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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Ormesher

Cruising With Children Who Have Special Needs

Updated: Jan 6, 2023

Fewer things are more exciting than the dream of taking a family cruise to an exotic port! Such experiences allow families to explore, learn, and see the world.

Thankfully this vacation doesn’t have to remain a dream! More and more cruise lines are instituting programs to support children with special needs.

Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruise Lines now offer autism-friendly programs for families living with autism, Down Syndrome, and other developmental disabilities. The initiatives include dietary menu options, sensory films, and toys. Additionally, all of their staff have completed training.

Carnival is the first cruise line to be certified as “Sensory Inclusive” by KultureCity®, a leading nonprofit for individuals with sensory and invisible disabilities (such as Autism, ADHD, Down Syndrome, PTSD, etc.) The staff has access to weighted vests, conversation cards, sensory games, and other aids.

Other services provided by these cruise lines include:

  • Priority check-in, boarding, and departure

  • Toilet trained policy exemption

  • Flexible grouping by ability instead of age

Here are a few tips to ensure smooth sailing when planning your cruise:

Book early. Cruise ships have a limited number of accessible rooms which fill up quickly. Booking early also gives you ample time to prepare your child for travel.

Alert the cruise line. It is important to let the cruise line know about the specific needs of your child in advance. Some cruise lines have been known to bring on extra staff who have a specialty like sign language to help provide extra support for their customers.

Rent the equipment you need. If your child needs items such as a wheelchair (or beach wheelchair), rails on the side of the bed, or pediatric oxygen concentrators and flow meters, they are now available for rent. Arrangements can also be made for baby formula, diapers, and nutritional supplements to be delivered directly to your stateroom.

If you have further questions or are ready to book your family’s cruise, reach out to us.

We wish you well. We wish you safe and happy travels. And we can’t wait to see you under a Canopy of Stars!


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