Cruises for the physically challenged are more convenient than ever with almost every ship now designed to suit specific needs, abilities and lifestyle. If you live with a physical disability or perhaps a compromising medical condition, then preparation and planning is the key to reduce unexpected problems.
Today’s cruise ships offer accessible cabins and bathrooms with handrails and emergency call buttons, while public areas have wheelchair access and lifts with reachable buttons. As well as fixtures and fittings such as wide doors, washbasins low enough for wheelchair users and no raised ‘lips’ at cabin and bathroom thresholds. Mobility equipment is often available to hire on board. Many cruise lines have ‘Oxford Dippers’ for lowering handicapped swimmers into the pools. For the visually impaired, Braille-coded cabin numbers and lift buttons are standard; while restaurant menus in Braille are available. For the hard of hearing, as well as those with speech impairments, text-messaging systems are in place for easy communication.
It is wise for passengers who are in a wheelchair to choose the appropriate dining times to avoid crowds – the late seating also allows for more time to have a shower and change after an afternoon sightseeing tour. They should also speak to the maitre d’ about being seated at a table near the entrance to avoid having to thread a path between the tables. At the buffets, there are crewmembers that will help with both serving and carrying trays. At the ship’s theatre, either arrive early for seats at the front or utilise the reserved seats at the rear.
Shore excursions should be reviewed carefully since there may be some that are not appropriate for those with limited mobility. It is prudent to read the brochure descriptions and avoid those tours identified as involving stairs or with a lot of walking. The onboard Excursions Team will be only too happy to give advice about the suitability of specific tours. Try to avoid itineraries full of ports which can only be reached by ship’s tenders as they are rarely an option for wheelchair users due to the tricky nature of embarking them if there are even moderate swells.
Anyone with physical challenges considering a cruise should book early as the number of disabled access cabins is limited. If an adapted cabin is not mandatory then study the ship’s deck plans so that you know which accommodation types are near the lifts as well as venues you’ll need to access daily such as restaurants. For further assistance, call 0800 484 0314 or click on www.barrheadtravel.co.uk.