Article Summary:The types of special needs and situations that can be accomodated by a cruise liner.
I speak on cruises and have found them almost amazingly accommodating to special needs. From disabilities, to medical needs, to family reunion celebrations or weddings... in many cases, you need only to ask. Here are some things to consider beforehand. Don't be like the gentleman traveling with his 8 year old son, who only discovered on the 3rd day out there was a daytime play program for children! Ask!
1. Check out your health insurance.
Some policies cover international travel; some do not. If your policy doesn't cover travel abroad, check with the cruise line. Most lines offer an auxiliary policy to cover your needs for a nominal price. Check to see if your policy covers air evacuation, which is extremely expensive, unless you relish emergency surgery in, say, Belize.
2. If you have medical problems, or problems with seasickness, book on one of the larger ships -- 1,000 or more passengers.
The bigger ships (generally measured by number of guests) have better health facilities and services, and also better stabilizers so do better in rough weather. I spoke on a cruise in the middle of Isabel, and know this to be true.
3. Ships with more than 100 passengers normally have a doctor and nurse.
Though some have only a nurse. Be aware that medical personnel on ships charge a fee for the services.
4. If you have medical problems, be sure and discuss them with your personal physician.
Some conditions require a note from a physician.
5. Be sure and bring all medications you need with you, with an extra supply in case your travel plans are delayed.
Ship infirmaries carry some medications, but of course not all. Most ship infirmaries are only equipped to handle minor emergencies. Find out where the infirmary is and how to get to it, as well as the location of other important things such as restrooms and lifts.
Service animals can be accommodated but you should contact the Dept. of Agriculture of your ports of call to determine the policy of each destination. They regulate entry of dogs, who will also be subject to inspection, and may be denied disembarkation at certain ports.
Understand that not all conditions can be accommodated on onshore excursions and investigate ahead of time so as to avoid disappointment.
Some ports and cruise lines require tendering. The ship anchors away from the dock, and passengers are taken ashore ("tendered") in small boats. They may not be able to accommodate wheelchairs.
8. If you are pregnant, consult with the individual cruise line for their policies.
Most strictly prohibit travel after the 6th month. At times a physician's medical statement or waiver of liability or both are required. Once aboard, make sure you have a lifejacket that fits. Understand that most doctors are reluctant to give medication to pregnant women, so consult your personal physician before you go, for such things as seasickness.
9. Most cruise lines restrict infant travel. Disney, for instance, doesn't allow babies under 12 weeks of age, while Princess requires they be six months or older. (Check to see what the current policy is.)
10. Many cruise ships are well-equipped for other special needs. Be sure and check ahead of time.
Electric wheelchairs can be accommodated with recharging facility. TTY kits (text telephone, bed shaker, smoke alarm, door knocker and phone amplifier). You can usually bring oxygen tanks for personal use. Medically-related dining requests can often be accommodated. Some have hydraulic lifts for hot tubs. Hydraulic lift transfers may also be available.
Along with availability of these special services, check on any additional charges.
Susan Dunn, MA, of The EQ Coach, offers coaching, Internet courses and ebooks for your personal and professional success. She is founder of the EQ Alive! coach certification program, which has no residency requirement and trains coaches internationally. For a free ezine, email firstname.lastname@example.org.