Cruises can be one of the most convenient ways to travel if you have a disability or health concern. You can travel to multiple destinations but only need to unpack once, and many ships have dedicated staff to assist with accessibility. Onboard you’re likely to find accessible cabins, restaurants, entertainment venues, pools and other facilities.
Whether you need help with physical accessibility, visual and hearing aids or other special needs, our guide to accessible cruises with Marella Cruises covers which ships, destinations and excursions are best. Be sure to check out the top cruises for disabled passengers at the end, too.
Although most cruise lines are up to speed with making at least some of their cruise ships accessible, it’s important to do some research in advance. Be sure to check the smaller details too, like door access sizes and the availability of sign language or Braille services.
Deck plans are available online and during your cruise, often through the use of cruise line apps, which can be downloaded in advance. From here it’ll be much easier to work out the shortest and most accessible routes for moving about when onboard. Don’t forget, you can always call our helpline for advice and further information on specific accessible cruise deals you’re interested in.
Choosing an accessible ship
It’s definitely true that some cruise ships have more accessible features than others. Even those in the same class of ship can vary greatly, so it’s important to do your research before booking. Generally speaking, newer ships are more accessible than older ones.
All of Marella Cruises ships have the same level of disabled access onboard, so you can have your pick of the fleet! You will also find each cruise ship will have adapted cabins, these can make life onboard for those reliant on a wheelchair that little bit easier. Designed with bigger doorways, more floor space around the beds and a larger accessible bathroom, there’s also no steps but you will find helpful handles on the walls and an alarm fitment for emergencies.
There are however a limited number of these cabin types so we would always recommend you ring up to check availability before booking.
Wheelchairs and scooters
Mobility is often a necessity onboard owing to the sheer size of many ships, with long corridors and wide restaurants. For this reason it’s recommended that passengers who usually walk with difficulty bring or rent a wheelchair or scooter for their cruise holiday. Several lines rent out wheelchairs if you book in advance, but alternatively you can hire through an agent such as Special Needs At Sea.
It’s likely that you’ll be asked to store any mobility equipment in your stateroom when not in use, so even if you don’t need an accessible cabin, be sure to book one that’s big enough to keep any equipment in.
Getting off the ship at port can also be an issue for those with mobility issues, particularly if you’re in a wheelchair. One piece of advice is to try and plan a cruise that only calls at ports with cruise piers. Even so, you can’t always account for unforeseen circumstances – inclement weather or tidal currents can mean passengers have to be tendered to shore in a small boat instead. Negate this by booking your cruise at a time of year when the weather is best.
If you’re a wheelchair user, always check the disembarking procedure for the cruise you’re interested in. With Marella Cruises anybody who is looking to travel with a wheelchair will need to be able to walk the gangway themselves. They do have crew on hand to assist but they are unable to physically carry someone onboard, this is why you will need to have some ability or help with doing this.
For those looking at itineraries with tendor ports, those who are steady on their feet and able to walk down stairs on their own will be more than capable to board a tendor. If the wheelchair you have onboard is collapsible, Marella Cruises will also tendor this to shore for use. However if you are fully wheelchair bound and unable to walk, you will need to stay onboard your ship in these circumstances.
Although guide dogs are usually allowed everywhere on the ship, they’re rarely allowed ashore due to health and safety issues. Guide dogs must also have the correct vaccinations and licences required by the company.
Marella Cruises simply ask for the dogs health certificate, passport and specialist training certificate prior to travel. A meeting will then be arranged for when you both get onboard to arrange facilities for the dog, such as toileting areas etc.
Dietary requirements are widely catered for thanks to the huge variety of eating and drinking options onboard each ship, which are the pride of many cruise companies. Braille text for the visually impaired and special alert systems for the hard-of-hearing are abundant.
Unfortunately there are a limited number of accessible shore excursions, while those that do exist tend to be in cities rather than more remote locations. One of the best options is to do-it-yourself and book independently with a local tour operator in advance of your cruise. They’ll be able to answer any questions with regards to accessibility, but please note that a customised accessible tour is likely to be more expensive – particularly if it’s a private tour for just you and your party.
If you’d prefer to do some impromptu exploring, there are some very accessible European ports. Barcelona is one of the best ports for those with mobility issues, and the T3 port shuttle that takes you to the Gothic quarter has a wheelchair ramp.
Both Monaco and Naples; which happens to be Marella Cruises latest ship, Marella Explorer 2 home port, have accessible attractions within a short distance of the port. With four elevators in Monaco taking you up to Monaco-Ville and the port of Naples being in the heart of the city already. Other good options include Dubrovnik and Mykonos.
Top Marella cruises for disabled passengers
If you reside here in the UK a cruise direct from Southampton or Newcastle may be an idyllic option to look into. Marella Cruises Baltic Discovery itinerary onboard Marella Explorer has you sailing for 14 nights and arriving at multiple main city ports such as Tallin in Estonia, Oslo in Norway and even an overnight stay in St Petersburg, Russia. You’ll find docking in major cities easier for embarking and disembarking the ship and already being close to many of the major attractions on offer, makes sight seeing that little bit cheaper for those needing more assistance.
However we all know cities can be busy, so do take time to plan ahead and look into the best accessible routes for you to be able to get around. You can also make use of Destination Services once onboard, who’s expert guides can help with recommendations for each port of your cruise itinerary! – Cruising straight from the UK also means you need not worry about any accessibility issues that come with flying. However fly cruises are always still an option.
Marella Dream and Marella Celebration are the two smaller ships of the Marella Cruises fleet, you may find these easier to get around so we’d also recommended you consider their exciting offering of Mediterranean itineraries.
Explore the Treasures of the Med onboard Marella Dream and take in the sights of Palma, Sicily and even Sorrento. Don’t let the fact that Sorrento is perched on cliffs put you off a visit, Sorrento’s cruise port is very accessible and has lifts at the west end of the shore to take you straight up into the town. Alternatively you could also hop on an accessible ferries and travel across to Capri or even Naples!
Accessible cruising can be straightforward and hassle free and we like to make cruising simple for everyone! If you do have any questions regarding mobility on particular itineraries and/or excursions or if you’d simple just like to find out more information on any special assistance you may require we have our Customer Welfare team on hand to put your mind at ease. Feel free to give the team a call on 0800 916 5187 and they’ll be happy to answer all of your questions. – Lines are open Mon-Fri 09:00-19:00 and Saturdays from 09:00-17:00!
We are acting as an agent on behalf of travel suppliers and your booking will be subject to the supplier’s terms and conditions. Prices may be subject to very limited availability and are correct as at the date and time of writing. Prices may go up or down from time to time. Prices quoted are for the dates, accommodation, board basis, departure points and number of persons sharing specified only and cannot be combined with any other offer. We reserve the right to amend any quotes given if there is a genuine error as soon as we become aware of it. We reserve the right to withdraw any offers without notice.