Advice

How wheelchair-accessible are cruise ships?

wheelchair accessible cruise ships handicap
Many ports have beach-friendly wheelchairs available for rent. - Photo by mangostock / Thinkstock

Rest assured, you can enjoy a cruise in a wheelchair. All of the cruise lines have accessible public areas, with large corridors, automatic doors, and special seating. They also offer wheelchair-accessible staterooms with wide doorways, ramped entrances, roll-in showers with a seat, grab bars in the bathroom, a hand-held shower head, and a lower sink and closet rods. We'll break down what accomadations the different lines offer for cruisers in wheelchairs, but first, here are some general tips to keep in mind: 

You'll have to provide your own equipment: While cruise ships do carry some wheelchairs onboard, these are usually reserved for emergencies and you’ll be expected to bring all of your own equipment. Check out Special Needs at Sea to rent anything you don't want to carry with you.

Research your itinerary: At certain stops, passengers will have to take a shuttle, or “tender”, to reach the port. Passengers in wheelchairs or scooters may not be allowed on the tender and might be stuck on the ship. Even if the ship does dock directly, many cruise ship ports are not wheelchair-friendly. Your best bet is to choose destinations where attractions are close to the port, or book accessible transportation beforehand.

Plan excursions carefully: You can buy excursions from the cruise line while on board, but they may not offer accessible excursions at every stop. Plan early and make arrangements through a travel agent or local tour operator before leaving home. 

 

Azamara Club Cruises

How They Differ: Azamara offers transfers to the airport using accessible vehicles at domestic ports by request, at no extra cost. The line also offers early boarding and accessible shore excursions.

 

Carnival Cruise Line

How They Differ: In addition to fully-accessible staterooms, some cabins are modified with grab bars and shower seats in the bathrooms but without the other amenities of fully accessible staterooms, like ramped entrances to bathroom and additional space. The line offers transfers to the airport using accessible vehicles at domestic ports by request, at no extra cost. Each terminal also offers wheelchairs to transfer guests onto the ship; but you’ll need to rent one or bring your own if you need it for the duration of the cruise.

 

Celebrity Cruises

How They Differ: They offer transfers to the airport using accessible vehicles at domestic ports by request, at no extra cost. There is a limited number of wheelchairs onboard that guests can reserve ahead of time, or you can rent one or bring your own. Also, the tender platform is fully accessible on Solstice-class ships, and the line also offers some accessible shore excursions.

 

Costa Cruises

How They Differ: There’s a dedicated wheelchair lift to help mobility-impaired passengers off the ship in case of emergency. The line also offers accessible shore excursions and priority boarding.

 

Crystal Cruises

How They Differ: Some excursions are suitable for those in wheelchairs. Personal assistants are available for those who may need extra help in port while on shore excursions for an extra fee.

 

Cunard

How They Differ: Hand-held mirrors and portable hair dryers are included in accessible staterooms. The line also provides raised beds as a standard, while other lines offer risers upon request only.

 

Disney Cruise Line

How They Differ: Castaway Cay, the line’s private island, has paved pathways, beach wheelchairs, accessible restrooms, and tram service.  There are wheelchairs to assist guests in boarding and disembarking in the ports, but to have one during the duration of the cruise you’ll need to bring your own.

 

Holland America Line

How They Differ: All ships except Prinsendam and Zaandam have a lift system for wheelchairs to roll onto tender boats. In addition to fully-accessible staterooms, some cabins are modified with grab bars and lower thresholds in the bathrooms but without the other amenities of fully accessible staterooms, like additional space, shower seats, and lower closet rods. Most airports and cruise piers have transfer vehicles with hydraulic lifts.

 

Norwegian Cruise Line

How They Differ: Beach wheelchairs are available on Great Stirrup Cay, the line’s private island. All of the ships have pool lifts for hot tubs. The line also offers transfers to the airport using accessible vehicles at domestic ports by request, at no extra cost. Some shore excursions are accessible.

 

Oceania Cruises

How They Differ: The doors leading to the decks are wooden and not automatic. However, the line offers some accessible shore excursions.

 

Princess Cruises

How They Differ: Many ports use a “stair climber” machine, which lifts wheelchair-bound passengers up the gangway. Note that passengers must transfer to a cruise line-owned wheelchair to use this feature. The line also offers accessible shore excursions, and their private island Princess Cays has ramps for easy access.

 

Regent Seven Seas Cruises

How They Differ: Regent’s ships have a very limited number of accessible rooms each — some of which are penthouse suites — so book accessible rooms early. The line also offers some accessible shore excursions.

 

Royal Caribbean International

How They Differ: There’s a wheelchair lift for one hot tub and one pool on each ship. The line also offers transfers to the airport using accessible vehicles at domestic ports by request, at no extra cost, as well as wheelchair assistance for boarding the ship.  If you want a wheelchair for the duration of the voyage though, you’ll need to bring your own or rent one. There is also priority boarding as well as some accessible shore excursions.

 

Seabourn

How They Differ: Complimentary wheelchairs are available for embarkation and disembarkation, but not available to be used throughout the voyage. Guests will either need to rent one or bring their own.  Accessible staterooms are only available on Quest, Sojourn, and Odyssey. There are some accessible shore excursions.

 

Silversea Cruises

How They Differ: The line offers some accessible shore excursions.

 

Windstar Cruises

How They Differ: Star Pride, Star Breeze, and Star Legend have modified wheelchair accessible suites available. Those three plus Wind Surf have elevators. There are no elevators on Wind Star and Wind Spirit, and the ships were not originally constructed to be wheelchair accessible.

 

 

Updated on March 30, 2017.


Join the discussion

Which line do you think is the most wheelchair friendly?

Posted by MrChocoholic

Last November while I was rehabbing a surgically-repaired ankle I shattered falling off a skateboard, I took a cruise aboard Norwegian Pearl. By then the cast was off, I was in a "walking boot" and looking forward to the Mandara Spa and Thermal Suite. From the moment I got out of the taxi at the entrance to the gigantic warehouse-like entrance hall until I was met at the curb by my ride home, people from NCL would not let me walk up ramps and gangways without a wheelchair. Unfortunately it was almost 900 feet along passageways and some engaging twists and turns from my cabin to the spa, which proved too far to walk in one spell. NCL staff was always there to assist, seemed to have an endless supply of available wheelchairs and small, wiry guys with surprising strength to push me around. You can see for yourself in my video. www.youtube.com/watch?v=MEPvrzpCBGM


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