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Cruise Travel For The Disabled

by W. Lynn Seldon, Jr. - Travel Writer

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 features.

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 disabilities.

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,, 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.