While holidays are designed to be fun and relaxing, if you’re travelling with a disability, they can present a number of challenges. Will the accommodation be disability friendly? Are the restaurant bathrooms adequately equipped? Does the taxi offer wheelchair storage? These are all questions that can turn a relaxing getaway into stressful experience.
Thankfully, disability friendly cruises offer the perfect solution. With their constant on-board environments, easy elevator access and opportunity to visit multiple destinations without having to move hotels, holidaying with a disability has never been so simple!
That said, there are a number of things you’ll need to consider before taking the plunge and booking a cabin. Read on for a useful guide that will help you ensure your cruise holiday runs smoothly:
Choosing the right ship
As with every other cruise ship feature, disabled facilities will vary from vessel to vessel. The best way to find out what’s available is to check out the ‘special needs’ or ‘accessibility’ section of the website. Most company’s also offer helplines operated by staff who will be more than happy to answer any questions.
In general, new ships will offer more sophisticated facilities such as sliding doors, roll-in showers, lower closet rods and bathroom grab bars as seen in Holland America Line’s Veendam. Celebrity is also a great line, now featuring pool lifts across its entire fleet.
It’s also important to keep in mind that some ships have policies in place regarding solo travel. While some are happy to accommodate unaccompanied disabled travellers, other will require a companion for safety reasons.
The on-board experience
While most standard cabins are smaller than an average hotel room, many lines offer wheelchair friendly accommodation that ensures passengers with a disability still have room to move. There are usually only a few of these cabins though so it is advisable to book well in advance!
Most ships are service dog friendly however there may be rules and regulations that prevent them from embarking at certain ports. If you do plan on taking a service dog, make sure you let the cruise line know so they can arrange any documentation and special animal facilities prior to departure.
After completing your booking, you’ll be asked to fill in a form outlining your limitations and any special needs. It’s important to get this in as early as possible as it will help the line equip its ship with features such as a sign language interpreting service, raised toilet seat, braille menu or any other special request.
Just remember, cruise ship staff are there to cater to the needs of their passengers and will always be more than happy to help you with any requests or inquiries that you may have. If there is something that will make your on-board experience more comfortable or enjoyable, just ask!
Enjoying shore excursions
Shore excursions are one of the main highlights of a cruise holiday and with a little research and prior planning, people with disabilities can enjoy them just as much as their fellow passengers! The best thing to do is to contact your chosen cruise line’s shore excursion department and ask about the physical requirements of each trip. If there is nothing suitable, it is often possible to commission customised private tours specially tailored to suit your needs.
If you prefer to explore on your own, take a look at the destination’s tourism website to gauge an idea of what sort of challenges the area may present. This can include preparing for cobblestone streets and stair laden towns, as well as compiling a list of easily accessible sites and attractions such as museums, galleries, gardens and restaurants.
What about tenders?
In the case that a ship cannot anchor in port, passengers are ferried to shore in small boats known as tenders. While this is easy enough for most passengers, it can present challenges for those with disabilities. It is best to ask your chosen line about their tender policies and determine whether or not you’ll be able to get to shore should a tender situation arise. If it looks like it could be a problem, try to book an itinerary that calls at ports equipped with cruise piers or known for their calm weather.
At the end of the day, research and planning are the keys to ensuring that your cruise holiday is relaxing, enjoyable and comfortable. If you want to find a great deal on a disability friendly cruise, get in touch with the experts at Cruise 1st today on 1300-857-345.
Image sourced via Flickr Creative Commons. Credit: KB