From adapted cabins to fully accessible public areas and excursions, cruise lines are successfully catering for the needs of guests with disabilities.
Princess has five different categories of ships, all of which are accessible for wheelchair users, but its Grand class has the largest number of staterooms catering for guests with disabilities. The 23 cabins provide full wheelchair-turning space, a roll-in shower equipped with grab bars and a fold-down bench seat, an easy-access closet and a writing desk with wheelchair access. Princess says that, though its reservations team can request that staff support guests, it advises wheelchair users to travel with someone who can assist them both on shore and at sea. For more information, visit the FAQ section of the website.
Royal Caribbean International
Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas has 46 accessible staterooms – the highest number in the cruise line’s fleet – all of which are located near lifts. The ship’s public areas are wide enough for wheelchairs to make a 180-degree turn, with ramps for ease of access and doors to outdoor areas that open automatically. The cruise line offers boarding and departure assistance on all ships, and there are two levels of assisted shore excursions; level one is for guests who are able to walk short distances, and level II is for passengers who travel with a non-collapsible wheelchair or scooter and are unable to walk short distances. Royal Caribbean’s dedicated web page contains more information.
While all of P&O Cruises’ ships are wheelchair-accessible, the cruise line’s newest ship, Britannia, has the largest number of wheelchair-friendly cabins, with 37 available. Cabins are all kitted out to accommodate the challenges that wheelchair users face. Accessibility to all public areas is high on P&O’s agenda, with level or ramped access in the majority of spaces, and a mobility assistance team available for embarkation and disembarkation. Most of the ports that Britannia visits have short ramped low-level gangways for ease of access, although a number have large tidal ranges, which can make access via short ramps difficult for wheelchair users. More information on services and facilities is available on P&O’s website (note: it is not possible to book a wheelchair-accessible cabin online).
Luxury cruise line Crystal Cruises prides itself on the attention it gives to guests with disabilities. Both Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity have dedicated staterooms with extra-wide doors, wheelchair-accessible bathrooms and closets with low fitted hanging rods. Around the ship, there’s ramp access to most decks and public areas, although Crystal strongly advises that guests with disabilities travel with a companion in order to have access to all areas. As with all cruise lines, ports that require tenders are challenging for passengers in wheelchairs; however, on-board shore excursion staff are on hand to recommend which Crystal Adventures tours are best suited to guests with disabilities.
All ships in the Celebrity fleet are accessible to wheelchairs, and a number of cabins can accommodate wheelchair users. However, the line’s Solstice class vessels have the highest number of wheelchair-accessible staterooms, with 30 on board each of the five ships. Reasonable mobility assistance is available in public areas, including Braille signage on all of the Solstice-class ships for guests who are blind or have impaired vision. Teletypewriters, amplified telephones and closed-caption televisions are also available in all staterooms upon request. There is a wide selection of itineraries; however, a number of ports require a tender service to reach land, which makes visiting difficult for guests in wheelchairs. Those ports are listed on Celebrity’s website.
Carnival Cruise Line
The cruise line’s newest ship, Carnival Vista, set sail last year with 65 adapted cabins in three different categories catering for guests’ different mobility needs. The ship’s public areas have been designed with accessible lefts, tactile controls within reach of guests who use wheelchairs, and audible signals for guests who are blind or have limited vision. Accessible routes are available throughout Vista with signs posted to help guests to find these pathways. Wheelchair assistance is available at embarkation and disembarkation, though shore excursions are challenging where tenders are involved, owing to external elements such as weather and tidal conditions. For more information, visit Carnival’s dedicated web page, which also includes detailed information on shore excursions and medical assistance.