Preparing for a cruise is no different than preparing for any other vacation. There is one small exception. A large portion of your vacation will be spent in the middle of the sea. You can't run out to a pharmacy or medical supply company. Make sure you bring all medical equipment and backup supplies.
Cruising is great because I have experienced few to no difficulties navigating my wheelchair on board. I've traveled on two different major cruise lines and all of the staff have been extremely accommodating.
I enjoy being on a small to medium-size ship. This allows the staff get familiar with my specific needs. I make a point to go to the dining room before the first evening I ask for the head waitstaff. This allows me to pick out my table that I feel most comfortable with. At dinner, there is already a chair removed, and the waitstaff is there ready and happy to help. This small tip makes my mealtimes enjoyable and effortless.
“Port of Calls” should be researched before booking your cruise. You can ask for a booking agent who understands accessible travel issues. Here are some questions you can ask about accessibility at Ports:
- Will tenders be used? When tenders are used (smaller boats) passengers are "tendered" to shore. It is vital to make sure these smaller boats with accommodate your wheelchair or scooter. Have your measurements of your chair/scooter and weight on hand when you call an agent at the cruise line. This can help determine if you can board the tenders.
- Will the ship gangway have a ramp? A ship gangway, also known as a ship brow or accommodation ladder, is a passageway that joins a ship to your port. Once again, the measurements of your chair/scooter will be useful. These gangways can be narrow and steep. Ask very specific questions when booking your cruise.
- Ask if there will be wheelchair accessible vans at ports for transportation. At many ports/destinations, they will provide wheelchair accessible vans with drivers. This is a wonderful resource as you will be capable of enjoying a port.
The most important thing when booking is to make sure you're getting a handicap accessible room. The doorways on standard rooms are somewhere around 22 inches wide.
*The handicapped accessible rooms get booked very fast. The reason is that they are nearly three times the size of the regular room and are the same price. Bottom line, book early to get an accommodating room.*
Here are a few tips you can use:
- When booking, request a handicap room (early) and ask to fill out an ADA form. This form will give the cruise attendants a better understanding of your needs.
- Inquire if the ship has a lift for the pool.
- Research before going on a cruise about the activities (on board and at the ports).
- Choose ports of call that have cruise piers, then contact your cruise line to make sure you will be able to disembark at all of these ports.
All in all, cruise ship traveling in a wheelchair is by far the most fun and most comfortable way of traveling that I've ever experienced. Get ready for lots of fun, eating, and games. The sea is calling.
Let’s set Sail!
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The opinions and experiences presented herein are for informational use only. Individual results may vary depending on your condition. Always consult with your health care professional. This individual has been compensated by Bard Medical for the time and effort in preparing this article for BARD’s further use and distribution. BMD/BMDA/0119/0758