Holidaymakers planning to venture on a luxury cruise get the chance to experience fine cuisine, enjoy captivating entertainment and take in local cultures from different countries, ultimately returning home with unforgettable memories. But for older travellers with disabilities, there may be anxieties about the onboard experience. How easy will it be to manoeuvre a wheelchair into the stateroom? Will they be able to disembark from the ship when it makes a port call? Will there be accessible toilets in the public areas of the ship?
If you’re planning to book a dream cruise for your next holiday, consider the following cruise operators and ships, which offer additional features to make the ocean experience just as memorable for passengers with reduced mobility.
P&O has a positive and proactive approach to accommodating older passengers with disabilities, and special adaptations have been made across their fleet of cruise ships. Adapted staterooms on all vessels offer wide doorways, suitable for a wheelchair or mobility scooter, grab rails next to the toilet and shower, flush thresholds into the bathroom, and wet-room bathrooms to avoid having to step up into a shower cubicle. Ramps are provided onto balconies while, in public areas, accessible toilets and wheelchair-adapted chairs are also available to make your cruise experience as relaxing and enjoyable as possible.
P&O’s newer ships offer more adapted staterooms than older models: the ‘Azura’, for example, has 25 adapted cabins while the ‘Oceana’ has 17. However, even the stalwart ships from the fleet, such as the ‘Aurora’ and ‘Oriana’, have some cabins suited for disabled passengers, although in fewer number.
Swimming pool hoists are available on the Azura, as well as an infrared hearing system in some of the show areas. Assistance dogs are welcome on-board, while P&O also offer excursions onto the shore in adapted vehicles – make sure you inform the company in advance if this is an opportunity you would like to take advantage of.
Fred Olsen Cruise Lines
Fred Olsen’s fleet offers adapted staterooms on all ships, with little extras such as handrails in the bathroom, extra mattresses and raised toilet seats (check at the time of booking if these need to be requested). For wheelchair users who benefit from extra space moving around the cabin, try booking a cruise on the ‘Boudicca’, which has larger staterooms to help you get around more easily.
If you have restricted mobility caused by age or disability, it’s important to be able to take full advantage of the different activities on offer on-board while you’re travelling between port calls. On the ‘Balmoral’, deck 11’s swimming pool has a shallow end which is perfect for disabled passengers to be lowered into, while the ‘Black Watch’ has ramps into the pool as well as steps. The Balmoral also has accessible toilets by the Avon Restaurant and the Neptune Lounge on decks 10 and 7 respectively, which are perfectly positioned for passengers when relaxing or enjoying a meal.
Saga offers a variety of holiday options and, consequently, only has two cruise ships, but as a company that caters specifically for older travellers, they are highly experienced in assisting people with a range of disabilities and physical needs. For example, before departure, porters are on-hand to help passengers get to the ship from the car park. Staff on-board the ship have an excellent awareness of how to support passengers, while excursions onto land are often custom-made to accommodate those with reduced mobility.
On both of Saga’s ships, hearing loop systems, Braille playing cards, large print on-board newspapers and visual alarms for staterooms are available. Shower stools, raised toilet seats and commodes can also be provided if booked in advance. Assistance dogs are also welcome, but they must meet the regulations under the EU Pet Passport Scheme to travel.
The new ‘Spirit of Discovery’ offers accessible cabins that are specifically designed with the needs of passengers in mind, rather than being adapted from standard rooms. Rooms are large and corridors wide, so navigating around the ship is less challenging, even for a wheelchair that needs to perform 180° turn. At ports, accessible gangways are always used where available to support disabled passengers as they leave the boat so that they can take full advantage of the breaks in the journey.
Cruises that are adapted for every passenger’s needs
Fortunately, with disabled access a higher priority for many holiday companies nowadays, cruise ships are increasingly becoming more suited to those passengers with reduced mobility and other disabilities, meaning there are few reasons why you shouldn’t consider booking a dream cruise for your next holiday.