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The Basics
Are cruise ships wheelchair accessible?

Yes, in fact cruising may be the ideal vacation for an individual using a wheelchair, since it provides the opportunity to visit a number of locations in a relatively short time, with effortless travel between locations and without the inconvenience of packing and unpacking. You'll appreciate the choice of experiencing the ship's destinations or relaxing and enjoying the comfort of being pampered at a "resort at sea."

You'll find that the newer, larger cruise ships have been built with the goal of full accessibility. A new ship will have wider corridors, more spacious cabins, more (and larger) elevators and ramps where needed. In addition, the designated "accessible" cabins on newer ships are outfitted with many of the following features that will make your cruise a more comfortable experience:

Most cruise lines will require a release form and/or a statement from your physician stating that you are fit to travel. They may also request confirmation that you require a wheelchair-accessible cabin.

Some cruise lines offer alternate transportation for guests who are unable to board their ground transportation. This service is normally at no additional charge for those guests who would normally receive transfers.

You'll need to bring your own wheelchair onboard with you. Many experienced wheelchair users who are frequent travelers recommend investing in a special narrower wheelchair that has been modified for ease in travel.

The major cruise lines have Special Services departments that will be able to assist you with answering specific questions whether a particular ship meets your needs.

It's best to avoid older ships, as there are often "lips" several inches high in front of bathroom doors and sills or steps in the entries to some public areas. Corridors may be narrower and elevators are smaller, allowing less room for maneuverability. In fact, some areas of older ships may be completely inaccessible to you.

In some ports, ships must anchor offshore due to size of the port or weather. They "tender" guests to shore with small boats that may not be accessible to guests in wheelchairs. You'll want to check with the shore excursions department to determine which shore excursions are most suitable for you. In some destinations, particularly those outside of the United States, you will not always find accessible transportation and facilities.