GUEST BLOG: Cruise Tips for Wheelchair Users and Slow Walkers

From time to time we would like to let you see the world through the eyes of some fabulous guest writers.    We love this one about accessible travel.  Thanks Candy!

GUEST BLOG:  Cruise Tips for Wheelchair Users and Slow Walkers

Candy B. Harrington

As the editor of an accessible travel magazine I get a lot of questions about access on cruise ships. Truth be told, cruises are an excellent choice for people with mobility issues. Most of the newer cruise ships have good access, you can do as little or as much as you want to on a cruise, and you only have to unpack once. That said there are a few things to keep in mind when planning your accessible cruise.

Contact the cruise line’s Special Needs Department for detailed access information or special access requests.

  • Remember to request pier assistance when you book your cruise. Disabled passengers are given priority boarding upon advance request.
  • Most ships have wheelchairs that can be borrowed for embarkation, but if you need one full-time or ashore, arrange for a rental to be delivered to your cabin.
  • Some cruise lines can also provide special equipment, such as a commode chair or a shower chair, upon advance request.
  • Don’t assume all accessible cabins are the same. If you need a specific feature, such as a roll-in shower, ask if it’s available.
  • Plan ahead! Accessible cabins are in short supply so try to book at least 6-9 months in advance to get your first choice of sailing dates. Accessible balcony cabins on Alaska cruises sell out extremely fast, so book those as soon as they become available.
  • Slow walkers who use compact folding scooters need to make sure cabin doorways are wide enough to accommodate them, as most cruise lines don’t allow scooters to be parked in hallways.
  • If you use a power wheelchair or scooter, make sure the electrical supply on the ship is compatible with your battery charger. It’s also a good idea to pack an extension cord and a power strip, as electric outlets are limited
  • If you take along a manual wheelchair, mark it clearly with your name or personalize it in some way, so it won’t be mistaken for one of the ship’s wheelchairs.
  • Take a tour of the ship on the first day and locate the accessible restrooms on each deck. Make note of the locations for future use.
  • Become familiar with the tendering procedures of your preferred cruise line. Some cruise lines hand-carry wheelchair-users aboard tenders, some use mechanical devices and some do not permit power wheelchair-users to tender at all.
  • Ask a lot of questions about ship sponsored shore excursions. In most cases you have to be able to climb up the steps of a tour bus in order to participate. Do your research and plan your own accessible shore excursions.
  • Last but not least, if you use a power wheelchair or scooter, bring along a manual wheelchair for use in port. This is especially helpful in Caribbean ports, where it’s difficult to find lift-equipped transportation.

About the writer: Candy Harrington is the editor of Emerging Horizons ( and the author of Barrier Free Travel: A Nuts and Bolts Guide For Wheelers and Slow Walkers. She also blogs about accessible travel news, resources and industry updates at

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