At first glance, it would seem like cruising wouldn’t be possible for someone in a wheelchair or someone with a physical disability. Rooms can be small, space is limited, and some ports even require guests to be ferried ashore via small tender boats. But cruise lines really take to heart the notion that all guests, even the handicapped, should be able to cruise the seven seas.
Most major lines have cabins that are designated as ‘Modified’ rooms, meaning they are specially built to accommodate guests with physical limitations. These rooms have wider doorways in the entry and the bathroom, lower threshold lips and slightly more inside clearance space to allow for easier mobility.
Carnival, for example, has two kinds of handicapped accessible rooms. The first has a wider doorway and lower lip, and is designed for guests who may periodically need a wheelchair or have generalized mobility issues, such as use of a walker. The bathrooms are also equipped for easy usage and include extra handrails and shower seats. Guests who use a wheelchair or scooter permanently are allowed to book Fully Accessible rooms, which have the widest possible doorway (usually 31”) and no threshold lip. Bathrooms also have extra space for ease of movement.
Cabin location on a cruise ship is critical for handicapped guests. In the event of an emergency, cruise staff can help physically limited guests most efficiently if all cabins are grouped together. This mean that most modified rooms will be centrally located midship and situated together, if not next to each other. It also means that these cabins are closer to elevators, main entertainment areas and dining rooms. All public areas, including theaters and lounges will have wheelchair-accessible areas, and seating in the dining room will be set for handicapped guests.
Cruise rates for modified rooms are typically higher than regular stateroom rates. Even if there is only one handicapped guest in a modified room, the second passenger will also be charged the modified rate. While that may seem unfair, for cruise lines, room size is directly proportional to cruise price, regardless of the circumstances. Modified rooms are bigger, and therefore the cruise rate is higher.
Making a Reservation
Modified rooms are best booked through a travel professional. In fact, many online booking engines won’t even permit the reserving of anything other than standard rooms. Handicapped reservations require documentation about a guest’s disability and necessary medical equipment, all of which requires a discussion with the Guest Access department. Guest Access helps provide additional accommodation both on the ship and in port, and it is essential that they have all the details on guests needing extra assistance. Departments like Guest Access ensure that the experience of a handicapped cruiser is just as pleasant as that of a regular traveler.