Many travelers with disabilities vacation on a cruise. The convenience of seeing multiple destinations on one trip, unpacking once and having accessible entertainment options are part of the draw.
Logistically, cruising is one of the best ways for people with mobility disabilities to travel, according to Sylvia Longmire, author of Everything You Need to Know About Wheelchair Accessible Cruising. “Also, there are more and more cruise lines offering accessible excursions,” she says.
Longmire, an Air Force veteran, uses a power wheelchair and has been on more than 30 cruises. She says if you’re new to cruising, it’s important to do your homework to make sure the cruise can accommodate your needs: Will your scooter fit through the stateroom door? Are there wheelchair-accessible attractions at the destinations?
If you would rather let someone else take care of the details, Longmire recommends hiring a travel agent who specializes in accessible travel. The agent can help guide you through a variety of cruise options tailored to your physical needs, as well as arrange transportation and reserve shore excursions and rent medical equipment if needed.
Many cruise lines, including Celebrity Cruises, offer extra assistance with transportation and excursions for people who use wheelchairs. Here’s more on how to find a cruise that accommodates your needs.
Select a ship
All major cruise lines in U.S. waters are required to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and offer accessible public spaces and staterooms. However, some cruise lines offer more options than others. “The newer, bigger ships are much better for accessibility — they tend to be built with accessibility as part of the plan as opposed to being retrofitted later,” says Mark Chilutti, a manual wheelchair user. Chilutti and his wife have been on more than a dozen cruises, and he recommends booking at least a year in advance to ensure you get an accessible stateroom as most cruise ships have a limited number of options. Early booking helps you get the type of room you want.
For example, if you want a balcony, Royal Caribbean offers accessible staterooms where Chilutti says he was able to open the balcony door by himself and easily cross the threshold.