Accessibility At Sea: Your Guide To Accommodations Aboard

Picking the perfect cruise for your family can be a challenge, particularly if you have needs that require special accommodations. While prior research makes your trip less stressful, knowing the accessibility features offered by cruise lines can be difficult. In this blog, we’ll explore the accessibility features offered by the Royal Caribbean, Disney, and Carnival Cruise Line. 

To learn more about the accessibility accommodations at sea, keep reading!

Royal Caribbean International

Photo by Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean requests customers to submit a guest special needs form, at least 30 days before boarding,  so that they can best accommodate the needs of their guests. The cruise offers accessible staterooms with features such as ramped bathroom thresholds, bathroom grab bars, and lowered sinks and vanities. 

The cruise line provides complimentary wheelchairs and assistive devices to those with mobility issues. Additional services include early boarding, boarding and departure help, accessible guest relations desk and casinos, elevators to pools, and cruise transfers that use a special van that has a ramp or an elevator. If you have any questions about the services provided by a specific cruise line, please speak to a travel agent before sailing. 

Photo by Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean offers amplified phones and  closed captions on all stateroom TVS, for customers who are deaf or hard of hearing. The cruise line provides  a portable kit, which includes visual-tactile alert systems for door knocking, smoke, alarm clock, and telephone ringing etc. Customers who use an American Sign Language Interpreter to communicate can request a sign language interpreter for the duration of their trip. At least 60 days notice is preferred for this service. 

If you are blind or have low vision, Royal Caribbean provides tactile signage, large print menus and cruise itineraries. The cruise line also  welcomes service dogs onboard.

Royal Caribbean is an autism friendly cruise line,  featuring autism friendly films, flexible child grouping in Adventure Ocean activities, private activities, and faster boarding, check-in, and departure, designed to assist those  living with autism, down syndrome, and other developmental disabilities.

Whatever is needed for an enjoyable trip, Royal Caribbean is committed to  helping you every step of the way. 

Disney Cruise Line

Photo by Disney Cruise Line

Disney Cruise Line requests that guests with special needs fill out the request special services form, before travel in order for the cruise line to cater to individual needs. 

Disney Cruise Line provides wheelchair accessible staterooms for its customers,  including features such as 32” inch doorways, ramped bathrooms, open bed frames, grab bars for both bathrooms and showers, emergency call buttons, and roll-in showers.

For guests with wheelchairs and other mobility devices, most public spaces on the ships ( e.g. theaters and restaurants) are wheelchair accessible. Accessible restrooms are also available. However, Disney requires that guests bring their own wheelchairs onboard Disney ships, as the wheelchairs on board are used for emergencies and to help with onboarding and disembarking. 

For those who are deaf or hard of hearing, Disney provides assistive listening devices and captioning for certain movies and television shows. They also offer  state room communication kits with features such as  door knocking and phone alerts, strobe light smoke detector, and bed shaker notifications.The Disney Wish does not provide a stateroom communication kit, but provides communication staterooms containing similar features. Those who use American Sign language to communicate  may also request interpreters, however arrangements must be made at least 60 days before departure.

Photo of Disney Wish

If you are blind or have low vision, Disney Cruise Line offers large- print menus, available upon request, and audio captioning in most movie theaters. 

Children who can communicate their medical needs to staff  may store their medical items on their person or at the youth activities front desk.  If a child cannot wait in line for the Character Meet and Greets  for an extensive period,  Disney Cruise Line allows a member of the child’s party to wait in line, in place of the child. Single parents may request  extra support.  For activities like AquaDuck/AquaDunk/Mickey Slide/Twist, Disney suggests participating right before opening or closing to minimize wait times and enhance the experience.

Carnival Cruise Line

Photo by Carnival Cruises

Carnival Cruises offers a plethora of facilities to accommodate customers with disabilities, and wheelchair accessible routes are available throughout the ships with signs directing customers to these pathways. 

The cruise line offers Fully Accessible Cabins (FAC) for customers who frequently use wheelchairs and other mobility devices (e.g. canes). These cabins include features such as turning space, accessible routes throughout the stateroom and an accessible bathroom. For customers who do not frequently use wheelchairs but use other assistive devices (e.g. canes) the cruise provides Ambulatory Accessible Cabins (AAC)  which include features such as grab bars to provide balance and is best for those who can travel longer distances. 

Customers who require wheelchairs are asked to notify the crew while booking, so that the cruise line can provide a suitable room to meet their needs. 

For guests who are deaf or hard of hearing, the cruise line provides a visual-tactile alert system that can alert customers to sounds such as door knocking, smoke detection, etc. Additionally the cruise line provides assistive listening headphones for live music and most of the TVs in the staterooms have closed captions. Guests who communicate via sign language, may request a sign language interpreter to assist them while travelling. This facility requires 60 days’ notice. 

Photo by Carnival Cruises

If you are blind or have low vision, Carnival Cruises provides tactile signage in public areas and staterooms. Tactile documents need advance request. Large print menus, newsletters, and shore excursions are also available but should be requested before boarding so that it may be ready for travel.

Carnival Cruise Line  provides complimentary sensory bags, with features such as noise-canceling headphones, fidget tools, and a visual feeling thermometer, for those who have autism and other developmental disabilities. Guest Services and any of the Youth programs provide these bags on a first come – first serve basis. These sensory bags help those with autism and other developmental disabilities relax. 

Photo by Carnival Cruises

As you can see, each of the cruise lines cater to various disabilities, but don’t let your disability get in the way of enjoying your holiday. No matter where you go, or what cruise you choose, an adventure at sea awaits you. Sail away and explore the seas today!

by Kashaf Rashid