Accessibility on International River Cruises
River cruises allow the guest unique insight into countries and cultures while offering an intimate feel of the passing picturesque landscapes as most cabins face outward with either balconies or expansive windows. The long, lean-shaped river cruise vessels travel at a leisurely rate of speed in comparison to larger ocean cruise ships which carry thousands of passengers through major, large bodies of water. Most river cruise sailings will find fewer than 250 travelers sailing calm and smooth inland waterways.
European river cruises travel along the Rhine, Danube and Seine Rivers as well as other major waterways. A great deal of effort is made to ensure guests enjoy food and wine of the specific region being traveled. International cruises vary in length from a week to three weeks with a select few longer in duration.
The demographics which most river cruises appeal to are the Baby Boomer and mature senior-age groups. Although once considered a vacation for couples, river cruises have seen a rise in families traveling together with millennials traveling with their mature relatives. Along with millennials now sailing on river cruises, the boutique hotels on water are garnering interest from solo travelers. The excellent service, high quality food, included excursions as well as beer and wine provide for a relaxed onboard atmosphere.
Guests with mobility issues sailing internationally may find port towns and nearby cities with their uneven cobblestone sidewalks and streets. The individual passenger must check with the cruise line prior to booking mobility and special needs equipment; furthermore, the individual ship for the respective cruise line may have specific regulations. Internationally, two or three ships may be moored alongside each other which requires passengers on the outermost ship to have to cross over gangways linking the ships together. Due to the small crew staff on river cruises, certain river vessels do not always have the capability of assisting special needs travelers upon embarking and disembarking at the various cruise ports and destinations. Guests sailing with special needs on international river cruises are suggested to travel with a companion who will be responsible for his/her wellbeing.
As aforementioned, international river cruise vessels have varying restrictions per respective cruise line. AmaWaterways does allow mobility scooters onboard; the cruise line prefers foldable scooters and “AMA” must be notified in advance of any arrangement made with a third-party supplier. In contrast, Viking Cruise Line does not allow mobility scooters on their international river cruise sailings. Viking allows collapsible wheelchairs and canes which must be kept in the individual’s stateroom. In similar regulation to Viking, Avalon does not allow mobility scooters, but collapsible wheelchairs are permitted. Cruiselines - CroisiEurope and Scenic - do allow mobility scooters, folding is preferred, kept inside a guest’s cabin, but do not allow them to be used on board, only on land. For safety precautions, the passengers must be able to embark and disembark the vessel without the assistance of the scooter. UNIWORLD will review scooters and wheelchairs on a case-by-case basis and are as flexible as possible. UNIWORLD allows walkers, canes and oxygen concentrators.
Due to certain river cruise vessels not having elevators some appointed with split-level docks and/or thresholds, Special Needs Group cannot strongly emphasize enough the significance of reaching-out to the cruise line prior to booking and contacting the Access Department for the cruise line at the earliest onset of thinking about traveling on, planning an international river cruise if a guest requires the need of renting mobility, oxygen and or/special needs equipment. As the American with Disabilities Act is only applicable within the United States, excursion motorcoaches are equipped to European standards and therefore, not Scooter accessible with the majority not furnished with Wheelchair ramps. Depending upon the given international port and river cruise vessel, our Operations Department may need to confirm pricing, availability and cruise line approval for the specific request prior to finalizing order.
Specific information regarding the river cruise lines was current at the time of this distribution. Always check with the cruise lines for updates.
The Accessibility Advocate - July 2017 Newsletter Full Article