All of that and more – including newer accessibility features on many ships – makes cruising a superb choice for people who have disabilities. With some advanced planning and the help of your professional travel advisor, you can enjoy a smooth and exciting cruise experience.
First, be sure to choose the best cruise ship for you. You don’t need to limit your choices to newer ships – many older ships have been through major refurbishments that include added features for passengers with disabilities.
Whether your choice is a new or seasoned ship, ask your professional travel advisor to help you determine if it really has what you need, whether that’s extra-wide or automatic doors; roll-in showers; accessible restrooms in public areas; menus in Braille; onboard sign language interpreters; or other features. What you need might not be standard on your ship, but might be arranged if your cruise line is notified in advance: your travel advisor can help you clearly communicate your needs to the cruise line.
Also, choose your cruise itinerary just as carefully as your ship. For example, if mobility is an issue for you, find out if the ship sails right up to a dock in each port of call, or if it will anchor in the harbor and transfer passengers to shore via small tender boats. Tenders may not be able to accommodate passengers with mobility issues, so you may want to avoid itineraries that have a lot of tender ports.
When you choose an itinerary, take a closer look at each port of call. Charming cobblestoned streets, steep stairways or a lack of sidewalks can pose challenges. To overcome these, some cruise lines offer specialized shore excursions for people with disabilities. Or, ensure your comfort onshore by working with your travel advisor to arrange for the type of transportation or assistance you need before you leave home.
One more tip: Find out if there are any cruise groups organized by an organization that serves people who have the same disability as you. Sailing with people who understand your disability (and may have great solutions to access issues) can take your cruise experience to a new level.
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