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TravelBest cruise lines for wheelchair and scooter users

Best cruise lines for wheelchair and scooter users

If you’re a traveler with limited mobility, a cruise can be a great way to see the world without having to worry as much about logistics. Because all major cruise lines must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, they must ensure ships are equipped with accessible accommodations.

“In my experience, I’ve found that the newer the ship is, the more accessible it tends to be,” Cory Lee, owner of wheelchair-accessible travel website Curb Free with Cory Lee, told TPG. “Any time a new cruise ship comes out, it seems like accessibility improves a bit.

“The major cruise lines here in the U.S. have pretty good accessibility usually. I’d also say that the larger the cruise ship is, the more accessible it is. Small ships and river cruises are not ideal for wheelchair users, and many are completely inaccessible. But if you stick to the big cruise lines, at least some level of accessibility is guaranteed,” he added.

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We’re calling out the cruise lines that do their best to cater to wheelchair users and passengers with limited mobility. Here are our top choices for lines offering everything from wider gangways, automatic doors, grab bars and lowered sinks to accessible theaters and restaurants.

Carnival Cruise Line

In addition to wheelchair-accessible seating in theaters and restaurants, Carnival Cruise Line’s ships offer accessible elevators and public restrooms. They also offer three different types of accessible cabins.

Cabin types include ambulatory accessible cabins for cruisers who require canes and walkers but not wheelchairs. Wheelchair and scooter users can access fully accessible, stair-free, flat-threshold cabins; these offer wider (32-inch) doorways, turning space and bathrooms equipped with grab bars and shower seats. Some fully accessible rooms provide extra space on only one side of the bed, while others have wider access on both sides.

Related: The ultimate guide to Carnival Cruise Line ships and itineraries

Pool lifts are available on Carnival Celebration, Carnival Firenze, Carnival Freedom, Carnival Horizon, Carnival Jubilee, Carnival Miracle, Carnival Panorama, Carnival Paradise, Carnival Pride, Carnival Radiance, Carnival Sunrise, Carnival Venezia, Carnival Vista and Mardi Gras.

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Wheelchairs and scooters can be rented and made available on board via Carnival’s partnership with Scootaround. The line also provides airport transfers with wheelchair lifts when you make arrangements in advance.

Carnival has a dedicated Guest Access Team to answer questions and assist with cruise planning related to accessibility. You can reach the team by calling 800-438-6744 (extension 70025) or emailing [email protected].

Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Cruises offers airport transfers for travelers who need wheelchair lifts, as long as you make the arrangements in advance. Additional assistance is available upon request at the pier during embarkation and disembarkation.

Related: The ultimate guide to Celebrity Cruises ships and itineraries

Celebrity’s ships offer accessible public restrooms, wheelchair seating in restaurants and the theater, automatic doors, wheelchair-friendly elevators, lowered machines and tables in the casino, lowered counters at guest services, and pool lifts for at least one pool and one hot tub per vessel.

Ships also feature a number of accessible cabins. The accommodations include wider (32-inch) doorways, a 5-foot turning radius, lowered closet bars and accessible balconies (in select cabins). Accessible cabin bathrooms offer ramped thresholds, grab bars, lowered sinks and vanities, higher toilets, roll-in showers with fold-down benches and hand-held showerheads.

To reach Celebrity’s Access Department, cruisers can call 954-628-9708 or email [email protected].

Related: Tips for going on a cruise as a wheelchair user


Disney Cruise Line

Disney Cruise Line offers both pre- and post-cruise transfers with lifts if requested in advance.

All of the line’s ships offer accessible cabins across a variety of categories. They include entryways at least 32 inches wide, emergency call buttons, open bed frames, ramped bathroom thresholds, bathroom and shower grab bars, roll-in showers with fold-down seats, hand-held showerheads, and lower closet and towel bars. Bedrails, shower stools and raised toilet seats are also available on request.

Related: The ultimate guide to Disney Cruise Line ships and itineraries

Most public areas on Disney’s ships — including theaters, restaurants and shops — are also accessible, and wheelchair-friendly public restrooms are available. You can find pool lifts on all ships in the fleet, but you must make appointments to use them.

Passengers who need wheelchairs, scooters or other assistive devices must bring their own or arrange for pickup and delivery through a third-party provider for use on board. Although Disney doesn’t have a partnership with any particular company, it does reference Scootaround and Special Needs at Sea as providers that can deliver necessary equipment to your vessel.

For questions about or help with planning travel as a person with limited mobility, contact Disney Cruise Line Special Services at 407-566-3602 or email [email protected].


Holland America

Lee touts HAL as one of the most accommodating cruise brands he’s tried. “Holland America is a great cruise line for wheelchair users,” he said. “Since the clientele for Holland America skews older, their ships are designed with that in mind. I’ve cruised Alaska and even Antarctica with Holland America, and both cruises were phenomenal.”

Cabin specifics vary by ship, but Holland America generally offers three types of accessible rooms for passengers with limited mobility. Ambulatory-accessible cabins are for passengers who require canes or walkers but not wheelchairs. Fully accessible cabins and fully accessible single-side approach cabins cater to wheelchair and scooter users. These accommodations provide wider doorways and accessible bathing facilities with grab bars, seats and hand-held showerheads. Single-side approach cabins have bed access from one side only, while fully accessible cabins have extra space on both sides.

Related: The ultimate guide to Holland America cruise ships and itineraries

Within these types of cabins, the line features three bathroom types. Roll-in showers offer enough turning space for wheelchairs to enter and maneuver in the shower area. Transfer showers allow room for wheelchairs to be positioned next to the shower for transfers from a wheelchair to a shower seat. Accessible bathtubs, like transfer showers, allow space for wheelchairs to maneuver alongside the bathtub for transfer to a seat in the tub.

Additionally, most ships in Holland America’s fleet (all except Volendam and Zaandam) have been outfitted with tender lifts that allow passengers in wheelchairs or scooters to roll directly onto and off tenders while remaining seated.

Passengers requiring regular wheelchair or scooter use must bring their own assistive devices with them on board. If you’re not bringing your own equipment, HAL recommends contacting Scootaround or Special Needs at Sea for rental options. Although the line cannot provide wheelchair assistance at airports or train stations, it can arrange for lift-equipped transfers to the embarkation port.

For help, questions or more information, cruisers can reach out to Holland America’s Guest Accessibility Department at [email protected].

Related: Traveling with a disability? Why you should consider a cruise


MSC Cruises

Cruisers requiring special equipment such as wheelchairs, scooters, walkers and canes should arrange to bring those devices with them. Otherwise, they can contact a rental company that will deliver those devices to the ship pre-cruise and pick them up at the conclusion of the sailing. MSC Cruises can provide airport transfers with lifts if requested in advance.

Public areas, such as restaurants and theaters, are designed to be accessible, and pool lifts are available on some (but not all) ships.

Related: The ultimate guide to MSC Cruises ships and itineraries

Each MSC Cruises ship is outfitted with accessible cabins for passengers with limited mobility, including wheelchair users. Accommodations vary from ship to ship but include additional space and special amenities, such as grab bars and flat thresholds.

For questions about special requirements, email [email protected] or call 954-772-6262.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line offers wheelchair-accessible public spaces, such as theaters, restaurants and public restrooms. Each of the line’s vessels is equipped with a pool lift, and airport transfers with lifts are available upon adavnce request. On embarkation day, NCL also organizes a meeting with onboard staff dedicated to ensuring your voyage is enjoyable and your needs are met.

Accessible cabins are available for booking on all ships in the line’s fleet. They include larger entryways, roll-in showers with benches, high-rise toilets and handrails in the toilet and shower areas.

Related: The ultimate guide to Norwegian Cruise Line ships and itineraries

Passengers who wish to rent assistive devices for use on board rather than bringing their own can contact Scootaround — Norwegian’s authorized vendor.

Travelers looking to cruise with NCL can contact the line’s Access Desk for more information and answers. The desk can be reached at 866-584-9756 or [email protected].

Related: How to travel on a budget as a wheelchair user


Princess Cruises

In addition to ADA-compliant public spaces, including elevators, theaters and restaurants, all Princess ships also have pool lifts that can be used by appointment. The cruise line offers airport transfers that can handle wheelchairs and scooters with advance notice.

A selection of cabins for wheelchair and scooter users is available on each ship. Each provides ample turning space for assistive devices, wider doorways with flat thresholds, a roll-in shower with a fold-down seat and grab bars, and an accessible closet and vanity. Specific layouts and amenities vary by ship, but some also include emergency call buttons.

Related: Everything you want to know about cabins and suites on Princess Cruises ships

To rent assistive devices in lieu of bringing your own, Princess recommends Scootaround and Special Needs at Sea as third-party providers.

Cruisers needing special mobility accommodations can contact Princess’ Access Office at [email protected].

Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean provides airport transfers with lifts to accommodate passengers using wheelchairs and scooters. Additionally, the line can provide assistance at boarding and disembarkation. All public rooms have entrances with gradual inclines, and all hallways provide enough space for a 180-degree turn. Additionally, most deck spaces employ automatic doors.

Blackjack tables in the casinos are lowered for accessibility, as are sections of the guest relations desks. At least one pool and one whirlpool on each ship can provide lift access to passengers with limited mobility.

Related: Everything you want to know about cabins and suites on Royal Caribbean ships

The line’s accessible cabins vary by ship but feature doorways with a minimum width of 32 inches, no doorsills, ramped bathroom entryways, roll-in showers with benches and grab bars, lowered sinks and vanities, hand-held showerheads, lowered closet rods and extra cabin space to offer a 5-foot turning radius. Raised toilet seats are also available on request. Some rooms also have accessible balconies.

If you aren’t bringing your own assistive devices, Royal Caribbean recommends renting one for your cruise via either Scootaround or Special Needs at Sea.

Royal Caribbean’s Access Department can help with planning and answer your questions. Call 866-592-7225 or email [email protected].

Bottom line

If you’re booking a cruise and you or someone in your party has mobility or other disabilities that require an accessible cabin, it’s important to plan ahead. Many cruise lines require a minimum of 30 days’ notice for disability-related requests; others require 45, 60 or even 90 days. If you book an accessible cabin, most cruise lines will ask you to fill out a special needs form attesting to the need for accessible accommodations.

Cruisers should also remember that they will likely have to store assistive devices — such as wheelchairs, scooters, walkers and canes — in their cabins. For safety reasons, cruise line crew members are not permitted to assist with lifting passengers into or out of wheelchairs. They are also unable to provide help with bathing, dressing, toileting, feeding or other daily tasks.

Additionally, ports on certain itineraries require tendering when the ship cannot dock. Tender boat accessibility is often limited. Prospective passengers should keep all of this in mind when booking.

Keeping all of that in mind, a cruise vacation is still one of the best ways for wheelchair users to see the world without worrying about additional logistics. Do your research and preparations in advance, and you’ll have a relaxing, worry-free trip once you’re on board.

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