Cruise lines are becoming more friendly to travelers with disabilities. New ships joining the fleets have more accessible cabins and the public areas are designed to be more accessible. Cabins with roll-in showers are now available in a wide range of categories and equipment for passengers who are deaf or hard of hearing is available on many ships.
These improvements are making cruising popular among travelers with disabilities, but to get the most out of your trip and to avoid disappointment, here are some things you should be aware of. One of the most popular aspects of cruises are the shore excursions at all the exotic places you dock. Shore excursions still present challenges for wheelers, with most of the tours not being accessible. Accessible transportation is often not available on these islands, but with a little resourcefulness many wheelers have been able enjoy this all important part of the trip.
First you should be aware that many of the ports that are visited require tendering of passengers going ashore. This occurs when a ship cannot dock at the shore either due to it being too shallow or there is no room. Passengers are transported to and from shore in small boats. Wheelchair users must be carried on and off these boats. The captain determines whether it would be safe to load a wheelchair user and can deny them going ashore. This usually only happens if in the event of rough seas or bad weather.
The most popular and easiest solution to shore excursions for wheelers is to hire a taxi. (Obviously you must be able to transfer) There is usually an abundance of them when you go ashore. If there is two or more in your party it usually works out to be about the same cost as the ship excursions and you literally have a private guide. Be sure to negotiate price before you start the trip. This will eliminate unpleasant surprises at the end of the day. If you are a power chair or scooter user you might want to consider bringing along a manual chair to use on the shore excursions.
Sometimes the staff that is booking the ships shore excursions have contacts on shore and can assist you in planning your shore excursions, but unfortunately, this is not always the case.
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