thanks Going on a cruise is easily the best way for wheelchair users to see the world! Cruise ships are becoming more accessible every year, and ports of call are increasingly aware of the need to cater to visitors who both use wheelchairs and have money to invest in their economies. However, picking the right cruise ship AND itinerary can be a bit of a science. You want to find the best combination of wheelchair friendly ship, an itinerary where the ship will dock at ports where you can easily get off the ship, and ports of call with available wheelchair accessible tours – or at least accessible sidewalks and transportation. Here’s a list of the best cruise ship itineraries for wheelchair users that include all three of these features.
1. Royal Caribbean 7-Day Scandinavia and Russia. The Serenade of the Seas departs from Copenhagen (Denmark) and docks in Stockholm (Sweden), Tallinn (Estonia), St. Petersburg (Russia), and Helsinki (Finland). The ship is very wheelchair friendly, with large accessible staterooms, no-threshold balconies, pushbutton access to public toilets, and designated wheelchair spaces in the theater. Wheelchair accessible tours are available at each port of call, and while independent travel will be difficult to impossible in St. Petersburg (for both visa and logistical reasons), visitors can use accessible taxis, the Hop On-Hop Off bus, or public transportation at the other stops.
2. Princess 7-Day Alaska Inside Passage. This itinerary is available on four Princess ships – the Island, Star, Coral, and Golden – depending on the departure date. It’s a round-trip itinerary out of VERY wheelchair accessible Vancouver (which is worth an extra day’s stay pre- and post-cruise) and stops in Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay (cruising), and Ketchikan. Technically Princess will tell you that you can dock or anchor at Juneau and Ketchikan. However, in my capacity as a travel agent, I learned directly from Cruise Lines Agency of Alaska that Princess has priority over other cruise lines when it comes to docking. So while a rare emergency may occur that requires Coast Guard vessels to take up precious docking space, chances are you’ll be able to roll off the ship at every port with Princess.
3. Celebrity 12-Night Israel and Mediterranean. It’s true that Celebrity is geared more towards bigger spenders. However, there’s no doubt that the upper-tier cruise line keeps wheelchair users in mind when designing their ships. The public spaces had more than ample room and designated spaces for wheelchair and scooter users – which is good, because there were a lot of us on that cruise. The ship for this itinerary is the Infinity, which departs out of Rome (Italy) and ends in Athens (Greece). All ports of call are docked and include Naples (Italy), Catania (Sicily), Valetta (Malta), Rhodes (Greece), Ashdod/Jerusalem (Israel), Haifa (Israel), and Souda/Chania (Crete). Various tour operators offer wheelchair accessible shore excursions at every stop.
4. Royal Caribbean 7-Night Western Mediterranean. There are dozens of cruise itineraries that cover the western Caribbean, and most of them include the “biggies” in Spain, France, and Italy. However, most of them include at least one stop that requires tendering, so this particular cruise is a gem. It’s also on the Oasis of the Seas, which is one of Royal’s larger ships with a passenger capacity of over 6,000 people. It has a lift for two of its pools and plenty of designated wheelchair seating throughout the ship. The Oasis departs for its round-trip itinerary from the very wheelchair accessible city of Barcelona, and its all-docked ports of call include Palma de Mallorca (Spain), Marseilles/Provence (France), La Spezia/Florence/Pisa (Italy), Rome (Italy), and Naples (Italy).
5. Carnival 7-Night Southern Caribbean (from San Juan). Many travelers are hesitant to make cruise plans either out of or through Puerto Rico for fear of damage from Hurricane Maria last fall. I can assure you that San Juan, as well as the vast majority of the Caribbean, is definitely open for business. This is a more economical itinerary on the Carnival Fascination, which is an older and mid-sized Fantasy-class ship, but it was given a huge overhaul in 2008 that made it shinier – and more accessible, although its pools are unfortunately still lacking lifts. It’s also getting a makeover in mid-February 2018 that will add more dining options. Ports of call include St. Thomas (US Virgin Islands), Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, and St. Maarten, all of which have accessible tours available through outside vendors. Carnival is a family and budget-oriented cruise line, so this itinerary would be ideal for couples with children not looking to break the bank.
6. Norwegian 5-Day Pacific Coastal. This one-way cruise from Vancouver to Los Angeles is a nice option for US-based travelers who want to stay close to home, and those who don’t have the time to be away for a week or longer. This cruise also takes place on the NCL Bliss, the line’s newest ship going into service in mid-2018, with this itinerary occurring in late September. All NCL ships have pool lifts, and younger family members in particular will enjoy the multiple water slides and two-deck go-cart race track. Ports of call include Victoria BC (Canada) and San Francisco, which means more great news for wheelchair users. Although Canada is not subject to US accessibility laws, it has its own wheelchair friendly laws that make Vancouver and Victoria nice options. San Francisco and Los Angeles are large cities, but they are subject to the ADA and have several choices for accessible tours and transportation.
7. Royal Caribbean Western Caribbean (from Miami). The Symphony of the Seas, a cruise ship so new that the paint is probably still drying. That means it’s super wheelchair accessible (including three pool lifts), and HUGE. It just happens to be the world’s largest cruise ship at the moment, so chances are you’re not going to run out of food to eat or things to do. In addition to offering all-docked port stops at Costa Maya (Mexico), Cozumel (Mexico), and Nassau (Bahamas), it also stops in Roatan (Honduras), which isn’t a typical port of call for a western Caribbean itinerary. During accessible shore excursions, you can experience things like rides on beach wheelchairs, animal interactions, and scenic drives. This cruise is also family friendly, and ideal for large groups.
Are you ready to book a wheelchair accessible cruise, or just find out what your cruising options are? Contact us for more information!
Thanks Sylvia Longmire for your review....
December through June. The driest months of the year, December through June also have the best temperatures ranging from about 83 to 87 degrees. The nice temps bring with them cool breezes that help curb the heat, while still feeling nice and toasty.
Most Affordable Time
May through November. With the arrival of devastating hurricanes this season, the potential risks when traveling to the eastern Caribbean during these times are clear. Therefore while it can be very cheap to travel to St. Lucia from July to November, for only slightly higher rates, you can also go between May and June to avoid hurricane season altogether. Plus you’re almost guaranteed more beach time and sunny days during these less rain-ravaged months.
The St. Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival, held in May every year, is a time-honored event spanning nearly three decades. It is a week-long festival featuring an array of musical talents playing jazz, R&B, soul, pop, reggae and soca amidst other food and fashion events. The main concert takes place on the beautiful national landmark of Pigeon Island so you can appreciate the natural beauty while taking in the sounds of St. Lucia.
November through March. These months boast the most comfortable temperatures the island sees between 75 and 85 degrees, as well as the least precipitation of the year. Go any other months and you can bet it will be much hotter and rainier.
Most Affordable Time
Between April and October, hotels in Jamaica offer some sweet incentives for staying, but the rain could put a damper on your beach time. For ideal weather at an affordable price, your best bet is to travel between November and December, but avoid the weeks surrounding Christmas as rates tend to sky-rocket during this peak period.
February. As one might expect, Bob Marley is a legend in Jamaica. That’s why February is dedicated to his memory, celebrating his birthday and his extraordinary impact on the island. There are many festivals across the cities in his name, featuring food, drink, and (you guessed it) plenty of reggae music.
We have been advised that effective October 1, 2017 the Municipality of Solidaridad will launch a new eco tax to help maintain the beaches and ecosystem in Riviera Maya. Tourism and the natural beauty of the area is an essential part of the regions development, and crucial to its preservation.
In order to maintain and conserve the natural beauty of the destination, upon check out the hotels will be collecting 10.00 Mexican Pesos, approx. 0.55 USD per room per night effective October 1, 2017 through December 31, 2017, and 20.00 Mexican Pesos, approx. 1.10 USD per room per night, effective January 1, 2018.
This new tax will be deposited in an environmental trust fund that has been set up to protect the area and its surroundings.
This tax has just been imposed, and is not included in packages regardless of booking dates. Please be prepared to pay this new tax at hotel check out.
In less than one year, travel identification used for domestic flights must be REAL ID compliant. Your clients may be ready, depending on the state they live in. But it never hurts to be 100% sure.
What's the deal with REAL ID?The REAL ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005 based on the recommendation from the 9/11 Commission to prevent fraudulent issuance and use of driver's licenses and identification cards and to further ensure the safety and security of Americans. The Act establishes minimum security standards for state-issued driver's licenses and ID cards and prohibits Federal agencies (like the TSA) from accepting licenses and ID cards that do not meet these standards.
The goal of REAL ID is to make the issuing and use of driver’s licenses and other state-issued ID cards more secure and less prone to fraud.
When will this affect travelers?The January 22, 2018 deadline is less than one year away. So on January 23, 2018, if your client doesn’t have a REAL ID compliant driver’s license and they’re planning to fly from Dallas to Chicago, they’ll need to show an alternative form of acceptable ID to get through security. This can be:
If a traveler cannot provide alternative acceptable ID, they won’t be allowed to pass through the security checkpoint. Imagine the frustration this could cause if your client is all the way at the airport, luggage in hand, only to be turned away for improper ID.
The next deadline to know is October 1, 2020. That’s when every domestic air traveler must show a REAL ID compliant license or another form of ID in order to fly.
What states have compliant IDs?Most states are already issuing REAL ID compliant IDs. To check what your state is up to, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has a color-coded map to make it easy. Green means the state is compliant, yellow means they got an extension to become compliant and red means they’re not compliant. Click on your state to find more details and deadlines.
If your client isn’t sure if their ID is compliant, there are a few ways to tell. DHS recommends that states adopt a general design marking to show compliance. The initial recommendation is a gold star, but it can vary by color, lettering and/or format. Kentucky, for example, adds a white star in a gold circle in the upper right corner of compliant IDs. But Wisconsin got creative – some compliant IDs have a gold star and some have a black one.
VAX’s REAL ID resource page has more facts and links to give you the answers you need when your clients come to you with questions.
Susan has been in the travel industry for over 10 years and makes it her priority to keep up with the ever changing industry.