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Florida Guide > Other Activities

Cruising for those with disabilities – Part 1

Cruising for those with disabilities – Part 1

For those who have any sort of disability which requires special help on holiday it may come as a surprise to learn that the cruise industry has some of the finest facilities available to the physically challenged. Many cruise lines have gone out of their way to provide a very comprehensive service for those who need extra support, and it is heartening to know how many people are now able to enjoy taking a cruise. In fact, we believe that there is no other inclusive holiday where those with special needs are so well catered for. However, there is not always much information available about cruising in these circumstances, so hopefully these articles will fill a gap.

So first, let us look at the various categories of passengers who may need extra facilities, and see what the cruise ships offer:

Those with limited mobility

If you use a wheelchair you need not worry about being able to get around on a cruise ship, as more than 90 of the major cruise ships now have wheelchair accessible cabins with widened stateroom doors and bathroom doors. Corridors on the modern ships are also very wide. They also have elevators which are big enough to accommodate wheelchairs, tables in the dining room which are easily accessible as well as offering assistance at the pier if required. Not only that but we have found that staff are more than willing to assist in whatever way they can. We have often noticed that when a companion has to push a wheelchair a member of staff will immediately step forward in the buffet restaurants to assist, and either carry the tray or push the person in the wheelchair.

So what happens when you depart from a US port? Well, firstly, US ports are the most accessible because they comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, so you will have no problem embarking on your chosen cruise ship. However, outside of the US, port accessibility cannot be guaranteed and may be more unpredictable.

However, they will supply information about the accessibility of cruise destinations if asked. When selecting a stateroom, it is wise to request one near the elevators for easy access. Also, look on the plan of the ship, and if possible choose a stateroom which is on a deck somewhere below or above the buffet restaurant so that you have easy access for meals.

It is essential that passengers with limited mobility should evaluate their choice of shore excursions carefully. Going ashore is fine if the ship can dock at a pier, but in some ports the ship will have to drop anchor offshore and passengers will be ‘tendered’ (by small boats) to the shore. Many ships now have special elevators which take you right down to the tendering deck, but some require you to be helped down temporary stairs or be carried on or off the boats, so you do need to take this into consideration when choosing your cruise ship.

However, tendering is very much reliant on the weather conditions as if, for example, the sea is rough it may not be possible for the captain to allow guests to be carried aboard a tender, if they feel it would compromise the safety of either the passenger, or the crew. I would, therefore, advise anyone requiring such assistance to try to avoid an itinerary which includes a lot of tendering ports. There are still many beautiful places to choose from which will have easier access, and which will allow you to get straight off.

When looking at your cruise itinerary look closely at the descriptions of the ports, as there will be information about which ports need to be tendered. Of course, it will also be necessary to ensure that any tours you choose are suitable for those with disabilities, especially limited mobility, as not all coaches etc. are adapted for wheelchair accessibility, especially in some of the smaller Caribbean ports, and this would make access on or off these vehicles very difficult. Some cruise lines provide accessibility ratings in their shore excursion booklets, and they should tell you what sort of terrain the tour will cover, and how many steps etc. you are likely to encounter. All of this will make it easier for you to decide which tours are the most suitable.

You may be interested to know that you can hire mobility devices such as wheelchairs and scooters, if you don’t want to transport your own. There are specialists who will deliver such equipment to your ship.

We aim to provide accurate and useful information, but if you feel anything provided here is not accurate or out of date, please email us with the address of the page concerned and any comments so we can amend as necessary.

Page added on: 5 October 2009
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