Planning Holiday Travel? Try a Cruise!

Posted by Candace Cable in Life After Paralysis on October 11, 2017

It’s never too early to plan for holiday travel. One of my bucket list travel items is going on a cruise with my sisters over a holiday so we can have a shared experience to reflect on together. Traveling is an opportunity to experience new avenues and taking a cruise with family members seems like the ultimate unique experience.

All the advertisements make cruising look glamorous, fun, exciting, exotic and quite possibly accessible. I’ve taken one cruise, about twelve years ago and it was very accessible for my wheelchair, while on board. But the excursions off the ship were lacking safe access. So if you’re like me, you might worry that if you book a cruise, will you get to take part in all the activities?

Well, I recently discovered that cruising has been continuously getting better with the help of businesses specializing in accessible cruising and the enforcement of access laws. Last year Carnival Corp. entered into a settlement agreement with the Department Of Justice (DOJ) to survey and create better access for people with disabilities on 62 of it’s cruise ships including Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line and the Princess Cruise brands.

Carnival agreed to develop a plan to improve the accessibility of a number of cabins, websites, mobile applications, reservation systems and improve the over all physical accessibility of the ship as well as pay some penalties to the federal government and damages to complainants.

They also added an Executive-level ADA compliance officer or Complaint Resolution Official (CRO), just like all the airlines are required by the ACAA to have at all the US airports, as well as on-board ADA officers that will address issues that arise while at sea.

Laurel Van Horn, Director of Programs at Open Doors Organization (ODO) a non-profit that educates the travel and tourism industries on the access laws and disabilities awareness to create an equitable experience for the disabled traveler, says “CRO’s have been needed in the cruise industry to truly create inclusion and access for people with disabilities.”

Debra Stein Briscoe Kerper owner of Easy Access Travel who has been in the travel booking industry for 24 years said the one company that is a stand out is: “Royal Caribbean International cruise line, they truly lead the way for accessibility at sea. I feel like I have a team when I work with Royal Caribbean International. Royal Caribbean has a shore access department and when planning for groups I work with them constantly, they will go the extra mile to get ADA accessible buses.”

I connected with Ron Pettit, the Access Compliance Consultant for Royal Caribbean International and found out they have a Disability Advisory Board, Guest Board, Accessible Travel Agent Advisory Board and Autism Advisory Board.

Ron shared with me some cool features in place on the ship “Anthem of the Seas” now has automatic doors in all the accessible staterooms. There are electrical outlets at the bed verses the large ship tradition of outlets at the vanity. This is really great for guests traveling with power chairs or Portable Oxygen Concentrators (POC), CPAP machines and of course our smartphones that need an outlet near the bed.

If you’re thinking of checking out cruising, we as travelers have to do our research and know what we want out of a cruise before we go. A good place to begin is looking at cruise lines websites. Then talk with travel agents that specialize in cruising like the Easy Access Travel website that offers up to date information and WheelchairTraveling.com that has stories from an online community.

OK, to get started, I’ve put a couple of tips together to get you thinking about hitting the high seas. Make sure your passport is up to date and keep a photocopy of it in your luggage.

When determining the type and length of cruise make a list of all your medications and make sure you take more then enough medical supplies with you.

Consider purchasing travel insurance because high seas travel weather can be unpredictable.

When on-board be a self-advocate, when you need help or something isn’t working, speak to someone.

Always pack a raincoat, hat, extra sunblock and an extra charger for your phone or camera.

The more I’ve learned, cruising the high seas is looking better and better to remove from my holiday travel plans the long hours driving or booking hotels. I’m going to ask my sisters if their game to build some new experiences and memories that will last a lifetime on a cruise with me.

Cheers!In Joy,

Candace