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Activities Onboard – A Guide to Cruise Fun For Special Needs Travelers (Part 1)

Cruise ships are often referred to as floating resorts, and for good reason! Cruising generally offers more benefits, amenities, and services than traditional resorts, plus the chance to see a variety of ports and destinations in one trip, making them a perfect option for travelers looking for the complete vacation package.

For travelers with Special Needs, one of the biggest benefits of cruising is that cruise ships offer a variety of entertainment options right onboard. There’s no need to find accessible transportation all over a strange city in search of a comedy show, high-end restaurant, casino, or spa.

Many ships, particularly the newer ones, are well equipped to handle travelers, families and children with Special Needs. As an added bonus, cruise staff members are friendly, capable and often specially trained to assist guests with Special Needs.

Below, we’ve outlined a few of the most common entertainment options on board, as well as a few tips on how best to take advantage of them as a Special Needs traveler:

Shows: Many cruise lines offer a variety of onboard evening shows, musical programs, stand-up comedy, lectures, guest speakers, and other entertainment options.  Some cruise lines/ships offer infrared systems in show lounges for guests with hearing impairments, as well as Braille Signage programs/menus for guests with visual impairments. A limited number of accessible seating options are generally available on most ships. Inquire with the cruise line staff about the various services available for guests with limited mobility or other Special Needs.

Spas: Most on-board spas can accommodate guests with Special Needs. Some of the most common services offered include: massage, hot stone massage, facials, body wraps, acupuncture, acupressure, manicures, pedicures, and men’s grooming.

Onboard Dining: Today there are so many options beyond traditional cruise dining with many ships offering special dining restaurants.  Even a few celebrity chefs have joined in on the fun from Guys (Fieri) Burger Joint on Carnival Cruises to Ocean Blue by Geoffrey Zakarian on Norwegian Cruise Lines there are options for just about every palate.  Do keep in mind that most specialty restaurants charge an additional fee.

Braille Signage or large print menus are often available for guests with visual impairment. In some cases, an audible format of various menus/daily itineraries can be found. Nearly every ship will provide accessible seating options for guests using wheelchairs, power chairs, or scooters. Special Needs travelers should contact the cruise line ahead of time to ensure that they are seated in the best possible location, table, and dining hour for their particular needs.

Casinos: Some newer ships are equipped to handle accessible gaming, with features such as gaming tables at wheelchair height and Braille Signage. Inquire with the cruise line ahead of time as to which features the onboard casinos offer for Special Needs travelers, as these services typically vary from ship to ship.           

Be sure to stay tuned for our next post, where we will be outlining a few more of the services and entertainment options available on most cruise lines/ships, and how guests with Special Needs can best take advantage of these amenities. 


May 19, 2014




SNG image taken on Royal Caribbean International’s Allure of the Seas.


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