Figures from Royal Caribbean Cruises show that, worldwide, around 12% of people with a disability are regular cruisers -- that's approximately 21 million people each year.
Picking the right ship is an important decision for anyone with a disability. Depending on the individual's requirements, considerations might include how disability-friendly are the cabins and facilities? How accessible are the ports? Are the restaurant menus available in Braille? Is there a wheelchair weight allowance?
As a general rule, the newer the ship, the more accessible it is, although several older ships have also been refurbished to make them more accessible. That said, research is a must as every cruise line varies.
For anyone who is thinking of going on a cruise, we have put together a few tips to get you on your way:
- Checking websites or ordering brochures from the cruise lines is always a good starting point for your research. This can then be followed up with conversations with a travel agent to find out more specific information. A quick Google search will also bring up several travel agents who specialise in accessible cruising
- Try to choose an itinerary with port stops that have a pier, which will make it easier to disembark and participate in excursions. Some cruise lines, including Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean, do offer accessible excursions (called Easy Tours) at selected ports
- If you are taking a guide dog on board, you will need to give advance notice to the cruise line. You will also need to check that they can disembark with you at the various ports -- in some cases, documentation will be required
- Some ships may only have a limited amount of adapted cabins, so booking early may get you more choice. You'll need to ask for specific details but generally these cabins come with more space, wider doors, wet rooms and ramped balcony access
- If you struggle with mobility and getting around, you may want to consider hiring a scooter or a wheelchair, especially if you're travelling on one of the larger ships. These can often be hired from the cruise line or a specialist agent such as Special Needs at Sea