Are new cruise ships failing disabled guests?

The UK Government has launched a campaign this week to highlight accessible journeys – “It’s everyones journey”. Some parts of the transport sector have done a lot over the years to improve accessibility, and we think the Government should include the cruise sector in this campaign.

2020 will see even more cruise ships launched by the major brands, including P&O, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Virgin Voyages and MSC. But accessibility seems to be an afterthought, with most operators doing the minimum to ensure they are legally compliant.

As an example, by 2027, MSC Cruises will welcome 5.5 million passengers annually, tripling its global capacity, with an additional 8 ships added to its fleets. However, only 4 ships have braille facilities (MSC Preziosa, MSC Divina, MSC Splendida and MSC Fantasia)

The new kid on the block Virgin Voyages, also seems lacking for guests with accessibility needs and state on their website “a limited number of cabins available for Sailors with special needs or reduced mobility.” It’s really surprising to find so little information about accessibility from a brand like Virgin.

However, Royal Caribbean, P&O and Celebrity Cruises offer comprehensive information including accessible shore excursions and information about service dogs.

For those with disabilities, of whatever nature, a cruise can be a great choice where their needs are catered for. A good example is those cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Norwegian and Disney who work with Autism at Sea to provide around 50 autism friendly cruises each year.

Having reserved seating at the pool or in the restaurant, access to wheelchairs, loop systems and braille, accessible staterooms (preferably near the lifts rather than at the other end of the deck), easy navigation around the ship including in the shops. And of course truly accessible toilets! It’s all very well having a brilliant toilet, with a lovely wide door, but if you are in a wheelchair and there is no button to open what is invariably a heavy door, you are unlikely to be able to access it without help.

There are many organisations who will work with any company to help ensure that they are not only legally compliant, but who will also test drive their facilities to help them ensure their customers with accessibility need have an exceptional experience, it would be good to see more cruise lines making better use of them as they launch new ships.

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