Four Tips for choosing the Best Cruise for Special Needs Families
More and more special needs families are discovering the benefits of cruise vacations. Cruising in itself provides many benefits over traditional travel since it provides travelers with an all-in-one solution for transportation, lodging and dining effectively eliminating the need to continuously unpack, check in and out of various hotels, pass through airports security and even look around for a food venue.
With that said choosing an appropriate cruise can be a daunting task for any parents especially if they have never cruised before. Here are four important tips to remember before booking your next summer cruise.
1. Look for a ‘family oriented’ and ‘special needs friendly’ Cruise Line
Most cruise lines try their best to accommodate special needs travelers from pre-boarding, accessible cabins, separate dining tables and even preferred seating for onboard entertainment if contacted in advance. However, not all companies are as family friendly as you might think.
Currently Royal Caribbean, Disney, and Norwegian lead the pack in catering to families, offering the largest variety of animated character based shows, outdoor sports activities like bowling, ice skating, surfing, rock climbing and zip lining, multiple arts and crafts demos and specialty dining venues to keep all travelers in your party busy and happy.
Tip to remember: Contact the cruise line special needs desk directly with your list of accommodations and verify that they can be adequately met before booking.
It is important to remember that not all cruise ships are the same; the smaller and/or older the vessel the fewer onboard activities and amenities offered. If your child is happy with lounging by the pool most of the day and eating in the dining hall or buffet then cruising on a smaller or older ship (under 2000 passengers) is the way to go.
For the children with special needs who are unable to attend the kids’ club, get easily bored and need to wander about -the newer and larger ships like Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas and Norwegian Cruise lines Epic might be a much better fit.
Tip to remember: Visit the ship’s Guest Relations immediately after boarding and ask to get preferential seating for shows as well as special reservations for the more popular attractions like zip-lining and skating to avoid the long waiting lines.
3. The delicate balance between Port Stops and Days at Sea
One of the major advantages of cruising is the ability to visit multiple places from the comfort of your ‘floating hotel’. Some cruise itineraries offer stops in multiple ports while others offer more days at sea.
Before booking anything you should determine what your family’s particular vacationing style is. You should also discuss what you think your child with special needs can tolerate in terms of day trip length and interest. In most cases a balanced itinerary of 2-3 port days to 1 day at sea (to recuperate) is highly recommended.
Tip to remember: If you decide to go on a port intensive cruise with very few or no days at sea consider taking day tours with a local private guide that can be customized the tour to your family specific needs.
If you are booking your very first cruise and are not sure of how your kids might like the experience, a short 2-4 day cruise can be better to start with. These short and budget friendly cruises are typically offered during off-season months when the ships get re-positioned.For families that have cruised before, 5-7 day cruises are good as they provide a sense of familiarity when they sleep in the same bed , sit at the same diner table and even get to know the same servers on daily basis.
Tip to remember: If you are a first time cruiser try to find a cruise that departs and returns to a port within driving distance to where you live so you won’t have to deal with the additional stress of flying .