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The 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.

The 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.

Amsterdam

Holland America Line
  • Sails To Alaska

Why It’s Wonderful

At the forefront of accessible cruise travel, the ship has a variety of services for passengers with mobility, sight, and breathing impairments. All shore tenders are equipped with wheelchair-accessible platforms.

Ruby Princess

Princess Cruises
  • Sails To Europe

Why It’s Wonderful

Not only are accessible staterooms and suites available in a wide range of categories but there is also shore-side wheelchair access to appropriate tours on vehicles equipped with lifts.

Royal Princess

Princess Cruises
  • Sails To Caribbean

Why It’s Wonderful

Not only are accessible staterooms and suites available in a wide range of categories but there is also shore-side wheelchair access to appropriate tours on vehicles equipped with lifts.

Nieuw Amsterdam

Holland America Line
  • Sails To Caribbean, Europe

Why It’s Wonderful

At the forefront of accessible cruise travel, the ship has a variety of services for passengers with mobility, sight, and breathing impairments. All shore tenders are equipped with wheelchair-accessible platforms.

Celebrity Reflection

Celebrity Cruises
  • Sails To Caribbean, Europe

Why It’s Wonderful

Although accommodations designed for accessibility are some of the best at sea, equally as desirable are the line's "easy" shore excursion options.

Grand Princess

Princess Cruises
  • Sails To Alaska

Why It’s Wonderful

Not only are accessible staterooms and suites available in a wide range of categories but there is also shore-side wheelchair access to appropriate tours on vehicles equipped with lifts.

Celebrity Solstice

Celebrity Cruises
  • Sails To Alaska

Why It’s Wonderful

Although accommodations designed for accessibility are some of the best at sea, equally as desirable are the line's "easy" shore excursion options.