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

Those with impaired mobility can still enjoy a cruise ship vacation. All of the cruise lines have accessible public areas, with large corridors, automatic doors, and special seating. They also offer 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.

Embarkation and disembarkation assistance is also standard on the majority of lines, but most ships’ tender platforms have stairs. That means a collapsible wheelchair weighing fewer than 100 pounds, and the ability to walk a few steps, is required to visit ports that use tenders.

Beyond that, services vary. Here’s what sets the lines apart from one another:

Cruise Line: How They Differ:
Azamara Club Cruises

They offer transfers to the airport using accessible vehicles at domestic ports by request, at no extra cost. The line also offers accessible shore excursions.

Carnival Cruise Lines Some cabins are only modified staterooms, with grab bars and shower seats in the bathrooms but without the other amenities of fully accessible staterooms, like ramped entrances to bathrooms and additional space. The line offers transfers to the airport using accessible vehicles at domestic ports by request, at no extra cost.
Celebrity Cruises They offer transfers to the airport using accessible vehicles at domestic ports by request, at no extra cost. The tender platform is fully accessible on Solstice-class ships. The line also offers accessible shore excursions.
Costa Cruises 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.
Crystal Cruises 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.
Cunard Line 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 Castaway Cay, the line’s private island, has paved pathways, sand wheelchairs, accessible restrooms, and tram service.
Holland America Line All ships except Prinsendam have a lift system for wheelchairs to roll onto tender boats.
Norwegian Cruise Line 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.
Oceania Cruises The doors leading to the decks are wooden and not automatic. However, the line offers accessible shore excursions.
Princess Cruises 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.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises Seven Seas Voyager and Seven Seas Navigator only have four accessible rooms each — two of which are penthouse suites — so book accessible rooms early. The line also offers accessible shore excursions.
Royal Caribbean International 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 accessible shore excursions.
Seabourn Cruise Line Accessible staterooms are only available on Quest, Sojourn, and Odyssey. 
Silversea Cruises The sink, closet rods, and vanity are not lower in accessible staterooms. The line offers accessible shore excursions.
Windstar Cruises Star Pride is the only ship in the fleet that has an elevator and modified suites.

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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