Cruising is the most accessible vacation for anyone in a wheelchair. The newest ships are bigger and better offering many opportunities for the wheelchair traveler. I was thrilled to experience the 2015 Anthem of the Seas cruise ship by Royal Caribbean on a 12-day cruise to Puerto Rico, Barbados, Martinique, St. Kitts, and St. Maarten.
Anthem of Seas has its home port in Bayonne, New Jersey and can carry approximately 5,000 people. The Staff on Royal Caribbean cruise line go above and beyond for the handicap guests. I can’t say enough how they helped me accomplish this outstanding adventure. They have special lifts and strong staff to help accommodate all of us from start to finish.
The booking process is very easy. You can use a travel agent of choice or go thru Royal Caribbean direct. All you do is request a handicap room and fill out a ADA form. You can review deck plans on the Royal Caribbean website and decide where you would like your cabin and what choice of cabins. My wife and i enjoy the Balcony rooms and all of them are accessible for manual or electric wheelchairs. I have never run into any complications as long as I plan to my needs. A great site for reviews and questions is Cruise Critic .com. Very informational. The staff on the ship is more than willing to help in any way and have always gone above and beyond for my requests.
The bigger the ship the easier it is for any wheelchair user. I favor the new Oasis class and Quantum class ships. They handle of over 4,000 passengers and have every amenity possible. It is very easy to navigate around a ship. It offers many ADA ramps as well as lifts for the pool areas. Some areas cannot be used in some of the sport centers but even the Work out Gym is very accessible to use. The bigger the ship the more elevators are available too. Makes it very easy to go anywhere. The ship also has direct access on various floors to go from one end to the other without any hassles.
There are a few different dining options on Royal Caribbean. They have buffets, coffee shops, sandwich shops, pizza shops and fine dining areas. Many ships now offer specialty restaurants at an additional charge. Dining is very accessible but I do is request a table by the front entrance. It makes it easy for me to get in and out. It is also nice to be out of the way instead of the middle section of the room. All I do is request a table early that day for dinner and they will have it ready. The ships Food venues offer many choices. It is like any place, you will have food you like and dislike. I have found the food to be extremely good on many Royal Caribbean ships. I also enjoy the variety of ethnic foods available too.
The ship offers daily activities each day. The night before you will receive in your room a daily planner for the next day. It will have everything available from dining, entertainment or activities offered with there times. Each ship has a main theater with nightly shows; open spaces for wheelchairs are in the back. Most show times are 7pm and 9pm. They vary each night by times. The shows are excellent as well as all the music on board. Most ships offer broad way style shows and have handicap areas in the back for your chair and your guest. The ships have spa services for all. I have not done them but use the gym/workout room facilities. I also love to swim and the pools are big and quiet during port days.
I was able to experience one of the newest Royal features called RipCord by IFLY. It is indoor sky diving. It is the “First” Sky diving Simulator at sea. I always had sky diving on my bucket list. I found out RipCord is basically the same except you do it in a wind tunnel that simulates sky diving. You are provided with all the gear from a jumpsuit, helmet, goggles, eye and ear protection. You then view a twenty minute instructional video to teach you safety as well as control of your body. First timers will have a Safety instructor guide your first flight. I am a T-10 complete with no leg movement, so the instructor helped guide and hold my feet as I free floated. I used my upper body and arms to steer myself forward. For over two minutes, that seemed much longer I felt like Superman flying thru the air. A truly priceless experience for me.
Once you enter the wind tunnel, you will fly within a column of wind created by a vertical wind tunnel at incredible wind speeds. Your body floats and flies giving you the biggest adrenaline rush. It is a priceless experience for anyone. It is a great adventure for the handicap and physically challenged person of all ages six and up. I highly recommend this adventure to all.
I always recommend to do your homework upfront before going to the islands. You then can plan what can be done in a wheelchair. My wife and I do get off at the various islands to shop and wheel/walk around. Many of the islands are handicap accessible. Some offer excursions too that are wheelchair friendly.
I always research and plan my trip before the cruise. Many times I the cruise line offers a lot of excursions but the private island excursions are much better and more experienced with wheelchair users. I will usually book my excursions direct with the island. There are many great companies on each island that help plan and set up the excursion.
In Old San Juan, Puerto Rico we did the private tour called the Highlights of San Juan Accessible Shore Excursion. It is an opportunity to see all the popular sites and attractions during your time in the captivating city of Puerto Rico that is rich in beauty, culture, and history.
Your driver/guide will welcome you at the cruise dock in a large, comfortable, and air-conditioned accessible van ideal for wheelchair users, mobility scooter users, or senior cruisers that simply want to take it slow. Rest assured this is not just a drive-by tour. This tour includes interior visits to plenty of sites and offers some truly unique accessible experiences. Your private tour guide is eager to show you around his hometown! It wasn’t cheap but was an amazing tour to experience everything.
- Interior visits to multiple sites
- San Cristobal fort
- San Felipe del Morro fort
- Plaza Las Armas
- San Jose Church
- Plaza del Quinto Centenario
- Casa Blanca (former residence of Ponce de León)
- La Rogativa
- La Fortaleza (residence of the governor of Puerto Rico)
- Lunch in authentic Puerto Rican restaurant (cost not included)
- Accessible shopping is optional
We didn’t get off this time and took advantage of an empty ship but have done the bus tour excursions in the past. Barbados has some gorgeous beaches and scenery. Most of the islands have private and public transportation for wheelchair users to get around.
Fort De France, Martinique
This is a small island and does not offer much for the wheelchair user due to the island being under-developed. We did get off the ship and visit the shops and tents for some gifts. This island is known for its beautiful year round flowers and old Spanish forts during the 1700 and 1800’s.
Basseterre St. Kitts
This is an amazing island for its culture, flowers and major growers of the aloe plant. They sell fresh Aloe all over the island. There is much to do for the able bodied person but we have done private island tours. They have a nice developed shopping center and the natives have shops and tents directly off of the ship. Very accessible thru-out the area for manual and electric wheelchairs. We went off the ship for a few hours and wheeled around town and had a few drinks. Weather is always great and you will see a lot of island monkeys (small monkeys) all over. You can get a picture too if you want with them.
Phillipsburg St. Maarten
This is our favorite island. There is so much to do here and not enough time to do everything in a day. We love the island tours to visit all the attractions. I have used Accessible Ventures of St. Maarten for booking many excursions. You can even parasail with them too. Great company.
Accessible Island Driving Tour
- See all the highlights of the island on a private tour with a guide in a single day!
- Transportation provided in a low-floor car. Wheelchair accessible van transportation may be possible.
- Wheelchair accessible routes used during walking portion of tour.
- Visit both of the capital cities of Marigot and Philipsburg.
- Stop at two scenic overlooks.
- Visit Maho Beach, famously known for the jet airplanes flying close overhead.
- Visit to an old French town uncrowded with tourists.
- Maarten Zoo with local and regional animals.
- Lunch in an authentic French or Caribbean cuisine restaurant (cost not included).
- Discount souvenir shopping at wheelchair accessible locations.
Accessible Beach Excursion
- Round-trip transportation in wheelchair accessible van.
- Full or half-day visit to a beach with a wheelchair accessible wooden ramp from parking lot to the sand where lounge chairs are located. This beach is much less crowded than beaches near Philipsburg.
- Shaded patio for lounging also nearby.
- Lunch overlooking the ocean (cost not included).