Cruise holidays are a great choice for passengers with disabilities. Sometimes called easy-access cruises, disabled cruises or accessible cruises, these are voyages where your cruise ship provides specific services and facilities related to accessibility and special needs – whether you’re a wheelchair user, have a hearing loss or loss of vision, or whether you require specific medical or personal assistance.
Cruise lines invest heavily in providing great accessibility options. Almost every cruise ship in the industry includes large, easily accessible public areas and lifts, as well as modern medical facilities.
One of the great benefits of a cruise holiday is that passengers only unpack once before they see the world, and this can make cruises a fantastic choice for people with disabilities. In-resort transfers can also be specially arranged to suit accessibility needs, including transfers from an airport to your ship.
The huge popularity of cruise holidays means that there’s plenty of variety between ships and voyages, and plenty of choice when it comes to facilities. Generally speaking, newer ships are more likely to feature better purpose-built facilities for guests with disabilities. This could include staterooms with an easy-access design, usually in more than one room category, and wider public spaces with clearer layouts and more accessible amenities.
For more details please contact Ann Smith, our cruise specialist on 0844 842 1183 ext 1235. Alternatively, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guests with wheelchairs
Easy-access staterooms are usually placed closer to public areas for the convenience of guests using wheelchairs. Lifts tend to be designed with wheelchair users in mind, and stateroom facilities are fitted lower than in other rooms for better accessibility.
En-suite bathrooms might include grab rails, a roll-in shower, a shower stool, a handheld showerhead and an assistance button; and en-suites with baths are also available. Assistance pull-rods are also quite common in easy-access bathrooms, as well as assistance buttons placed beside beds.
Some ships have electrical hoists or lifts to enable wheelchair users to access at least one of the pools and Jacuzzis on board, and dedicated wheelchair positions tend to be included in ships’ main theatres.
Although cruise ships themselves can be quite accessible, the same isn't always the case for ports of call and shore excursions – so your choice of itinerary is also very important. We advise choosing voyages that feature ports of call where the ship docks at the main pier – since rough seas and other conditions can make it difficult for people with mobility issues to leave the ship at certain tender ports, where the ship anchors offshore. For those ports that can be accessed, specially adapted shore excursions can be arranged to ensure you make the most of your time whilst ashore.
On a cruise you'll never have to eat alone if you don't want to. Dining is a group experience and whether the cruise line operates a traditional or open-seat dining policy, it can be a great way to meet people. When you come to book, just let your Cruise Concierge know that you’d like to be seated with other single travellers. You don't need to throw yourself into communal activities if that's not what you’re after, though – you can always find a quiet corner on board for some personal time, and most ships offer room service for private dining too.
Visually impaired guests
Braille facilities are quite standard aboard cruise ships nowadays, with Braille indicators and audio deck announcements in the lifts, as well as cabin numbers in Braille text and closed-captioning TV. Many cruise lines will also have Braille menus available in their restaurants.
Guide dogs are permitted on most ships, though cruise lines will require advance notice and may also ask for vaccination records, an International Health Certificate or written proof of the dog's training. Special documentation may be required to enter certain ports of call, and dogs may not be allowed to disembark at all ports.
Some ships have specially adapted staterooms for hearing-impaired guests that include vibrating alarm clocks and an indicating-light system – this could include doorbells, telephones, smoke detectors and fire alarms to alert passengers who have a hearing loss. Those ships that do not have stateroom facilities like this tend to provide alert kits instead, which can be fitted to any cabin, and contain visual-tactile smoke detectors, door-knock alerts, wake-up systems and telephone alerts.
Guests needing dialysis or oxygen therapy
Guests who require oxygen therapy can be accommodated on some cruise ships, but generally will have to supply their own oxygen equipment. Some cruise lines will have exclusive relationships with companies which can deliver and supply oxygen equipment to their ships, for use on board or on tours. Let us know that you intend to take oxygen equipment on board, so that we can check the necessary terms and possible restrictions.
Guests with special dietary requirements
Specific dietary requirements can be catered for on most ships. Sugar-free and fat-free desserts are available, whilst gluten-free, lactose-free, sodium-free and dairy-free diets can also be catered for. These usually need to be requested well in advance of your cruise, so please get in touch for more details.
Whatever your requirements, it's more than likely that it can be catered for. Call your specialist Cruise Concierge, Ann Smith, who will be happy to discuss your requirements and take care of your travel arrangements to ensure your holiday is enjoyable and hassle-free.
If you're looking for an easy-access cruise or disabled cruise, we recommend considering...
Royal Caribbean International
Royal Caribbean takes very good care of disabled guests. Their Freedom Class and Oasis Class ships are the largest afloat today and include the most up-to-date amenities you could wish for, from specially adapted staterooms and lift-accessible pools and Jacuzzis to Braille signs and elevator buttons throughout. Although the facilities on board are second to none, it is worth noting that these ships are enormous, measuring at least the length of three football pitches – so long distances may need to be covered to get to certain facilities. Their smaller Radiance Class ships offer a smaller, medium-sized alternative, whilst featuring the same specially adapted features for disabled guests.
All of P&O Cruises’ ships have wheelchair-accessible cabins. These rooms feature wide electric-access doorways into the stateroom, ample floor space for freedom of movement, and ramped access if they come with balconies. All adapted staterooms also have a level-entry roll-in shower and pull-down shower seat with grab rails. Some ships also have hoists to at least one of their swimming pools onboard. P&O Cruises also offer adapted excursions at most ports of call, and special equipment can also be booked for you in advance if needed.
Princess Cruises’ larger Grand Class ships are well suited to welcome disabled guests, with a number of additional amenities including some of the most accessible staterooms and suites at sea, in a number of categories. For ease of movement the ships also feature an intuitive wheelchair-transportation mechanism, which cuts out the necessity to negotiate the tight gangways. Other adaptations include Braille elevator buttons, for passengers with visual impairment.
Celebrity Cruises’ Solstice Class ships – Solstice, Equinox and Eclipse – include extra amenities with the disabled passenger in mind, including accessible staterooms across most categories. All rooms come with automatic opening doors, and there are pool and Jacuzzi lifts for wheelchair users as well as lowered casino tables. Celebrity's smaller Millennium-class ships, Millennium, Infinity and Constellation, also offer a range of wheelchair-accessible cabins in a variety of categories. Unique to this class of ships, Celebrity Constellation also has pool and Jacuzzi lifts similar to her Solstice Class fleet mates.
Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) welcomes disabled passengers aboard all their ships. They provide fleet-wide amenities, including up to 27 staterooms per ship that are wheelchair accessible – with grab bars throughout the bathrooms, shower seats and extra-wide doors for easy access. Some of their ships have alarm pull rods in bathrooms and alarm buttons beside the beds. Many NCL ships have Braille indicators in their lifts, as well as cabin numbers in Braille text. Their three newest state-of-the-art ships all have electrical hoists for access to the pools and Jacuzzis too. Many NCL ships also have dedicated wheelchair positions in the main theatres, and if not, dedicated wheelchair seating can be arranged.
Holland America has lots of experience in providing easy-access facilities – particularly aboard their four Vista-class ships, Zuiderdam, Westerdam, Noordam and Oosterdam. These medium-sized ships are very easy to get around, and offer a great selection of easily accessible dining venues, lounges and activities. These ships offer purpose-built staterooms across all categories, and a unique wheelchair-accessible tender transfer system. Holland America also has a partnership with 'Special Needs at Sea' to provide wheelchairs and special equipment to guests on request.
Cunard's Queen Victoria has twenty wheelchair-accessible cabins onboard, all featuring roll-in showers, grab rails and shower seats. All areas of the ship are barrier-free and accessible, and pool hoists and rental equipment are also available for cruise passengers with special needs.
Disabled travellers looking for a luxurious cruise holiday could opt for either one of Crystal Cruises' medium-sized ships – the Crystal Serenity and the Crystal Symphony. Each ship has a number of wheelchair-accessible staterooms in a variety of categories, and the company can arrange shore excursions with lifts on tour buses where possible. As with all luxury cruise lines, Crystal Cruises places a lot of emphasis on high-quality service, and they boast the highest staff-to-guest ratios in the industry – so you can rest assured that they will do their utmost to ensure you have an enjoyable holiday.
Regent Seven Seas
Regent Seven Seas offers personalised service to its passengers and, like Crystal Cruises, a very high staff-to-guest ratio. Guests with disabilities are appointed their own staff member during their cruise, to ensure that they are well taken care of. The Seven Seas Mariner and Seven Seas Voyager offer a handful of easy-access suites, including some complete with a personal butler service. Design features on board include wider doors, ramps between living areas and bathrooms, and larger shower stalls fitted with seats and grab bars.