Cruising is often billed as one of the most accessible vacation choices for wheelchair-users and slow walkers. In fact, according to a 2002 Harris Interactive poll, 12 percent of disabled adults had taken a cruise in the previous five years, compared to 8 percent of the able-bodied population. So chances are, even if you don’t specialize in accessible cruises, you’re still likely to have at least a few disabled cruise clients.
These days wheelchair-users and slow walkers turn to travel agents for far more than just a cruise reservation; they also look to them for their expertise in handling logistical issues relating to their disability. With that in mind, here are a few nuts-and-bolts tips to share with your disabled cruise clients.
- If you’re traveling with extra equipment, such as an additional wheelchair or a hoyer lift, try and take it aboard yourself instead of leaving it with the rest of your luggage, to be brought to your room later. That’s the best way to insure all of your equipment makes it on the ship.
- If you take along a manual wheelchair, mark it clearly with your name or personalize it in some way, so it won’t be mistaken for one of the ship’s wheelchairs.
- If you are traveling with a scooter or a power wheelchair, take an extension cord and a power strip. Outlets are limited in staterooms and sometimes they are not located in the most convenient places. Additionally, don’t forget to pack a converter if you need one.
- If you requested any special equipment, such as a commode chair or a shower bench, contact your cabin steward if it’s not in your cabin when you arrive.
- If you feel there’s a language problem and you don’t think the cabin steward understands your question, then go to the purser’s office and ask to speak to the Chief Purser or the Head Housekeeper about the matter.
- After you get settled in, head down to the dining room and check on the location and height of your table. If it’s not manageable for you, talk to the Maitre d’ about a change.
- Make sure and locate the accessible seating in the showrooms before show time, as sometimes it’s difficult to find when it’s crowded.
- Arrive about 15 minutes early for the life boat drill. That way you will beat the crowds and still be able to take the elevator.
- If you have any concerns about emergency evacuation procedures, don’t hesitate to ask your life boat captain.
- Take a tour of the ship on the first day and locate the accessible restrooms on each deck. Make note of the locations for future use.
- Last but not least, if you use a power wheelchair or scooter, bring along a manual wheelchair for use in port. This is especially helpful in Caribbean ports, where it’s difficult to find lift-equipped transportation. In the long run, it will help make your cruise more enjoyable.
Candy Harrington is the editor of Emerging Horizons (www.emerginghorizons.com) and the author of several best-selling books for disabled travelers. Her newest title, the third edition of Barrier Free Travel; A Nuts and Bolts Guide for Wheelers and Slow Walkers (www.BarrierFreeTravel.net) features detailed information about the logistics of planning accessible travel by plane, train, bus and ship; and includes a detailed shore excursion chapter listing 45 local tour operators that provide wheelchair-accessible shore excursions. It’s available at bookstores, through the publisher (800-532-8663) or on-line at www.BarrierFreeTravel.net.