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Want to go Cruising but have a Disability?

Cruising for the disabled

Cruise holidays are an excellent choice for holidaymakers and there are cruises that meet all budgets and lifestyle of passengers. With the large amount of people choosing to go on a cruise, there comes a necessity to appeal to all types of consumers and those with medical problems or disabilities is one of those sectors that is being focused on.

This is not only due to customer service, but also due to regulations passed on behalf of the general public which states that “vessels primarily engaged in the business of transporting people and that provide services of a public accommodation” would be made available for those with disabilities.

Travellers with disabilities may have steered away from cruise holidays in the past. Cruising has now become the preferred style of holiday for many travellers with limited mobility because ships have confirmed to their needs.  Choosing the right ship is the key for a person with disabilities and be accommodated onboard a floating hotel. According to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), all member cruise lines now follow Special Needs Group (SNG) requirements and some even go several steps beyond.

CEO Andrew Garnett of SNG said, “By continuing to add ships/cruise lines to our accessibility content resource, we’re reinforcing our corporate responsibility to help educate travel professionals, as well as the travelling public, that individuals with special needs have the ability to travel now more than ever before. The content that we create and provide is mainly informational as opposed to commercially-driven, allowing individuals with special needs to choose the most appropriate ship/cruise for them.”


On older ships, many cruise lines have retrofitted their older vessels in the fleet to meet the demand for disabled cruise passengers. However of the few staterooms that were made to conform, they are never quite the same as those found on newer ships that were designed for accessible cruising. It is advisable to look for a vessel that was built in recent years. They are more likely to have fully accessible staterooms, among several categories and conveniently placed near to elevators for easy access.

Look for lines that can provide disability designed stateroom and options that pertain to specific disabilities.

Request cabins with wider doorways. Roll-in showers for wheelchairs with drop down benches, raised toilet seats, handrails and closets built with a lower reach are standard today on the newer ships.

The hearing and visually impaired are accommodated also with some cruise lines. They will provide tele-typewriters (TTY) or telecommunication devices (TDD). As each new ship is on the design drawing board, strides are being taken in accommodating the disability market.


Even though ship may be fully accessible, sometimes the tenders are not, especially if one is using a wheelchair or has other mobility issues when heading to shore. The best way to alleviate the potential of coming across this problem is by choosing a ship whose itineraries does not use tenders and all of its ports of call are made at a pier.


Speak with the ship’s shore excursion staff and ask which specific tours are appropriate. In some ports, particularly those with tours into ancient ruins, may not be disabled-friendly for the wheelchair challenged. There may be step-climbing, no curb cuts, uneven streets and narrow walkways.  Some cruise ships include that information in shore excursion guides, even on-line and will list shore excursions that would be difficult for disabled travellers to navigate on.


Past passengers surveyed have rated certain lines as having good accessibility. These include Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Holland America, Princess Cruises, Regent’s Seven Seas and Royal Caribbean International.

However, no two ships are quite alike, so comparison amongst all cruise lines is required. All it takes is a bit of preparation and planning and asking questions.

Have some tips regarding Disabled Cruises? Please comment below.

Image courtesy of Celebrity Cruises

Written by Veronica Shine

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