Can I take a mobility device on a cruise? What you should know.

Chris Ritchie can only walk short distances at a time, but he has traveled the world on his scooter.

The 57-year-old U.S. Army veteran has limited mobility due to a foot injury he suffered in the 1980s and related complications, and he has found cruises to be an easy way to explore destinations like Alaska or the Caribbean. Just this month, he, his wife, and his friends spent an entire week Royal Caribbean International Cruise to Belize, Honduras and Mexico.

Ritchie, who is based in Lakeland, Florida, had to drive to Tampa to board the Enchantment of the Seas ship. “I think it’s very easy,” he told USA TODAY. They booked a deluxe accessible room for the first time as well.

“It was really big,” said Ritchie, who records his cruises and other travels on his YouTube channel, Scootinaround the World. “I had no problem getting the scooter into the room.”

Chris Ritchie with sloths during cruise stop in Honduras.

Cruise ships can offer guests with mobility devices an easy and streamlined way to travel. But some extra planning can go a long way toward ensuring the trip goes smoothly. Here’s what you should know.

How is this cruise line for adults onlyIntegrated access to its experiences

Do cruise ships have designated rooms for mobility devices?

Cruise lines offer accessible staterooms, but they are not all the same. “Make sure you have the accessible room that works best for you,” said Joy Burns, director of organizing and public relations at travel booking platform Accessible. Wheel of the world.

For example, some staterooms may be better suited to users of motorized wheelchairs, but the setup may not be convenient for passengers who use other types of devices, according to her husband, Bert, who has been paralyzed since 1982 and has taken more than 20 cruises. .

“If you get a wheelchair-accessible room designed for a power wheelchair with a Hoyer lift, the bed will be too high,” he said. “I can’t transfer in a bunk bed. I use a manual wheelchair, so I’m on the bottom.”

Standard rooms may also be able to accommodate mobility devices, but guests should familiarize themselves with the cruise line’s requirements.

Joey and Bert Burns.

Passengers book a regular cabin Carnival Cruise Line Vessels must have devices that can be entered through a 22-inch wide doorway. According to its website. Devices must also be folded and collapsed to allow safe exit from the room (travelers cannot store mobility devices in hallways or public areas).

“Guests bringing scooters larger than 21 inches (53.34 cm) in width, or traveling with multiple scooters in the same stateroom, must purchase a fully accessible stateroom with a wider doorway (32 inches, 81.3 cm), or rent a smaller scooter A size that “suitably fits their meeting room,” the line said on its website: “Guests may be asked to size their scooters at the time of check-in to ensure they will fit in the meeting room.”

Major cruise lines typically have accessibility departments that can help guests navigate the process, according to Sylvia Longmire, an accessible travel writer who runs the blog and travel brand. The Earth rotates.

“Talk to the accessibility department to ask questions and tell them what type of equipment you will be bringing with you if you are bringing your own items,” said Longmire, who has multiple sclerosis and has taken more than 30 cruises. Was with a scooter or wheelchair. “Let them know what your ability or disability is, what your level is, what your accessibility requirements are. That way, they can tell you what type of cabin you might need, the location, (information) about the ship, everything even before you call to make a reservation.”

For those who book through a travel agent, she said she “highly” recommends working with someone with a disability or an expert in accessible travel.

Which cruises are best for guests with mobility devices?

Some destinations may also be more suitable for guests with mobility devices than others.

Once, during a cruise in New Zealand, Burns’ ship hit some rough water, causing Bert to run out of the casino and crash into a bar (although no one was hurt). Joy recommended checking the sea conditions. (click here For USA TODAY’s guide to the best times to cruise by region.)

She added that Expeditionswhich often features activities that require guests to get on and off Zodiac boats, may not be accessible.

Which cruise ship is best for guests with mobility devices?

Newer ships tend to have more features that can make the trip easier for guests with mobility devices, Princesses and Longmire said. These include automatic sliding doors in public areas, meeting room locks that allow passengers to wave their keys to open a door and pool elevators.

“The newer the ship, the better the accessibility,” Longmire said.

Can I get a mobility device through the cruise line?

Guests can arrange to rent mobility devices through vendors like Scootaround or Special Needs at Sea (Longmire is a Scootaround contract employee).

Rentals may also be available at the cruise terminal, and some lines have a limited number of scooters and wheelchairs available on the ship, according to Longmire. She estimated that rentals can range from about $80 to $250 depending on the type of equipment, the length of time guests need it and other factors.

Do cruise lines have accessible cruises?

Yes, but options may be limited. Joy said accessible shore excursions available through cruise lines are “few and far between,” and she and Burt have been on cruises where none were available through the cruise line at all.

“Cruise lines depend entirely on the availability of cruises with those they contract with,” Longmire noted. If a particular destination does not have wheelchair taxis, for example, that limits the cruise lines’ offerings.

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When they are available on the line, Longmire said many of them are what she calls windshield tours — bus tours with a group of other passengers that may include one or two 15-minute stops to take photos. “The rest is just seeing it all out the window,” she said.

However, she added that cruise lines “get a little better” every year when it comes to offering those services.

Passengers can also book accessible shore excursions through companies like Wheel the World, Joy said. Longmire has the pleasure of booking shuttles and tours directly through providers at various ports as well, although guests should take care of this Go back in time Before leaving the ship.

Are tender outlets accessible?

When it comes to accessibility to tender ports — where guests have to take a small vessel from the ship to shore — Longmire said it’s “not so black and white.” Cruise ships may allow guests to board the ships and some have technology to help passengers with wheelchairs do so, but port capabilities may be different.

“Just because you can go from ship to tender doesn’t mean you’ll be able to go from tender to dock,” Longmire said.

Rules may also vary, as some lines allow guests in manual wheelchairs to use tenders but prohibit motorized devices. It was recommended that the Accessibility Department review these policies.

For their part, the Burns generally found tender ports inaccessible, and Joy suggested travelers check their itineraries to see how many trips they include.

Overall, Longmire said her cruise experience was “really good,” both in terms of accessibility and convenience (you can visit multiple places but unpack at once, for example). “I always recommend wheelchair users for their first travel experience, for example, if you don’t get seasick and don’t want to go on cruises, a cruise is the perfect solution.”

Nathan Diller is a consumer travel reporter for USA TODAY based in Nashville. You can reach him at ndiller@usatoday.com.

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