Handicapped Cruise Vacations - Enjoy a Floating City!

Handicapped Cruise Vacations. While I'm not disabled, as a road warrior I observed the challenges every day that you face as a handicapped person and realize the travel industry has a ways to go before acknowledging that more simple modifications can be made to accommodate the physically-challenged.

I did break my foot once and still had to do my gig, so I was trying to make my way around airports and onto airplanes in wheelchairs and on crutches. It was not fun.

If you're handicapped, cruises are understandably popular. Relatively speaking, it may be easier to get around a cruise ship then to travel from place to place. You enjoy cruises for some of the same reasons I do -- a convenient, all-in-one vacation!

Have the cruise ships gone as far as they can to accommodate you on handicapped cruise vacations? No. But some recent legislation that went all the way to the US Supreme court has at least placed your needs on their radar.

Spector v. Norwegian Cruise Lines, which was decided in the US Supreme Court on June 5, 2005, stated that cruise ships do need to acknowledge and abide by the American Disabilities Act (ADA),making reasonable modifications and removing barriers when readily achievable, without interfering with the internal affairs of the cruise ship.

Justice Kennedy's opinion stated,"Cruise ships flying foreign flags of convenience offer public accommodations and transportation services to over 7 million United States residents annually, departing from and returning to ports located in the United States.

Large numbers of disabled individuals, many of whom have mobility impairments that make other kinds of vacation travel difficult, take advantage of these cruises or would like to do so.

To hold there is no Title III protection for disabled persons who seek to use the amenities of foreign cruise ships would be a harsh and unexpected interpretation of a statute designed to provide broad protection for the disabled. §12101.

The clear statement rule adopted by the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, moreover, would imply that other general federal statutes–including, for example, Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 243, 42 U.S.C. § 2000a et seq.–would not apply aboard foreign cruise ships in United States waters.

A clear statement rule with this sweeping application is unlikely to reflect congressional intent."peli

I find this sort of thing rather interesting in addressing handicapped cruise vacations. The original case filed by a wheelchair-bound man claimed that he was charged a premium by Norwegian Cruise Line to secure a handicap cabin, yet several "barriers" existing that kept him from fully accessing the cruise amenities.

He stated that these barriers were in violation of the ADA. Norwegian Cruise Line simply argued that they are not bound by the ADA because, while operating a headquarters in Miami, and servicing a majority of clients who are American, they register their ships in the Bahamas, "flying a foreign flag," which they claimed exempted them from adhering to the ADA.

The lower court ruled in Norwegian's favor, because of the foreign flag! The Supreme Court, when the case was presented, pointed out that making cruise ships exempt from the ADA would make them exempt from the Civil Rights Act as well, and saw that a blanket dismissal would not suffice.

Just because cruise ships fly foreign flags does not remove their responsibility to abide by US laws when operating in US waters & ports, and serving Americans. Justice is served!

When I imagine boarding a cruise ship in a wheelchair I think of the little "lip" in many of the doorways and wonder if they are required as a seal in case the ship takes on water? If not, it would seem easy to modify them to be smooth. Of course, it doesn't seem like the pool area would be easily accessible, and the buffets on the lido decks all assume you're standing up.

Yeah, there are improvements to be made that would seem easy enough. Hopefully, cruise lines recognize you as an important part of their business, and will begin to make "readily achievable" modifications to further meet your needs.

Meanwhile, I was curious about the gentlemen in this case having to pay a premium for a handicap cabin. That didn't seem right at all, so I called both RCI and II. Nope, they assured me that a handicap room doesn't cost anymore to book than a comparable cabin. So maybe the cruise lines heeded this legal case?


The travel specialists at both RCI and II DID emphasize that handicap rooms are in very limited supply, so that means you would have to plan further ahead to reserve handicapped cruise vacations.

The only way to address the availability issue -- for any traveler -- is to p-l-a-n ahead! You should be able to book up to two years in advance. I recommend booking a minimum of a year ahead, period, to anyone wanting to get exactly what they want when exchanging timeshare.

If you don't yet own a timeshare, review Why Timeshare and Buying a Timeshare to see why I recommend owning your vacation, and trading timeshare for handicapped cruise vacations!

There are also some travel agencies that specialize in "medical bookings" for handicapped cruise vacations. I'm not sure I'm sold. When I've booked cruises, the specialists I deal with always ask pertinent questions to learn if I have special needs. I wouldn't be willing to pay extra for that service. That's up to you.

Overall, I highly recommend handicapped cruise vacations! I haven't experience quite a feeling of doing nothingness in any other mode of travel, if that's what you're looking for. 

If you're looking for easy access to excitement, exotic locations, and a multitude of things to do, cruises can't be matched. I know people who own timeshare and use it to trade exclusively for cruises.

When you do the math, handicapped cruise vacations really are a bargain! Find out about the current specials with a timeshare trade and without a trade -- always compare. Some destinations have such great deals, you don't need to give up your time!

Bon Voyage!

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