Cruise ships can provide a great holiday for people with a disability. I recently took a cruise to New Zealand. I received great service. It was good not to have to carry luggage around. Many cruise ships are now accessible to people with a disability. Features can include ramps, lifts and accessible bathrooms. Information can often be provided in Braille and hearing loops are available on some ships. Staff can also provide personal assistance. But shore excursions can cause difficulties for some people. It is important to discuss your needs before you travel.
Posted by: Graeme Turner, on 08/04/11
There is increased awareness about accessibility for people with a disability
Would you like a drink sir? The female waiter is at my elbow. What could be a more idyllic holiday for someone with vision impairment to get such personal service on a luxury cruise ship? But just how well do cruise ship companies cater to people with disabilities?
Recently I took a two week cruise on the Dawn Princess to New Zealand.
Food and accommodation were included in the fare. It was also great to be able to leave my luggage in my cabin for 13 nights without having to move it.
It's a very safe place to be, says David Lee. David has a vision impairment and runs a travel agency specialising in catering to people with a disability. David says that companies have control over who boards the ship, which ensures a secure environment.
David says cruising is growing in popularity and companies are expanding in Australia. He says there is also increased awareness about ensuring cruises are accessible to people with a disability.
I found that the Dawn Princess featured ramps in public areas including exits to the decks.
P&O spokesperson Michelle Andjel says all decks are accessible by ramp or lift except for the uppermost sun decks. Rooms with wider doorways, lowered furniture and accessible bathrooms are available.
Assistance from staff
Margaret Cooper, who has polio, recently cruised on the Dawn Princess to New Caledonia with three attendants. She was disappointed there was no height adjustable bed to place less strain on their backs. Margaret would have also liked a DVD player in her room.
Hoists are offered in most large ships. However Margaret found the staff a little anxious about handling her access into the swimming pool. Cruise companies DiVine spoke to say they train staff in basic disability awareness.
Crew were helpful for Robyn Weston when she cruised to New Zealand on the Sea Princess. Robyn has arthritis. The crew assisted in cutting up her food at meal times.
Shore excursions might be the hardest part of a cruise for people with a disability. Once you leave the ship you are basically on your own. Most cruise operators provide few services off the ship.
Michelle Andjel from P&O says there is limited support for shore excursions. Mobility scooters may also not be permitted on some boats shuttling to the shore. She advises those with disabilities to travel with companions. She says the ship's crew are not able to act as personal escorts on excursions.
Margaret had difficulty gaining an accessible taxi on the dock. Harbour authorities restrict taxi access for security reasons. Cruise companies say they have no control in this area.
Andrew Castles from Coral Princess says his company is committed to disability access. But he says his ships are reasonably small (around 70 passengers) and travel to remote areas. He says people with a disability might be better advised to book on larger ships.
Many cruise operators have accessible information for blind and vision impaired travellers, says David Lee. For example, travellers on Holland America ships can request Braille menus and Braille program guides. P&O can also print accessible materials for passengers.
Meanwhile, the lifts on the Dawn Princess kindly informed me of the deck level. It is a feature available on most ships. Lift buttons were also labelled in Braille. It was also pleasing that Jaws screen reading software was available on computers in the ship's internet cafe.
For Deaf or hearing impaired passengers, P&O provides vibrating pillows as alarms. Television programs are captioned and hearing loops are available in key entertainment areas.
It is important to let the ships know of particular requirements. Bring any concerns in service to staff.
Margaret says she would negotiate her requirements up front if she were to cruise again.
(But) I firmly believe they do the job very well, she says.
Before you choose a cruise destination, it would also be a good idea to look into the location of shore excursions. Consider the availability of support services and infrastructure once you are off the ship.
By the way, I did accept that drink.
What are your experiences of cruising holidays? Let us know in the comments section below.
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