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Best Cruises for Disabled Travelers

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COOL TRAVEL MAIL'S 
TRAVEL TIPS 
Tips & Advice for the Seasoned and Armchair Traveler Alike! 
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http://www.CoolTravelMail.com 

Jan. 15, 2008 

Today I have a very interesting article that covers the 
topic of disabled travelers taking some time to cruise. 

You can find out about the accommodations on today's best 
cruises for disabled travelers. 

P.S. If you're interested you can now post comments on this 
and recent issues on our forum at... Travel Tips Forum 

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Best cruises for disabled travelers
If you have special needs, odds are your cruise line can 
accommodate you 
By Anita Dunham-Potter
Travel columnist

Q: My husband uses a wheelchair and I'd like to find out 
about cruise ships that have accessible cabins and public 
rooms for disabled passengers. Can you tell me what ships 
are best? 
— Enid Horowitz, Chicago

A: Cruise lines have come a long way in recent years to 
make their ships more accessible to disabled travelers. 
It's not uncommon for the newest large ships to feature 
two dozen or more wheelchair-accessible staterooms with 
such accommodations as wider door frames, handrails, 
accessible furniture and closets, low sinks and wheel-in 
showers. 

In the past, cruising could be a struggle for wheelchair 
users. Unfortunately this is still true on many smaller 
and older ships, where disabled passengers can encounter 
corridors and doorways that are too narrow, bathrooms that 
have lips at the threshold to prevent flooding, public 
rooms with thresholds that make them inaccessible, and 
elevator buttons that are too high to reach. 

Although the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 
1990, the act was not extended to foreign-flagged cruise 
ships until 2005, following a class-action lawsuit filed 
against Norwegian Cruise Line that went before the U.S. 
Supreme Court. The court ruled that cruise lines whose 
ships carry passengers to and from U.S. ports must provide 
features like grab bars, handrails and wheelchair-
accessible water fountains; however, the court also held 
that cruise lines were not required to make major 
structural changes to their in-service vessels, such as 
widening doorways and adding new elevators. 

Fortunately, many cruise lines are upgrading their older 
vessels simply because there is demand for fully accessible 
cruising. In fact, cruising has become the preferred style 
of vacation for many travelers with limited mobility 
because ships have become so user-friendly and offer a 
convenient platform from which to explore the world's 
exotic destinations. 

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What to expect on the newest ships

Most cruise lines now offer public areas and staterooms 
large enough for wheelchair use; these typically include 
an accessible bathroom with handrails and emergency call 
buttons. Braille-coded elevator buttons, room numbers and 
restaurant menus are also in place on most ships for those 
with vision disabilities, and guide dogs are also now wide-
ly welcomed. Many cruise lines provide TTY, a text-messag-
ing system that allows easier communication for folks with 
hearing and speech disabilities. Some cruise lines also 
offer "dippers" to lower handicapped swimmers into the 
pools, and many cruise lines make an effort to include 
shore excursions that can accommodate travelers with 
special needs. Crew members are available on almost every 
ship to assist disabled passengers with buffet service and 
with embarkation and disembarkation. 

Here are some things to consider before booking your 
cruise: 

- There are no additional fees for handicapped-accessible 
staterooms but, like all cabins, they are offered at 
different price points depending on size, location and 
amenities. There are a limited number of these accommoda-
tions on board each ship, so book early to avoid disappoint-
ment. 

- When booking a cruise, ask to see the ship's deck plans 
  or view them online. That way you can see where the 
  handicapped-accessible staterooms are and can reserve 
  the one that works best for your individual interests 
  and needs; you might, for example, wish to be near the 
  elevators, lounge or weight room. 

- Contact a knowledgeable travel agent or call the cruise 
  line's special services desk to better understand all 
  the ship's requirements and limitations. For example, 
  some lines require travelers with disabilities to be 
  accompanied by an able-bodied companion. 

- Make sure all public rooms are accessible, and make sure 
  the ship offers a good number of elevator banks. 

- Find out the accessibility of ports of call, and try to 
  choose an itinerary that does not include tenders, small 
  boats used to bring passengers to shore from the ship's 
  anchor point. These boats are usually not equipped to 
  handle wheelchairs. 

- Review shore excursions carefully since many are not 
  appropriate for travelers with limited mobility. Read 
  the brochure descriptions and avoid those excursions 
  identified as requiring heavy exertion. Most cruise 
  lines identify wheelchair-accessible tours in their 
  brochures. 

- Let the cruise line know you are using a wheelchair so 
  staff can make an appropriate table assignment in the 
  dining room. You'll want to have easy access to bathrooms 
  and elevators. 

- Be sure to request a wheelchair, or assistance with your 
  own wheelchair, if you will need one for embarkation and 
  disembarkation. There may be a short wait for the chair, 
  but you will receive priority boarding. 

- Check with the cruise line if you are interested in bring-
  ing an electric scooter or renting one in port; policies 
  vary. 

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Find the best ships for your needs 

The Web site for the Cruise Lines International Association 
(CLIA) offers a "Special Interest Guide for Wheelchair 
Travelers" that details ship information for disabled 
passengers. The guide includes such information as the 
number of wheelchair-accessible staterooms on a ship, 
the number of decks with ramps, whether the elevators 
accommodate full-size wheelchairs, and whether the 
disabled traveler must be accompanied by an able-bodied 
companion. The guide is a bit out of date and does not 
include a number of newer ships; if you don't find the 
ship you are interested in, you can make inquiries at 
CLIA's toll-free help number: 800-327-9501, extension 
70025. 

The Horowitzes can also consider the advice of Mary Wilson, 
of Coraopolis, Pa., who travels with her disabled daughter 
on several cruises a year. Wilson says that each cruise 
ship and cruise line is unique, and that each cruise will 
have its own advantages and disadvantages for wheelchair 
users. Look for ships with lots of hard flooring, she 
suggests, as carpeting can make it difficult to wheel 
around the ship. Also, do a safety check the last night 
of the cruise, when passengers are asked to place their 
luggage in the hallways for disembarkation; if the luggage 
blocks wheelchair access, ask the purser to have it removed 
early. 

"We've never had a problem cruising, and if we find 
issues all we do is ask for help," Wilson says. "In our 
experience, cruise lines are very accommodating towards 
disabled passengers." 

Don't let a physical disability keep you from enjoying a 
cruise vacation. All it takes is a bit of preparation, 
planning and a willingness to ask for. 

Well, that's it for this week, group. Thanks again for 
reading, and please keep those comments, complaints and 
questions coming in. 

You can send me an e-mail message at: Email Pierce

Until next week, thanks for reading.   

Your Tipmeister,   

Pierce   

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