How Well Do Cruise Lines Accommodate Hadicap Passengers?

Have any of you traveled with someone needing extra help with mobility?  Or, perhaps you yourself need extra help.  Do you find that the crew goes out of their way to assist?  I know that there are specific cabins for those in wheelchairs which is great.  I know that elevators make getting around the ship easier.  Is the handicapped passenger given seating close to the door in the MDR? Do you receive help exiting the ship in ports?  On tenders? In the theater?  

Tags: Handicap assistance on ships

39 Answers

I have not sailed with a handicapped passenger, however there have been handicapped passengers on the ships I was on.

As a passenger, it appears that the lines do try to assist those with mobility problems, however other passengers seem to make it more difficult (not moving aside for a wheelchair, jumping onto an elevator before the wheelchair is loaded, etc).

On a side note, (and probably simply an oops moment on the part of the Maitre'd) I was seated at the table next to the exit/entrance, and a barricade was right behind me with a narrow space for guests to walk through to get to their tables. A family with a member who had problems with mobility was seated somewhere deeper into the dining room. The wheelchair would not fit between me and the barricade without me moving my chair to the side. For me it was not a big deal, but it did seem to cause the other family some discomfort.

My wife uses a walker a lot of the time, and I now use a cane. She has always been treated very well. She may be offered a tray at the buffet, or sometimes even help carrying it. When she asks for extra pillows in the cabin because of her back, she gets them immediately. I have seen many people with scooters or wheelchairs on cruise ships. It is probably the most accommodating way to vacation.

i, too, have seen crew helping handicap passengers yet I also read so many reviews that say these passengers received little help.

Many times,now,you may have to ask for help. If you ask for it, no crew member will say no. I think in the past, some people may have been offended by a crew member initiating help. Now, the ships are just short staffed. But if you ask, you'll receive help.

I can address this from personal experience...

The lines vary in accommodation. This seems mostly because of the crew and how attentive they are. We found many kind crew members more than happy to assist on the Celebrity Reflection and others who appeared indifferent and clueless on the RC Serenade of the Sea until we filed a lengthy complaint mid-cruise.

MDR seating has been a big problem but we eat early and usually don't have any problem identifying a table for two close to the entrance. The buffet area is problematic because of the lack of trays now. I have to get Dave's meal, then find a seat, and then go back for my own. By the time I get back to the table, Dave is done eating. There are not enough handicapped tables and tables that are easy to get to tend to get gobbled up by able-bodied passengers. One thing we experienced on the Serenade was that people tended to just sit for extended periods of time in the buffet... well after finishing their meals. This made finding a table to sit at and eat next to impossible for most of that voyage.

As for the theatre, we notice more rows reserved for handicapped passengers but these are usually the last row of the theatre so sight lines to the stage are not the greatest.

As for getting on and off the ship, we have used a personal scooter for the last two cruises but after Lufthansa destroyed my husband's new Tzora scooter we hesitate bringing it on another trip (they paid for the repair and also replaced a brand new Briggs & Riley bag damaged on the same trip). However, we did see escorts providing wheelchair assistance on both of our recent voyages. The downside is that you have to wait for the escort service to retrieve you. That can be trouble if you have tight turnarounds for flights.

One of the big problem areas is on excursions. No matter how hard we tried to reserve motor coach seating, other passengers who consider themselves as handicapped see the reserved marker and assume the seat is for anyone who is handicapped and they feel entitled to sit there no matter how much the tour guide tried to reason with them that the seat was specially reserved for someone. We have asked that our cabin number or last name be put on the seat markers.. that seems to help but it should not be something we have to stress over time and time again.

Quite honestly, the biggest problem we experience since my husband's illness is that of rude and inconsiderate fellow passengers who also seem to go out of their way to be nasty or to make things just a little bit harder for us (e.g., not holding the elevator door for a few seconds long enough for us, rushing up from behind us to get into MDR line ahead of us)... and the crew simply can't be held responsible for that. That is common courtesy and situational awareness that cannot be taught.

Trays ? No problem. At the buffet, just ask for one. If they say they don't have any, order room service and keep that tray. Actually, if the buffet staff says they don't have any trays, look for one of the managers. You'll get your tray. And probably assistance.

Thanks for this information. I will be sure to pass it on to others if they mention that they did not receive aid. I can see how some might be offended and others wanting the help. How is a crew member to know unless asked/

I think if there is a handicapped person trying to do anything, an attentive crew member would stop and at least ask if he/she wanted their assistance. It's not rocket science... LOL.

Three months after I shattered my ankle and required surgical placement of metal plates and screws to hold the thing together, the cast came off and I took a cruise aboard Norwegian Pearl. It was the first and only time I ever had any kind of mobility issue on a cruise, my plan was to rehab it in the spa, walk around using that damned boot as little as possible, and stay in the aft end of the ship, where my wheelchair-accessible cabin was located. The moment I lugged my luggage (no wonder they call it that) to the first person at check in, someone from NCL with a wheelchair came up to me and said, "Please, Mr Chocoholic you are to come with me." This guy wheeled me up the ramp and over the gangway, took me to my cabin. From that point on that ship, whenever I needed to be transported from the aft end to the bow where the spa is located, all I needed to do was get on a house phone. Normally I'd use the "walking boot" and crutches. From that perspective, I could see how difficult it is to maneuver through passageways, especially when people leave trays of leftovers and room service place settings in them. Mostly people were polite and willing to hold the door to the elevator open an extra ten seconds to accommodate me. At no time did I attempt to embark/disembark in either port of call since I'd been there before. Getting on and off the ship, even with NCL's help, is a total pain the @ss when you have limited mobility and I decided to pass on having that experience any more than necessary. As for limited-mobility meal time, I admit it was a bit tricky to balance a tray in my one crutchless-hand so I ate nearly all my meals in the Summer Palace MDR which was right near my cabin. They were very accommodating in there, sat me where my leg could stick out without tripping or offending and were very attentive. When I wanted to nosh I'd wait until the Garden Terrace was slow and take a few small plates one at a time to make it easier. I don't recall any NCL staff there offering to bring me anything. For the full story on cruising solo with a busted wing, check out my video.

(Photo of damaged Bahamas Celebration in Freeport, Bahamas taken November 5, 2014 aboard Norwegian Pearl by Eric Moss (C) 2014)


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