If you are a cruiser with special needs or are traveling with someone that has special needs, there is no reason why you cannot enjoy a stress-free, perfect vacation! With a little advance planning many of your requirements, whether they are mobility issues or medical related, can be met. Every cruise line requires that the passenger fill out a “special needs” form prior to sailing to assure the ship is prepared when that guest arrives. They all maintain an Access Desks with coordinators that have experience in providing a safe and accessible cruise vacation for anyone that wants to take advantage of the assistance they provide.
If needed, assistance is available to a guest from the moment they deplane in the city the cruise leaves from. If a guest is purchasing cruise transfers, with advance notice, almost all cruise lines provide accessible transportation from the airport to the ship (not available outside the U.S.). Pier assistance is available to guests with mobility issues that need some extra time or a wheelchair for embarkation.
For guests that use a wheelchair, scooter, or walker, please note that the cruise line cannot provide one for use onboard. Wheelchairs are limited and reserved exclusively for embarkation and disembarkation, so be prepared to bring your own or there are companies that rent and deliver them to cruise passengers. If you are traveling with your own motorized wheelchair or scooter some cruise lines require it to be powered by gel-cell batteries with chargers adaptable to 110 volts.
There may be limitations to guests that use wheelchairs or scooters when it comes to disembarking in certain ports. Transferring to tenders, weather conditions, or steep gangways may deem it unsafe for the guests to go ashore. As for shore excursions, U.S. ports almost always offer options for guests with mobility issues, but this is not always the case in foreign ports of call.
Cruise ships offer accessible cabins in several different categories, (inside, ocean view, balcony). Features of an accessible stateroom may vary between cruise lines or ships within a cruise line so check for specifics before booking. Stateroom and bathroom doorways are usually between 32” and 34” and without doorsills. Bathrooms are traditionally equipped with grab bars, lowered sinks and roll-in showers. Many have fold down-shower benches and hand-held showerheads. Toilet seats are raised or commode chairs can be requested in advance. The staterooms themselves have lowered vanities, safes and closet rods. Refrigerators that hold medication, sharp’s containers for syringes, and distilled water for CPAP machines may also be requested.
Blind or sight-impaired guests are invited to bring their service animals onboard and have access to all public areas except swimming pools. Care and feeding (cruise lines are not required to supply dog food) of the animal is the responsibility of the owner. Note that permits may be required for service animals to depart a ship in a foreign port and it is the responsibility of the owner to obtain them. Braille has been incorporated in elevators and public areas of almost all ships. Low vision guests may ask for large print menus and cruise activity programs. Most cruise lines offer orientation tours upon request which is a great way to gain familiarity of the ship.
The cruise lines will make every attempt to make technology available to assist deaf and low hearing guests. Some staterooms have visual-tactile alert systems to warn the occupant of a knocking at the door, a ringing phone or smoke detection. Close captioned television is widely available but only on select programming. More and more ships now have pagers available to alert guests of ship announcements. For theater goers assistive listening devices are available on many ships. Sign language interpreting services are provided on some cruise lines but should be requested 90 days before sailing. Requests are subject to availability and other considerations and are not guaranteed.
Guests that require peritoneal dialysis are welcome on all cruise ships. All solutions and equipment needed should be delivered to the ship on the day of sailing (although advance notice is required). If a guest requires hemodialysis treatments, the cruise lines do not have the ability to administer these treatments. There is however, a program called Dialysis at Sea, which specializes in the treatment of hemodialysis care while onboard cruise ship. This service is available on select Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruise Line voyages.
For those that need to bring oxygen onboard, different cruise lines have different policies as to what is permitted. While Royal Caribbean Cruise Line allows all types, Norwegian Cruise Line does not allow liquid oxygen. You are welcome to bring your own equipment, but cruise ship staff is not allowed to handle or assist you with it during embarkation or disembarkation. For your ease supplies may be delivered to the ship, but you must use the outside vendor of the cruise line’s choice.
Some people still believe that if they have any sort of disability or impairment, it could be more stress than relaxation to cruise. Not so! Pre-arranging for special assistance 60 to 90 days before sailing is the key to smooth sailing. The cruise specialists at Direct Line Cruises are able to assist you in communicating with the cruise line so that all your needs are met. With that done, the only thing left to say is Bon Voyage!