Cruise holidays are a great choice for passengers with disabilities. Many ships offer accessible cruises and provide specific services and facilities related to accessibility, so whether you’re a wheelchair user, have a hearing loss or loss of vision or you require specific medical or personal assistance, you're sure to find a cruise ship designed to cater to your needs.
Cruise lines invest heavily in providing helpful accessibility options for disabled passengers. Almost every cruise ship in the industry includes large, easily accessible public areas, staterooms and lifts, as well as modern medical facilities.
Passengers need only unpack once before they see the world on a cruise getaway, and this can also benefit people travelling on-board with disabilities. In-resort transfers can also be specially arranged to suit accessibility needs, including transfers from an airport to your ship.
As the popularity of cruise holidays continues to grow, more and more cruise lines are equipping their ships with a range of accessible facilities. Generally speaking, newer ships are more likely to feature better purpose-built featuresfor guests with disabilities. This could include staterooms with an easy-access design, usually in more than one room category, as well as wider public spaces with clearer layouts and more accessible amenities.
Guests with wheelchairs
Easy-access staterooms are usually placed closer to public areas for the convenience of guests with wheelchairs. Lifts also tend to be designed with wheelchair users in mind, and stateroom amenities are fitted at a lower level than in other rooms for better accessibility.
Accessible stateroom bathrooms may include grab rails, a roll-in shower, a shower stool, a handheld showerhead and an assistance button, while 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 will 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 are often accessible, this 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.
Visually impaired guests
Braille facilities are standard aboard today's cruise ships, 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 select 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 on doorbells, telephones, smoke detectors and fire alarms to alert passengers who have a hearing loss. Those ships that do not feature such stateroom facilities 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 and ashore. Let your Cruise Concierge know if you intend to take oxygen equipment on board, so that they 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 you can be catered for. Call your specialist Cruise Concierge, 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 and accessible cruise, we recommend considering...
Royal Caribbean International
Royal Caribbean takes very good care of disabled guests. The line's 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 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 stateroom doorways, 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 on-board. 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 its ships. It provides 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 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. NCL's 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 its 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 20 wheelchair-accessible cabins on-board, all featuring roll-in showers, grab rails and shower seats. All areas of the ship are barrier-free and accessible, while pool hoists and rental equipment are also available for cruise passengers with special needs.