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Win a cruise aboard the MSC Magnifica

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When it comes to cruise ship holidays, a disability need never stop you from having a wonderful time. With great facilities that can cater to your needs, you can experience a world of adventure no matter what your circumstances are.

With this in mind, we decided to explore what accessible cruising is like and how you can have a safe, enjoyable and memorable trip with your loved ones just by following these few, simple steps!

In this post, we’re going to look at the following:

Choosing the right cruise

Travelling with a disability can be an easy and enjoyable holiday, but you need to be vigilant about choosing the correct ship for your needs. It’s wise to do some planning in advance so you can make the most of your trip.

Accessible features can vary from ship to ship, but when choosing your cruise don’t be put off by an older ship. As these vessels undergo refurbishments, many cruise lines use the opportunity to make ships more accessible to travellers with disabilities.

For example, when Holland America Line upgraded Veendam in 2009, a new category of staterooms - called Lanai Cabins - with sliding glass doors facing the walk-around promenade. It featured a roll-in shower, bathroom grab bars, lower closet rods and a button to automatically open the glass doors before entering or exiting over a ramped threshold. Furthermore, in 2013, Celebrity Cruises installed pool lifts, a chair that carries the occupant into the water, on all of its ships.

It’s also worth looking into the various cruise line companies because there are certain things you may not know. Have a look on their website because most cruise lines have sections dedicated to ‘accessibility’ or ‘special needs’, which can cater to your needs more accurately. The ship needs to be able to handle your requirements so thorough research prior to booking is key.

Also, be aware of the fact that once you have booked your cruise, you will be asked to fill out a form asking you to describe your limitations and needs as a disabled passenger. The more information you give and the earlier you do this, the better. For example, Royal Caribbean requires 60 days’ notice prior to sailing for passengers who need sign language interpreting services on-board and 30 days’ notice for those who require a raised toilet seat. Norwegian Cruise Line staffs each ship with an access officer, who is the go-to person for passengers with disabilities.

On-board facilities

In some cases, cabins on-board a cruise ship are generally smaller than standard hotel rooms, but most cruise lines offer accessible or modified rooms to suit passenger needs. Holland America have wheelchair accessible staterooms featuring wide entry doors and a roll-in shower with a bench, whilst their modified accessible staterooms offer a shower-only bathroom with low thresholds. Equipment, such as wheelchairs etc, are asked to be stored inside the staterooms, as they cannot be left in the hallway due to health and safety regulations.

These rooms, just like in hotels, are limited so be sure to book yours as early as possible to avoid disappointment. In addition, reading the guidebook of your chosen cruise line will give you an idea of the acceptable weight and width allowances on-board for disability equipment - including batteries and chargers.

If you are a passenger that requires a guide dog, make sure to check with your cruise line what documentation you need so arrangements can be made to accommodate the animal’s needs. It’s also worth noting that guide dogs may not be allowed to disembark at all ports, so consider that when making your choice.

If you don’t want to bring your own equipment on-board, there is the option to hire equipment to use that will cover your stay on-board. Check providers like Special Needs At Sea for things like wheelchairs, oxygen and scooters, which can all be delivered to your cabin.

If you have some difficulty with mobility but you don’t typically use a wheelchair, you can request a scooter to help transport you around.

When you’re on-board, don’t hesitate to ask for assistance. The staff on your cruise are there to help you with any concerns or questions you may have, so be as specific as possible in order to ensure you have the most enjoyable time on your cruise.

Tenders

Whilst cruise ships can be quite accessible, the same can’t always be said for tenders, ports and shore excursions. Usually, when a ship docks, passengers walk along a gangway to get onto land. However, because of the lack of dock availability or the fact that the weather can be unpredictable, passengers are sometimes shuttled to shore via small boats, otherwise known as tenders.

Ask your cruise line about their tender policies if you are using a wheelchair, or if you have other mobility issues. It may be that in some instances where there are incredibly rough seas, it is impossible for passengers to leave the ship at certain ports. It’s worth picking a cruise line that that features ports of call with cruise piers.

Princess Cruises give a detailed and realistic description of the embarking and disembarking difficulties for those with limited mobility on their website. This will give you an idea of whether or not this is the right one for you to opt for.

Shore excursions

When it comes to spending days on shore, it can be difficult to find cruises that can cater for those with varying disabilities. However, it isn’t impossible, which is why it’s a good idea to contact the cruise line company to get more information.

Each destination can present unique challenges so be sure to ask for as much detail as possible so you’re aware of the likelihood of each excursion. If you are planning to explore a locale on your own, contact the area's convention and visitors bureau to discuss the terrain and availability of wheelchair-accessible public transportation.

The main thing to remember when it comes to going on a cruise with a disability is that although it might be difficult at times, it isn’t impossible. With more and more cruise lines making their ships accessible, you have a bigger selection of choices now more than ever before when it comes to selecting the cruise that’s perfect for you.

If you require any further information about the cruise deals we have on offer here at Cruise Nation, or you wish to find out more about cruise ship accessibility, feel free to contact one of our Cruise Consultants today. Whether you have a specific concern or you have a series of questions you would like answering, we are here to help.

Call us today on 0800 408 0757 and be one step closer to the cruise of your dreams!