A cruise ship or cruise liner is a passenger ship used for pleasure voyages, where the voyage itself and the ship's amenities are a part of the experience, as well as the different destinations along the way. Transportation is not the prime purpose, as cruise ships operate mostly on routes that return passengers to their originating port, so the ports of call are usually in a specified region of a continent. There are even "cruises to nowhere" or "nowhere voyages" where the ship makes 2-3 night round trips without any ports of call.
If you have a disability, are disabled in any way or have some special needs or a special handicap you can still enjoy a great cruise experience and learn all about accessible travel.
The first step in planning a cruise ship adventure is to consult with a travel agent who specializes in cruise travel for people with disabilities to make sure you have an accessible trip.
Because the cruise lines are all different you need to compare the cruise lines and all they have to offer; this requires a little research on your part. However travel agents who specialize in cruise travel can really shorten your work and prevent a lot of problems and help you gain the best access. I encourage you to seek out their help and not try to go it alone.
There are many differences in the cruise lines.
Some cannot accommodate wheelchairs easily. Most cabins are small and you'll need to get the dimensions of the cabin to know if your wheelchair will fit.
Some of the larger cruise lines have cabins that have wider doorways. These cabins have bathrooms that will fit wheelchairs that can roll around inside. The closets are usually built so you can reach them from a lower vantage point. But make sure to double-check that the cruise line you've picked has these special accommodations. This is another reason a special needs travel agent or travel specialist can help.
Most of the cruise lines have elevators that have control panels within easy reach from a wheelchair.
The cruise lines have collapsible wheelchairs available but I would consider taking my own.
It may be a concern if it is going to be uncomfortable in any way. Also there is a remote possibility that they might run out of them. If you bring a motorized or power wheelchair make sure to bring your charger along - one that is adaptable to 110 volts.
Make sure to discuss with your travel agent how your visit to the various harbors or ports of call on the cruise, will be handled. This can make or break your trip. Small boats, which are called tenders, are used to take travelers and disabled travelers from the cruise ship to the port of call. These tenders are not always accessible or even safe for people with disabilities, so make sure you travel agent has had experience with these tenders before you book any cruise travel. And it is just as important make sure to find out if once you reach the shore, that they'll be able to handle your specific special needs.
In general some of the larger cruise lines will have ADA (American Disabilities Association) compliant rooms on their cruise ships. If you're deaf or hearing impaired, you can request special accommodations, for example tele-typewriters (TTY) or telecommunication devices for the deaf (TDD). Some of the cabins may have the ADA approved kits. These kits include visual smoke alarms and alarms that vibrate and door sensors so you know when someone is at the door.
For blind travelers who bring along their guide dogs or other service animals, they'll have a difficult time finding the best cruise. Each of the ports of call has different rules and regulations regarding guide dogs and service animals. Service animals may not be allowed to leave the cruise ship.
It's important to work with a travel agent who specializes in disability travel who knows how to do this and may be familiar with your chosen cruise already.
Special diets are usually easily accommodated on most of the cruise lines.
Vegans and vegetarians have fresh fruit and vegetable options and special diets are available for those passengers who need a low fat, low salt or low cholesterol diets. People with celiac disease may need to discus this with the cruise lines to see if their chefs are familiar with how to prepare gluten-free foods. Cruise passengers with lung impairments who will need oxygen can cruise but make sure you arrange to have plenty of oxygen on board.
Don't forget to check with your travel agent about any discounts, free add-ons, or good deals on cruise travel too. The cruise lines want your business whether you are disabled or not.
As soon as your travel agent books your cruise, make sure the cruise line is notified of your special needs and know of your disability. With help from your travel agent for the disabled or cruise line specialist you should be able to have a worry-free and carefree holiday, vacation or adventure and make you an expert on disabled travel.
P&O first introduced passenger cruising services in 1844, advertising sea tours to destinations such as Gibraltar, Malta and Athens, sailing from Southampton. The forerunner of modern cruise holidays, these voyages were the first of their kind, and P&O Cruises has been recognized as the world's oldest cruise line.
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