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Accessibility in cruise: ‘Progress, but more can be done’

Accessibility in cruise

Zoe Escudier-Davies is a disability blogger and vlogger who runs the Cruising Wheelchair website. Here, she talks through her experiences on board cruise ships and explains what could be done to improve accessibility.

For how long have you been cruising?

I’ve been cruising since 2004 but in a wheelchair since 2015. I have completed around 100 cruises in total and 23 as a wheelchair user. I currently have eight booked up until 2024.

Overall, how accessible are ships?

On the whole they are generally very accessible, however that does depend on your disability as not all disabilities are the same, therefore needs are different.

For me, the only problem I struggle with are non automatic doors as they are so heavy and I need my husband to open them for me, leaving me reliant and not independent – the same with balcony doors. I would say some also lack accessible bathroom storage.

How could cruise learn from other industries in terms of accessibility?

A nominated disability representative on every ship who understands disability; they either need to be disabled or have proper training and an understanding of every needs.

The industry could also make tender boats accessible with the correct right ramps – there isn’t a reason why in 2022 wheelchair users can’t wheel onto a tender.

[There is also a case] for more accessible cabins, and more information about accessibility online, so guests can compare and make their choice knowing what is suitable for them and their needs.

What measures, which could be implemented in a short time frame, could cruise bring in to make it more accessible?

Firstly, automatic doors and ramps to tenders, reserved seating areas for wheelchairs in all venues, restaurants and by the pool – and have it staffed so they are not taken by able bodied guests.

Also, a dedicated disabled lift(s) for all guests with impaired mobility, which can be found via the medical forms that we need to fill in, would make a huge difference.

Accessibility in cruise
Zoe and her husband on board

As for the future, what innovation is out there that cruise could use?

With it being 2022, and new ships being built, there is a lot that could be done for disabled passengers but it would come down to whether the cruise line will pay for it as disability always comes at a cost.

What appeals to you about a cruise holiday?

Cruises are still accessible and being in one place and not having to pack and unpack, waking up to a different place each day, is just wonderful.

The choice of itineraries, restaurants, entertainment, cruise lines, making memories – I could go on and on. I blog and vlog on Cruising Wheelchair because I have such a passion for cruises, hence why I am trying to get the word out on accessibility so other disabled people are not stuck at home thinking they can’t travel.

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