Travel For The Disabled
by W. Lynn Seldon, Jr. - Travel
Cruise travel is good for you. It improves your physical
and mental health, while exposing you to sea air, like-minded travelers,
interesting shore excursions, and unique cultures.
However, cruise travel wasnít always good (or easy).
Cruise travel in the past was often difficult for many people in
wheelchairs or with other disabilities. But todayís new luxury liners
and renovated older classic ships now cater to the disabled with a
variety of cabins, services, and other accessibility improvements.
According to the New York-based organization, the
Society for the Advancement of Travel for the Handicapped, cruise travel
options and facilities for the handicapped have improved greatly.
Chairman Murray Zidockler says there is a large and growing number of
ships which have installed cabins for people who are wheelchair users,
as well as facilities available for those who are on oxygen, those who
need kidney dialysis, people who are hearing or sight impaired, and even
ships and operators that will block off a number of cabins for a tour
group of people with particular disabilities. In short, cruise ships
have come a long way.
Holland America Line is a typical shining example of
whatís available, taking visibly great concern and regard for the
special requirements of their physically-challenged guests. For guests
using wheelchairs, Holland America Line ships have several staterooms
with roll-in showers in bathrooms, which are also equipped with ramps
and heavy-duty handrails. All public rooms on Holland America Line ships
are wheelchair accessible. Elevators on board can accommodate
wheelchairs, as do designated public area restrooms. The maitre dí will
arrange for a table in the dining room easily accessible for a
wheelchair. A limited number of on-board wheelchairs are also available,
through advance request.
Royal Caribbean Internationalís Vision-class ships and
Sovereign-class ships all have special staterooms in a full range of
categories, all of which include convenient location near elevators,
wide doors, flat floors, large turning areas, portable phones, listening
device kits, strobe lights, functional bathrooms, and many other
On Celebrity Cruises, passengers will also find
exceptional facilities. "Celebrity Cruises welcomes and encourages
physically challenged guests to sail with us to fabulous destinations
and to enjoy the complete pampered Celebrity experience," says Richard
Sasso, their president and CEO. (WTA members receive a 5% discount when
booking a Royal Caribbean or Celebrity Cruise. Call 888-226-2100 and
mention your WTA membership for further details.)
Princess Cruises and Carnival Cruise Lines are other
acknowledged leaders in accommodating passengers with physical
Once you decide to cruise, itís best to use an expert to
help book the right trip. Local travel agents, cruise specialist
operators, and even companies that specialize in travel for the disabled
are all excellent options. The key is to use someone who understands
your special needs and that can help make sure the cruise line also
understands these needs in advance (very important).
Flying Wheels Travel,
www.flyingwheelstravel.com, of Owatonna, Minnesota, has served
travelers with disabilities since 1970, offering a wide range of
services, trips, and even specific cruises. President Barbara Jacobson
and her experienced staff can help arrange appropriate Caribbean,
Alaska, European, and other worldwide cruises.