is a frequent port of call for many Disney sailings.

Norwegian Cruise Line states: “As long as they run on gel-cell batteries and have chargers that can handle 110 volts, we welcome the use of motorized wheelchairs and scooters in our accessible staterooms. If your preferred cabin is not marked as accessible, you will need to bring a foldable wheelchair. Alternatively, if your wheelchair or scooter is powered, it must not be wider than 26 inches to fit through the stateroom door.” Moreover, “All wheelchairs and scooters must be stored in the stateroom when not in use.” They are prohibited from being kept on stairwells, hallways, or any other public place due to SOLAS [Safety of Life at Sea] laws’ safety and escape path requirements.”

The Magic Carpet moving platform on the newly designed Celebrity Edge is arguably the most exciting improvement for wheelchair users on cruise ships. “The world’s first cantilevered, floating platform” can move between Decks 2 and 16. It is roughly the size of a tennis court, measuring 100 feet long and 20 feet wide. There is a dining area and party space on the upper deck. It’s an expansion of the pool deck on Deck 14. Guests can utilize it to easily board the tenders at the lower deck, bypassing the stairs, and travel between the ship and the land.

If you are worried about tendering ashore, find the itinerary where the ship docks every time. Wheelchair users and those with mobility challenges may now embark and leave much more easily without having to climb stairs or transfer to a tender that is constantly in the water.)

Does Size Affect Cruise Ship Selection?

Crystal cruise
(Credit: Crystal cruises)

Because they typically feature more (and larger) lifts, more amenities (such push buttons to open doors), and larger staterooms, larger, newer ships might be better equipped for those with impairments. A complimentary “medallion” that serves as an ID, a spending card (for paying for food, drink, and merchandise, among many other things), a gambling pass, and even the ability to unlock your cabin door as you approach is available to passengers on certain Princess ships, including the Golden Princess, Crown Princess, and Caribbean Princess.

Larger ships also have an advantage because they typically provide more onboard activities during that period, especially if you are travelling with someone who must stay on board. After all, your ship employs tenders to get to various ports.

Cruising with disability: Can Patients Receive Dialysis Travel?

A “fit to sail” clearance letter from your nephrologist and a signed risk acknowledgement letter may be necessary if you have kidney problems and need dialysis. These documents should be submitted a few weeks before to sailing. On certain Royal Caribbean and Celebrity ships, Dialysis at Sea offers treatments using a Fresenius 2008K dialysis machine and qualified renal care specialists (nephrologists, dialysis nurses, and licensed technicians). (The ship’s dining staff can meet related dietary requirements.)

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Services for People with Hearing and Vision Impairments

Hearing and Vision Impairments on cruise

On certain ships, visually impaired passengers may have access to Braille versions of menus, elevator floor buttons, and signage. Occasionally, big print bulletins, menus, and brochures for shore excursions are also provided; menus can be downloaded as an electronic PDF that can be viewed with screen-reading software.

Many cruise companies offer a visual/tactile cabin warning system for the hard of hearing, which alerts roommates to door knocks, phone calls, alarm clocks, and smoke detection events. Additionally, a teletypewriter (TTY) is offered for round-the-clock communication with guest services. To translate onboard theatrical productions, port and shopping presentations, and other significant organized activities, sign language interpreters are shared. (Typically, this service needs a cruise line to receive notification of 60 days before to departing.) Throughout the cruise, a safety movie with open (always on) captions is also shown on television in each stateroom.

TV shows produced by the corporation that air on Carnival have closed captions, which the viewer can enable or disable. Furthermore, closed captions for some in-stateroom TV shows and films are accessible when they are not already; while on board, guests may request closed captioning for the outdoor movies. For individuals who want assistance, Carnival uses infrared-based headsets from Listen Technologies on all of its ships to amplify the sound of live performances in the main theater; while on board, guests can request these headsets from Guest Services.

Will the Kids Club Be Enjoyable for Kids with Disabilities?

Activities for the Kids Club

Almost all of the major cruise lines, including Disney, Princess, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and Carnival, offer strong Kids Clubs and other onboard programs. An increasing number of cruise lines are prioritizing crew training to enable them to interact more effectively with children who have diverse needs.

Kids Club Oasis of the Seas

Co-founder and president of Respectability.org Jennifer Mizrahi is a dyslexic and ADHD Rockville, Maryland citizen. Due to a stroke, her child suffers from cerebral palsy. When her daughter was around three years old, they took a Disney cruise to the Caribbean a few years ago. According to Mizrahi, this occurred during a time “during which she received various therapies daily, including occupational, speech, and physical therapy.” We dropped her off at the kid-care centre for children her age. According to The points guy, then they gave her a star-like feeling. She laughed, danced, played games, created art, and had a great time.

“Yes, the food and the stops on the cruise were great,” she replies. “But there was nothing better for her than to be in the play area with the Disney staff, getting to have fun just like any other kid.”

Carnival, on the other hand, claims that any youngsters falling within the specified age categories are welcome to participate in its youth programs in collaboration with parents or guardians. The cruise company claims that every child’s requirements are evaluated individually to see how they may be met and included into the program so that everyone can enjoy themselves to the fullest. If desired, a parent or caregiver may choose to remain with the child.

Autism-Friendly Cruise Ships and Boats

Travelling can be extremely difficult for those who are autistic because it requires a change in routine, including trying new foods, sounds, scents, and lodgings. Royal Caribbean, Disney, Celebrity, Norwegian, and Carnival are some of the best cruise lines for individuals with autism because their employees have received special training that prepares them to handle the distinctive characteristics of an autistic person.

A group called Autism on the Seas was founded in 2007 that plan vacations for families with autism. Families have the option of travelling alone or in groups with staff members.

Although Autism on the Seas works with any cruise line, according to CEO and founder Mike Sobbell, the company has a special partnership with Royal Caribbean that includes a section dedicated to shore excursions. Every year, Autism on the Seas chooses between 40 and 50 trips where one staff member is assigned to every two autistic youngsters.

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This implies that parents can eat in peace since a staff member will stand in the buffet line or get their kids if they get up from the table. To provide parents some alone time, they also run a night care and day care program. Families receive assistance with planning the trip, are checked in separately at the port, and, while on board, participate in a different muster drill. Venues on board are set aside for special activities that are not open to regular passengers.

When families are considering shore excursions for a person with autism, Sobbell advises them to “look for those that don’t tie them into a rigid schedule, (such) as with only one bus return from an activity.” Maybe they ought to take a cab to the beach so they can get back early if needed.” Additionally, Sobbell suggests that although families taking their first cruise may believe that a shorter trip (three to four days) is preferable to a longer one (four to nine nights), a longer cruise allows the family more time to get used to their new routine and enjoy their holiday.

Additionally, search for specific activities on the cruise ships that might be a suitable fit, such as Family Movie Fun Time in Disney’s Buena Vista Theatre, where noise is allowed in the laid-back atmosphere with some lights left on and the volume lowered.

Meeting Dietary Requirements Is Easy to Understand

When it comes to meeting your dietary needs, cruise lines are excellent. The wait staff in the dining room and galley are well-trained and can accommodate special menus for anyone with certain dietary requirements, such as those who are gluten intolerant, allergic to seafood, or need to avoid other specific foods. Remind your waiter, the maitre d’, or the dining room management of your needs by speaking with them. You will probably be presented with a menu the evening before, allowing you to choose what’s on offer for dinner the following night or have the chef create a special meal just for you.

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