Travelling with a disability can be quite stressful as information isn’t always readily available on whether certain needs or requirements will be met. It can be even more frustrating when it comes to accessible cruising.

While ocean ships, for the most part, are equipped to handle guests with mobility restrictions, accessible cruising can get a little trickier when it’s taken out to the rivers or on an expedition.

Karryon contacted a few local cruise lines to see what they offer in terms of accessible cruising, and this is what we found:

 

OCEAN CRUISING

CARNIVAL AUSTRALIA

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“We empathetically look after the needs of guests with mobility challenges & other special needs.”

When it comes to passengers with mobility, Carnival Australia says its brands go the extra mile to ensure all their needs are met and their time onboard meets the company’s promise of ‘fun’.

These brands include are: Carnival Cruise Line, Cunard, Holland America, P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises and Seabourn.

Speaking to Karryon, the company said its ships are designed with accessibility in mind for all guests, including those with mobility needs.

CABINS: Carnival Australia ships have wheelchair-accessible cabins that make it easy for guests with mobility needs to enter and leave their rooms, as well as roam around inside.

SOCIAL AREAS: The cruise brands have elevators that reach all decks and a lack of stairs to social areas means easy access to onboard facilities such as restaurants and theatres.

OFF-SHORE EXCURSIONS: Each line has dedicated staff who routinely liaise with shore and ship teams so that guests with mobility needs are well looked after, and this is happening seamlessly on a daily basis.

CHALLENGES: None were presented to Karryon.

SPECIAL TOUCHES: In addition to ensuring ships meet relevant land-based regulations for disabled accessibility, the cruise brands cater to guests with other special needs, including those with vision or hearing impairment and those with particular dietary requirements.

 

MSC CRUISES

“Staff receive special in-house training to sensitises them to the needs of passengers with disabilities.”

MSC Cruises doesn’t just ensure its ships are equipped to cater to guests with mobility restrictions, it staff are too.

As part of the cruise line’s training, it has special teachings that prepare employees for the needs and requirements of travellers with disabilities and provides them with the right tools to ensure all guests have a safe and enjoyable cruise.

CABINS: All of MSC Cruises’ ships contain a number of specially fitted cabins with extra floor space and more room for movement. These cabins should be requested at the time of booking.

SOCIAL AREAS: All decks and public areas on MSC Cruises’ ships are accessible to guests with reduced mobility.

OFF-SHORE EXCURSIONS: The majority of excursions are fully accessible, however the cruise line recommends that all guests read-through the programme of available tours at the Excursion Office on board.

CHALLENGES: None were presented to Karryon.

SPECIAL TOUCHES: All on board staff receive special in-house training that sensitises them to the needs of passengers with disabilities or reduced mobility, and which prepares them to provide any necessary assistance. Mobility scooters can be brought onboard, however, they must be stored and batteries recharged in cabins.

 

NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE HOLDINGS

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“We believe that cruising should be enjoyed by everyone.”

It’s the mission of all Norwegian Cruise Lines Holding brands to provide a safe and accessible experience for all guests with special requirements, whether it be a physical or cognitive.

These brands are Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas.

All 26 ships across the company are designed to cater to guests with mobility requirements, and the cruise lines even have experienced special assistance coordinators available to assist before and during the cruise.

CABINS: Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’ brands have wheelchair accessible staterooms onboard each ship. These rooms have wider door frames, roll in showers, shower benches, high-rise toilets and handrails in shower and toilet area.

SOCIAL AREAS: Lift access across the 26-ship fleet ensures guests can access each deck. Most ships also have pool lifts. The company also provides accessible restrooms in designated public areas.

OFF-SHORE EXCURSIONS: All three brands have accessible transportation to and from ship available for guests embarking from a US destination. This will need to be arranged in advance.

CHALLENGES: None were presented to Karryon.

SPECIAL TOUCHES: Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings has experienced special assistance coordinators who provide advice before and during a cruise. The company’s ships also have special amenities and services to assist passengers with hearing, sight, intellectual, developmental and cognitive special needs.

 

RIVER CRUISING

APT

“We are always updating the design of ships with each new vessel that joins our fleet.”

APT endeavours to make river cruising as easy as possible for wheelchair-dependent guests, so-much-so that the cruise line has wheelchair hires available for guests who may not need a chair full time.

The award-winning cruise line told Karryon its ships are designed to accommodate compact collapsible wheelchairs and all guests in wheelchairs must be accompanied by a carer.

A nice touch introduced on the line’s newer ships are the electric doorways that allow wheelchair-dependent guests to open and close doors with the touch of a button.

CABINS: Many of APT’s European vessels feature a larger cabin that provides easier access for wheelchair-bound guests with a wider electric doorway that opens/closes automatically with a push button.

SOCIAL AREAS: The cruise line has lifts on many of its ships that allow access between the main areas and cabins. However, there is no lift access to the upper sun deck, only stairs. AmaMagna – APT’s newest ship – has elevators which reach all decks, including the sun deck, which assists guests with walking difficulties.

OFF-SHORE EXCURSIONS: In most destinations, APT is able to offer a gentle style of touring that is slower paces for guests with mobility restrictions. Although, the cruise line did flag that due to cobblestones and uneven terrain, European cities and villages can be challenging for some guests.

CHALLENGES: The gangways used to embark and disembark the ship are not suitable for wheelchairs/scooters, so guests must be able to walk short distances across the gangway, or be carried on/off the ship by their travelling companion/carer. In order to cruise with the line, guests in wheelchairs must travel with a carer.

SPECIAL TOUCHES: APT ships feature elevators that assist with maneuvering from floor-to-floor. The cruise line also accommodates guests by having a wheelchair hire service available for the duration of the cruise.

 

EXPEDITION CRUISING

HURTIGRUTEN

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“Whatever they deem capable of doing they can participate in on a Hurtigruten cruise.”

When it comes to catering to travellers with disabilities, Hurtigruten has it down pat. The Antarctica and Norway specialist welcomes all explorers and will go the extra mile to ensure all guests have an amazing holiday.

Damian Perry, Hurtigruten’s APAC Managing Director, told Karryon that the cruise line has rooms onboard every ship that can accommodate wheelchair guests and even offers a support team for offshore excursions.

CABINS: Hurtigruten has two dedicated cabins on smaller ships and five large accessible cabins on bigger ships, including the line’s new hybrid-powered expedition ships, Amundsen and Nansen.

SOCIAL AREAS: There’s lots of open space in all communal areas, making it easy for wheelchairs to move around in social areas including restaurants. Lifts are also spacious and cover all floors.

OFF-SHORE EXCURSIONS: Hurtigruten has larger than normal purpose built inflatable tender boats with easy access side tender pit which makes transfers easy. The line’s expedition team offers support for wheelchair-dependent travellers on expedition activities depending on the terrain and destination.

CHALLENGESMaking sure there are enough activities that are not limited by the terrain of select destinations would be the most significant challenge.

SPECIAL TOUCHES: Our Expedition team will always consider wheelchair travellers and endeavour to meet the need of explorers.

 

QUASAR EXPEDITIONS

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While Quasar Expeditions doesn’t boast about having the most wheelchair-friendly yachts at sea, the cruise line did recently have Paralympian Chris Waddell onboard, who appreciated the line’s hospitality during his honeymoon.

CHALLENGES:  The cruise line admits that the size of its small expeditions vessels, they are not as good a fit as the larger 100 passenger ships, so it makes it difficult to accommodate wheelchairs. Additionally, getting on and off the vessels can be difficult as well as moving between decks as they’re connected by stairs..

 

Which cruise lines would you recommend for travellers with disabilities?