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Best Ships for Travelers with Disabilities

T

he Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 has made cruising much more inviting to passengers with disabilities. While the overall convenience and relative safety of cruise vacations have always appealed to passengers with disabilities, until the ADA, accessibility on a cruise ship meant little more than a few inside staterooms set aside for passengers with mobility impairments. Now the cruise industry has demonstrated voluntary ADA compliance by designing new ships from the keel up with expanded accessibility in mind.

All cruise lines offer a limited number of staterooms designed to be wheelchair- and scooter-accessible. Booking a newer vessel will generally assure more choices. On newer ships, public rooms are generally more accessible, and more facilities have been planned with wheel-chair users in mind.

Passengers with disabilities should be aware that more than usual amounts of preplanning may be necessary. For example, when a ship is unable to dock passengers are taken ashore on tenders that are sometimes problematic even for the able-bodied to handle under adverse conditions. And some may find it difficult to embark or disembark the ship when docked due to the steep angle of gangways during high or low tide. In some situations, crew members may offer assistance that involves carrying the guests, but if the sea is choppy when tendering is a necessity, that may not be an option.

Passengers who require continuous oxygen or have service animals have further hurdles to overcome. You can bring both aboard a cruise ship, but your service animal may not be allowed to go ashore with you if the port has strict laws regarding animal quarantines.

he best ships for passengers with disabilities go the extra mile, offering fully accessible cabins, plentiful elevators, Braille signage, and even wheelchair lifts for pools and passenger tenders. Here are the top ships that travelers with disabilities should consider.

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