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Travel by taking a cruise

"Taking a Cruise would be my dream vacation, but my children and I have Mito."

Some families find cruises a nice alternative to vacations on land. In general, the ships themselves are accessible and there are wheelchairs on board if you want to borrow one. Most ships also have disabled rooms. Many shore excursions are easy for the disabled to do and there is plenty of time to rest onboard the ship. There is always a medical staff on board the ship if needed also.

Be sure to call the cruise line ahead of time to find out their accessibility to travelers with disabilities. Also, be sure they know of your medical conditions and whether they will need any sort of treatment while on the ship.

  • If you need a refrigerator for medications, be sure the stateroom has that available.
  • If you require medical supplies to be shipped, make sure you have a contact person and an exact location of where they will need to be shipped to.
  • Ask that the supplies be shipped to arrive at the port the day of the cruise and be sure that your supplies are onboard the ship before it leaves the port.
  • Before the ship leaves the port, you may also want to count the medical supplies or go down the inventory list to be sure that everything is accounted for.

One family's experience:

We did a two week trip to Alaska with Princess Cruise lines. This took the whole heat issue out of the trip. One week was spent on land and one week on a cruise ship. Princess did a fantastic job organizing all the handicapped accessible transfers/transportation, modified activities so our daughter could still go, and allowed us to ship our medical supplies ahead to the cruise ship. They had our medical supplies waiting in our room when we boarded the ship. They understood the need to make sure we had what we needed for a week before the cruise departure. Our first week was spent on a land tour and again they allowed us to ship our first week's supplies to the first lodge so we would not have to take it on the plane.

After the trip was over, Princess took our leftover supplies and had them shipped home for us. They were very accommodating. Each night the cabin steward came to our room to see if we needed extra linens, water, trash bags, etc. to accommodate our daughter.

Cruises for Children and Adults with Special Needs

By Laura Chapman

A cruise could offer the perfect holiday for both children and adults with special needs, providing a safe and controlled environment with every facility available to ensure an enjoyable holiday for everyone on board. There are plenty of options out there but it’s advisable to do your research before booking your vacation to ensure the ship you choose is best suited to your needs. Most cruise lines offer superb facilities for those who are disabled or have special needs, meaning that the whole family can relax and enjoy the vacation.

Catering for Special Needs at Sea

Vacationing at sea for those with special needs has become popular due to the quality of the facilities and care provided on board. Most cruise companies offer excellent special needs services for both children and adults and many produce special needs brochures that are helpful when deciding which cruise to book. Lots of cruise lines offer access departments, too, with specially trained staff to ensure those with special needs have every assistance and access to equipment on their cruise. Not all ships provide equipment such as wheelchairs, however, so it is vital to check the facilities prior to booking to avoid any problems. If you do not wish to bring your own equipment and the ship does not provide it,  you can use companies such as Special Needs at Sea, which offer a rental facility for things such as wheelchairs, scooters, respiratory equipment, and oxygen.

Recommended Cruise Companies

There are many cruise companies that offer facilities for those with special needs, but the following are considered among the best.

Royal Caribbean provides exceptional facilities for adults and children with special needs. Their belief that everyone should be able to discover and explore the world is put into good practice with their superb consideration of those with special needs. They welcome guests with mobility disabilities, visual impairment, hearing impairment, and cognitive, intellectual and developmental disabilities. All guests traveling alone with special needs must be fully self-sufficient, however. A caregiver must accompany those with cognitive, intellectual, and developmental disabilities. Guests requiring continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis are welcome on board but must bring all solutions and equipment with them. Those requiring hemodialysis are also welcome but should contact a specialist provider called Dialysis at Sea for assistance.

On each Royal Caribbean ship, all public doors and entrances are accessible to wheelchair users and their accessible staterooms provide comfortable accommodations for those with mobility disabilities and other disabilities. Doors have a width of 32-34 inches and the rooms offer a 5-foot turning radius. Bathrooms feature grab bars, lowered sinks, roll-in showers, and fold-down shower seats. Airport transfers can be arranged in advance at no extra cost and extra assistance is provided at the pier for boarding and departure, although staff are not permitted to lift any equipment or guests.

Children with special needs are also welcome with Royal Caribbean and the fun-filled Adventure Ocean program makes every effort to include everyone. Grouping is done by ability rather than age, they have a toilet-trained policy exception, and pagers are provided to parents.

Disney Cruises are a favorite among families and are ideal for children with special needs. Their ethos is that any child should be able to participate in their youth program regardless of ability and they welcome children with all kinds of special needs. They are unable to cater for children who require one-on-one care or assisted medical attention, however.

Each Disney ship offers 16 staterooms with wheelchair access, and includes wide bathtubs and doorways, roll-in showers, and grab bars. The on-board theaters provide wheelchair seating and assisted listening devices. For those with visual impairments, Braille is widely used on board.

Carnival Cruises provide yet another fantastic option. All ships offer excellent access for wheelchair users, including all entrances, dining tables, gaming tables, and theater seating. There are specially modified cabins with wider entrances and a 60x60-inch turnaround space as well as specially designed bathrooms. Provisions have been made for those hard of hearing with in-cabin bed shakers, smoke alarms, and door alerts.  For those with visual impairment Braille signage is available. Children with special needs are welcome to participate in the Carnival youth programs and have the option to move down one age group if better suited to their needs. Parents of children with special needs are provided with a phone or pager for peace of mind.

With so many great facilities for both adults and children with special needs, a cruise seems to be the ideal vacation option, providing a safe yet enjoyable environment. For more information on any of these providers, click here for further reading.


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beck7422's picture



I am cold intollerant. My husband and I went on a Carribean Cruise. It was wonderful and handicap accessible. They especially handled my Food Allergies amazingly well. I could rest when I needed it and also enjoy some of the day trips, although those weren't as handicap accessible.