It’s no secret anymore that cruises have become the vacation of choice for persons with disabilities. Major cruise lines have realized that it is just smart business practice to make their ships accessible to those with mobility limitations and to offer products that will make cruising possible for people with visual and hearing impairments as well. Most Cruise Lines operate under the jurisdiction of foreign countries and, therefore, are not governed by ADA (American With Disabilities Act). Nonetheless, they have gone above and beyond to ensure that their disabled passengers will have positive vacation experiences. Do I sound like I’m pro-cruising? You bet I am! I have been on over 70 cruises to many ports around the world and I travel with a manual wheelchair and a scooter. As the owner of Easy Access Travel, I’ve also sold hundreds of cruises to clients with various disabilities and limitations and have a 98% happiness rate!
A few of the reasons why cruises work so well begin with the accessible staterooms which are available in several categories including inside, ocean view, and balcony. Some ships also offer Jr. or Mini Suites, suites, and family staterooms. Staterooms are quite spacious and most balconies have sliding doors which allow good access outside. Beware, some ships do have heavy doors which will impede access to the balcony. The bathrooms in the accessible cabins are really what everyone loves….excellent turnaround space, raised toilets, roll-in showers with hand-held shower heads and pull-down shower seats, the ability to roll under the sink with covered pipes, and plenty of grab bars. Optional stand-alone shower seats and commodes are available on request.
Ships will provide equipment for people with hearing impairments such as shake & wake alarm clocks, strobe lights to warn of emergencies as well as infrared systems in the showrooms. Closed captioning is also available on stateroom tvs for most programming. Some cruise lines will bring signers onboard with proper advance notice. For travelers with limited vision, large print daily newsletters and menus are available along with Braille format when requested in advance. Cabin Numbers are in raised format and elevator buttons are raised and in Braille. Showrooms offer reserved seating for people in wheelchairs or who cannot use steps. Lifts are now available for swimming pools and whirlpools and most fitness facilities and spas are accessible. Public restrooms are often equipped with automatic doors and there are family restrooms for persons needing assistance. Easy Access Travel is happy to provide specific access information on ships and itineraries as needed.
Your cruise will begin with the accessible airport-to-pier transfers and pier assistance will be provided to you for check-in. Now that you’re almost onboard we need to know where you are going! Most people seem to gravitate to the Mexican Riviera or the Caribbean for their first cruise depending on what part of the country they live in. Yes, it’s always nice if you can drive yourself to the pier, park, and get onboard but that doesn’t work for most cruisers. If you’re deciding between the two aforementioned destinations, let me suggest the Caribbean for your first-time cruise.
From there, let me narrow it down to the Eastern Caribbean as there won’t be any tender ports (small boats required to take you ashore) and the ports are fairly accessible. Many cruise lines have private islands where you do need to use another boat to access the beach but they are very accessible. Once off the boat, beach wheelchairs are available free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis. The private islands are also quite accessible with easily navigated paved paths. Most Eastern Caribbean ports have wheelchair accessible transportation that we can arrange for you. Remember, the newer the ship, the better the access! Improvements continue with each new ship built.