Cruises move to meet needs of families with autistic kids

For people with medical problems, disabilities or other limitations, travel can seem like it’s off the menu of accessible life experiences. Those limitations often affect entire families.

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But it doesn’t have to be that way. More travel companies are working to serve travelers with special needs. And some travel agents and tour operators are specifically targeting the market of travelers who use oxygen, are blind, use a wheelchair or other adaptive devices and those with similar concerns. (Find such agents by searching the Web for sites such as DisabledTravelers.com).

There isn’t much buzz about adapting travel experiences for people with autism and their families, though. That’s why it caught my eye when Royal Caribbean International announced last week that it had won fleetwide certification as the world’s first autism-friendly cruise line.

According to Travel Weekly, the certification comes from Autism on the Seas, a travel company that specializes in cruises for families with autistic members, either escorted by trained staff or not. It works with several cruise lines.

AOTS launched the certification program to help guide travelers to ships with autism-friendly youth activities and movies, sensory-related toys, special menus including gluten-free and dairy-free options and special staff training, among other standards. See an overview of the requirements here.

Royal Caribbean’s ships have been certified at the bronze level. Cruise lines can shoot for bronze, silver, gold or diamond certifications.

 

Royal Caribbean is touting the achievement at on its website.

In addition to the standards listed above, Royal Caribbean promises youth activity groupings by ability not age, priority check-in and departures, and an exception to the toilet-training policy for youth activities.

If you need information about cruising with a disability other than autism, go to your cruise line website and search for “accessible.”

You’ll find myriad ways these companies have fou
nd to help — from pagers displaying the ship’s announcements for people with hearing limitations, to dialysis, to ship orientation tours for people with limited sight, to kits for people of very short stature (these include reaching tools and closet rod adaptors, among others).

Ask for what you need. You very likely could get it.

Send travel questions to lschwarz@stcloudtimes.com. Get travel news daily at www.sctimes.com/travel, by liking Lisa Schwarz-St. Cloud Times on Facebook, or by following @LisaSSchwarz on Twitter.
Lisa Schwarz

About Lisa Schwarz

By day, I'm a St. Cloud Times editor guiding coverage of politics, government, public safety and business beats. By night, I'm leading the cubicle jailbreak as the Times Traveler. Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/LisaSSchwarz and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sctimeslisa
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