When deciding what to do for your next vacation you may want to consider taking a cruise. The popularity of cruising has soared over the past decade and the cruise industry has responded by building larger ships and increasing the number of ports of call. Deciding whether or not a cruise will work for you is a very personal decision, but overall travelers with disabilities have reported that taking a cruise is an excellent vacation option. Something to remember is athat all ships are not created equal. The older ships and smaller ones the overall accessiblility is not as good, meaning not all areas have access.  So to keep you cruise from becoming a voyage on a slave galley do you homework.  Let’s explore some of the reasons why.

One: You really get a pretty good value for your dollar. The cost varies considerably between categories but you can travel quite comfortably for about $150 per day – and that includes both the stateroom and all of your meals. It is true that some shore excursions and off ship activities will come out of your pocket, but that would be the same on just about any vacation. This also makes it is easy to budget for a cruise vacation because almost all of your expenses are included the total price that you pay up front.

Two: Getting to the cruise ships is easier than ever. Today there are numerous ports to disembark from making it possible for people from a rather large geographic area to drive to a cruise ship. This can be very important for some people with disabilities who are unable to fly for one reason or another. Departure ports can be found pretty much wherever land meets the sea with the most popular ones being in Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, Galveston, and naturally there are quite a few in Florida.

Three: As a testament to the popularity of cruising, new ships are being introduced every year offering the public the latest and greatest in luxury cruising. In 2006, four major cruise lines will unveil new vessels that are sure to capture the imagination (and dollars) of the traveling public. Princess has a new jewel in her fleet called the Crown Princess with 28 accessible staterooms. In February, Holland America will introduce their newest vista class ship, the ms Noordam with 28 accessible staterooms. Royal Caribbean will add Freedom of the Seas to her fleet with 32 accessible staterooms and Norwegian Cruise Lines will introduce the Pride of Hawaii, with 21 accessible staterooms. All totaled up that will be over 100 new and accessible staterooms added to the cruise industry this year alone. Click on any ship above if you would like to get more information about their amenities.

Four: Access has steadily been improving as new ships come on the market and individual companies realize that they are hard pressed to meet the high demand for accessible staterooms. Onboard you will run into few barriers and some companies like Princess have thoughtfully put all of their accessible staterooms near elevators. Access to information has also improved thanks to Norwegian, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean who have each made sure that access information in an easy to find location on their respective web sites. You can easily research all of the ships’ amenities and get contact information for their special services departments’. You will find another sign that access is improving around the pools and Jacuzzis with the incorporation of more lifts. Royal Caribbean and Celebrity (sister companies) both claim that one lift is available for each ship in their fleet and the pools and Jacuzzis on Norwegian’s three newest vessels will come lift-equipped. A sure sign that progress is being made to improve access.

Five: You get to visit many places and only have to unpack your bags once! Let’s face it, what could be better than bringing tons of exotic locations right to your doorstep! That is pretty much what happens when you take a cruise. Some of the time will be spent at sea but you can also expect to visit several ports of call during your cruise. Shore excursions are one area where the cruise lines could do better at improving access, but in the meantime you may want to consider using a travel agent to book your cruise (more about this in number Eight). Also, keep in mind that U.S based destinations like Alaska and St. Thomas are going to be the most accessible and have the highest chance of docking at the port versus tendering in the harbor and taking smaller (sometimes inaccessible) boats to the dock.

Six: Transportation can be a huge issue when planning an accessible vacation but it doesn’t factor as much into a vacation at sea. Since the cruise itself really is the transportation you only have to worry about getting to the ship – and if you live too far to drive you can easily include air transportation in the cruise package. All of the major cruise lines offer accessible ground transfers taking much of the hassle out of transportation. You only need to notify them in advance through your travel agent to utilize this service.

Seven: You can tailor the cruise to suite your own individual style and taste. Onboard there are countless opportunities to do something, or nothing, depending upon your mood. Education at sea has become quite popular; you can take a culinary course for example or peruse the ship’s art gallery. Many people try their luck in the casino or spend an evening enjoying a live show at the theater. Pretty much all major cruise ships now have a spa to help you rejuvenate and relax – and of course there is a workout room if you feel you have overindulged on the deliciously exquisite cuisine. Cruising also works well for family reunions, celebrations and weddings because many needs can be met at once while taking the burden off of an individual who would otherwise have to host the entire group.  And don’t forget all the interesting people you’ll meet, both on and off board.

Eight: There are quite a few travel agents that specialize in booking cruises for travelers with special needs. These agents have personally inspected numerous ships and know first-hand what type of cruise experience is possible and what is not possible. In many cases they have resources above and beyond anything the cruise lines can offer in the shore excursion department and can really help you get the most out of your cruise. Some of these agents put together a group cruise and plan the whole itinerary around accessibility. Experience really is a good teacher and these travel agents know the cruise industry intimately and are will to share this information with you. Visit our Travel Agent Database for a list of agent’s ready to help you plan your next cruise.

Nine: The availability of information from actual cruisers in the Access-Able Cruise Database also makes the list of 10 good reasons to cruise. There is perhaps no other way to get completely unbiased information regarding the different cruise ships than from actual cruisers. Interestingly enough, some passengers report vastly different experiences aboard the same ship – showing us how individual a cruise experience truly is. If you want to hear first hand what people thought of the ships’ they cruised aboard then be sure to check it out. After the description of each ship there are any comments that we have received.  You should also go to the Travel Tales for additions stories about cruises

Ten: The overall sea going experience is reason enough to go on a cruise. Most of us plan our vacations to compliment the current season; we seek the sun in the Caribbean during the winter and find solace in the vast Alaskan wilderness in the summer. The point is that no matter what the season there is always a good reason to choose a cruise. And why not enhance your cruise experience by upgrading to a stateroom with a balcony? You can relax with your own private views of exotic ports and sparkling blue seas and enjoy the benefits of rolling right out onto the balcony whenever the mood strikes you.

These have been just ten good reasons to cruise and we could honestly go on all day! Above all you should try to make the cruise experience your very own – relax and refresh or try to do as much as time will allow, or best yet, find a balance somewhere in between! The Access-Able Travel Tips page is another good resource worth checking out if you are thinking about taking an accessible cruise.

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