Do you or a family member have a mobility issue that makes you hesitant to plan a vacation? I get it. Actually, I’ve lived it. Vacations should be fun and relaxing, but in reality can be quite challenging when you travel with a disability.Taking a cruise is an excellent option for individuals needing accommodations.
Basic Benefits of Cruising:
- You unpack once and sleep in the same bed each night while visiting multiple destinations.
- Cruise ships have a choice of accessible restaurants in which to dine.
- Ships provide easy to get to on-board entertainment.
- Once onboard the ship, your cabin can be reached by elevator (and elevators are plentiful).
- Cruise lines offer accessible rooms – book early to make sure you get one!
Plan Ahead, Plan Ahead, Plan Ahead
I cannot stress the importance of doing your research prior to booking your vacation. We know that cruise ships, even foreign flagged ones, sailing in U.S. waters must be ADA compliant. However, due to the lack of clarity regarding specific ADA requirements for ships, some cruise lines do better than others with accessibility. Careful research, an open mind and a good travel agent are important to find the ship that best fits your personal needs.
Should you bring your wheelchair, walker, scooter or cane from home for the cruise? Or rent them for use on the cruise? The answer is personal preference. Keep in mind, however, the rentals available might not be the same or as comfortable as those you own, so I suggest you bring yours from home if you are able to transport them without too much hassle. Leaving from a cruise port to which you are able to drive (vs. fly) greatly simplifies bringing your personal mobility aids on the ship.
That being said, space on cruise ships is generally tight. Your usual equipment is fine, but lightweight, more compact items make life a whole lot easier while on the ship. These travel items also come in quite handy at home for outings where more bulky everyday equipment might be problematic which might make the investment worthwhile.
Below are some specific tips about mobility aids:
- Bring a combination rollator/wheelchair to save space in your cabin so that you need only one device to both assist you and allow others to push you. Justwalkers.com offers a variety of models at different price points.
- Space is usually limited in the dining rooms on cruises and you may be asked to leave your walker, rollator or scooter outside the main doors. A
colorful tote which fits on most mobility aids is a good idea to quickly identify yours when it’s time to go! For example, this happy butterfly tote sold on Amazon will definitely make your product stand out!
- If you are able to walk short distances, consider bringing a travel cane with a seat, such as the one below sold at Walgreens. Long lines getting on and off the boat are sometimes unavoidable and the seat will allow you to rest when needed.
- If a portable scooter is an option for you, a lightweight one is a great idea when traveling with active friends and family. It will allow you to keep up with the action as long as you remember to charge the battery every night! SpinLife.com carries a nice selection of travel scooters.
Now that you know the basics about cruising, will you book the cruise on your own or hire a travel agent? You can certainly book a cruise yourself and the online deals are admittedly very tempting. However, making your own arrangements only makes sense if you have the time and the interest to do the research required to find the right ship for your specific situation.
Otherwise, hire an experienced travel agent to save time and ensure your needs are met. An agent who works frequently with cruise lines can often get the same deal or better than you can find online. Also, a knowledgeable agent is familiar with the various cruise lines and their ships, port access at destinations, and types of accessible excursions and transportation available.
What are your experiences with cruising? Your feedback might be helpful to others!
Written by Leslie Farin