Rather appropriately considering the subject of my blog on accessible cruises, today marks the 162nd anniversary of the birth of Louis Braille. Blinded after an accident he suffered as a small child, Braille overcame his disability and went on to make it a focus of his studies, famously developing a revolutionary system of communication which transformed the lives of millions of blind and visually impaired people.
The massive contribution Louise Braille made to society and the huge impact his studies had on empowering blind and visually impaired people educationally is acknowledged worldwide, with braille adapted for multiple international languages. Of course, his pioneering work paved the way for greater awareness of those with other disabilities too and today, those with disabilities should never have to worry about accessibility to public buildings and transport and should expect aural and visual aids in places of leisure such as cinemas and museums.
Of course, with the cruise industry ever-expanding with possibilities, we’ve seen the development of accessible cruising in tandem with that expansion and we’d rightly expect the needs of anyone with a disability catered for on a cruise ship, no matter what form their disability might take. However, if you’re a semi-regular visitor to these pages, or if you’ve booked a luxury cruise before, you’ll know that cruise ships come in all shapes and sizes and luxury vessels in particular can be smaller and more intimate. But does this render them unsuitable for accessible cruises? Certainly not. The majority of them may indeed be smaller, but the truth is, all cruise lines cater for those with disabilities – it’s the type of facilities available which can differ.
With that in mind, whether you have a disability yourself or are considering booking a cruise on which you’ll be travelling with a fellow cruiser with a disability, it’s important to consider which cruise line or ship is the most suitable for you. Here are a few pointers to consider before looking into booking accessible cruises:
Advice for accessible cruises
Some of the newest cruise ships offer a number of purpose-built staterooms designed specifically for those travelling on accessible cruises. They’ll offer dedicated amenities and will always be located close to the vessel’s lifts.
Don’t worry – even if the ship you really want to travel on doesn’t have purpose-built staterooms for accessible cruises, it will always have a number of rooms which have been designed or renovated with accessibility in mind.
Though your cruise ship and crew will do everything they can to accommodate wheelchair-users, some ports of call are unable to offer accessibility for them, so if you think this may be an issue, check your itinerary in advance.
If visual impairment is an issue for someone in your party, it’s reassuring to know that guide dogs are permitted on cruise ships. Be sure to alert your cruise line in advance of your intention to bring a guide dog aboard, however. It’s also worth noting that some ports on certain itineraries may not allow the disembarkation of animals, so check this in advance, too.
If yourself or a fellow traveller has a hearing impairment, make sure that you contact the cruise line in advance to request an alert kit. These handy devices enabled those with hearing impairments to acknowledge their room’s smoke alarm or a knock on their door.
A number of cruise lines produce special needs brochures, which outline the different facilities available. Check through your agent or with the cruise line directly to see if there’s one available and if so, order one before you set sail.
Accessible cruises, accessible cruise lines
As I mentioned earlier, it’s not just the world’s biggest cruise lines and cruise ships which offer good facilities on accessible cruises. Here’s a look at what some of the Six Star lines are offering.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises offer a one-to-one staff-guest ratio for disabled guests, meaning there will always be someone on-hand to help with any requirements they may have. The line offers a number of luxury accessible suites and the facilities and amenities of each of these can be viewed online in advance of your cruise. All Regent Seven Seas accessible suites feature wider doors and ramps to allow for wheelchair access.
Seabourn Cruises offer a number of Modified Accessible Suites and Wheelchair Accessible Suites, as well as a familiarisation tour upon arrival for guests who are visually-impaired. Some of the vessels in the fleet also offer Assistive Listening Systems in show lounges.
Both vessels in the Crystal Cruises fleet offer wheelchair access to most public areas and decks, while most of the ships’ lifts are built to accommodate the majority of motorised wheelchairs and scooters. A number of staterooms offer extra-wide doors, wheelchair-accessible bathrooms and closets, while some suites offer limited wheelchair access to personal facilities.
Azamara offer a number of accessible staterooms which have been specially designed to offer a five-foot turning radius in sitting areas, bedrooms and bathrooms. The rooms also offer ramped bathroom thresholds, lowered sinks, bathroom grab bars, roll-in showers on most vessels and fold-down shower benches. Selected staterooms also offer accessible balconies.
By Simon Brotherton