In focus… Accessible Cruising

From accessible cabins to wheelchair-friendly excursions, cruise lines are adapting to be more inclusive. Julie Baxter goes below deck

Accurate information is key to giving disabled travellers the confidence they need to book a holiday, and ocean cruise lines are increasingly ahead of the game on this. Most have dedicated areas on their websites detailing accessibility features and relevant refits, and many newer ships are specifically designed with disabilities in mind. Detailing a client’s specific needs and double checking cabin locations, routes to facilities and onboard support as well as suitable excursions are crucial to sales success.

All at sea…

Leading cruise lines such as MSC Cruises, P&O, Carnival Cruises, Saga Cruises and Hurtigruten all offer accessible cabins, fitted out especially for guests with disabilities and many also detail partially-adapted and ‘ambulant accessible’ cabins that suit those with limited mobility. Ship adaptions can also include tactile guides, accessible public toilets, ramps, elevators and induction loops and some ships welcome guide dogs.

Silversea is among those offering specially-designed suites with wider doors, and paths suited to wheelchairs/scooters. Its newest ship, Silver Nova, has six accessible suites plus toilets, a beauty salon and library all with wheelchair access. The Venetian Lounge, restaurants and bars offer wheelchair seating. For those with visual impairments, there is braille assistance on public signage.

Ambassador Cruise Line offers no-fly cruises for the over 50s and has departures from seven regional ports. It has a partnership with Mobility at Sea, a family-owned business that provides products and hireable equipment to assist guests.

Beyond mobility…

Carnival Cruises claims to be the first cruise line to be certified “sensory inclusive” by KultureCity, a non-profit dedicated to accessibility and inclusion for individuals with sensory and invisible disabilities.

Through this partnership all guest-facing crew have been trained to understand sensory/cognitive needs, and Sensory Bags are offered containing items to calm, relax and manage sensory overload, including comfortable noise-cancelling headphones, fidget tools, a visual feeling thermometer, and a KultureCity VIP lanyard to help the staff easily identify such guests.

More broadly, Carnival ship modifications aim to make navigation easier and include accessible elevators, tactile controls at wheelchair level and audible signals for the sight impaired. There are accessible tables in the main dining areas, on the Lido Deck and at other restaurant venues. Pool lifts are available on many of its ships.

Accessible excursions…

Remember too it is not just about the ships. Accessible shore activities are also important and increasingly available. Silversea, for example, offers dedicated ‘Wheelchair Accessible Excursions’ on some of its Europe and US itineraries. These are operated by wheelchair-accessible vehicles and include only fully-accessible venues such as UNESCO sites in Croatia, Italy’s Pompeii ruins, Valletta and Mdina in Malta, and the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain.

Meanwhile, Carnival offers sign language interpreters on request, on a shared basis, for cruises out of the US.

Accessibility in action

Cruise with care: Limitless Travel offers a range of cruise itineraries for those with disabilities which it supports with professional carers on each departure. limitlesstravel.org

Supportive service: Saga ships are fully accessible and all include 10 disabled-friendly cabins. Guests are asked to declare any disabilities to ensure maximum support onboard.

Active ashore: Silversea offers low-activity tours specially-designed for those requiring mobility assistance in almost every port it calls at.

access for every body logo