Sunday, May 15, 2011

Cruising Disney Disabled

º Cruising Disney Disabled º

º Mobility Limited/Medical Equipment/

Hearing Limited/Food Allergies º


I’m going to share the experiences we had on our 2 cruises and what we saw with other people on the cruise. On our first cruise (Jan 2005) we had 4 people in our party of 15 with disabilities and a couple more with food allergies. On our second cruise (March of 2011) we had 3 people out of 4 with food allergies and DH has a CPAP. Because we took care of my parents who are disabled with many health issues we are always watching to see how people with disabilities are accommodated and treated.

The first thing I’m going to say is know your limits and be happy to stay within them! If you tire easy don’t expect to do everything and make sure you get enough rest. Make sure you take your medications and eat within your diet restrictions. Take care of yourself and enjoy all you can without stressing yourself. Tell Disney of any health issues. If you have any food allergies or special needs make sure you tell them before you go. If they can’t accommodate your needs they will tell you. I also recommend you purchase travel insurance so if you do have a problem (and we pray you don’t) you will not be hit with a large bill.

Be aware of limited healthcare available on the ship. There is a doctor and nurse on the ship but the scope of care they can give is very limited. They don’t have the facilities for full service health care. They are there for First Aid mostly. They can help with sea sickness, blisters, cuts, flu and such. For major problems they can do well in providing temporary care until the ship gets to port or the seriously injured/ill can be airlifted off the ship.

Make sure you take all your necessary medications and any medications you may need in an emergency. I suggest you take some extra doses of your medications and keep them in separate places while traveling to the ship and once in the cabin store them in two different places. When traveling keep two sets of required medications in two different carry on pieces of luggage. I would not risk important medications in check in luggage. When you pack your medications make sure they are in the original packages.

Be sure you take all pieces of your medical equipment. This may sound like a no brainer statement stupid statement to make. I say it for a reason. Before our first cruise when my DH was at home packing his CPAP the power cord fell out of the case and did not make it on the trip! Thankfully we stayed at WDW first and the head of maintenance for the Port Orleans French Quarter drove my DH around Orlando to different shops until he found the correct cord for DH to purchase! No fuss, no charge, no tip allowed. He said it was part of his job to make sure each guest had what they need to stay healthy and have fun while there. We would have had to call a cap and hope we could find a store. It would have been very hard to find it without the help. We did make a formal comment in thanks. Thank you Disney!!!! Would not have been able to go purchase a new power cord on the ship!

Your first night at dinner on the ship tell your head server any allergies or dietary needs. On our last cruise we had 3 people out of 4 in our group with food allergies. At dinner each night our head waiter would bring the menu for the next night for us to look at as we ate dinner. He would then go check with the head chef and dining manager to make sure what we wanted for the next night was safe for us. If it had the problem ingredient he would then check it see if it could be cooked without the problem ingredient for us. Sometimes they would come to our cabin later in the evening to inform us we needed to look for something else due to our dietary limits. They would bring the menu to our cabin and wait for us to decide on the next night’s dinner! Totally amazing service!

If you use a medical equipment make sure Disney knows about it. If you need water for a medical device let them know and they will supply you with purified water at no extra charge.

My DH uses a CPAP machine to keep him breathing while he sleeps. It requires power and sterile water. The water is no problem but the power is a different matter. There are no electrical outlets near the bed. The nearest outlet is in the bathroom. If you run an extension cord from the bathroom you can’t shut the door. The other choice is to plug it in across the room by the desk and run it across the walkway. You can take a chance that they will have a extension cord to let you use. They have a limited number of extension cords for guests to use. To use their extension cord you will have to agree to a $50 deposit that will be refunded when you return the power cord at the end of the cruise. I suggest you bring your own extension cord and paper painters tape (does not damage the carpet). The tape is to secure the extension cord to limit trip hazards. We found plugging in at the desk and running the cord across the walkway with tape to secure it works the best for us.

If you have mobility issues I recommend bringing a scooter to get around. A wheelchair is good but why make yourself tired while on vacation! If you can’t get up stairs there are a couple of restaurants and other areas that have a second entranced that has no stairs. All areas of the ship area accessible to wheelchairs/scooters. There are 3 sets of stairs to go from one deck to the next and next to each stairway is a set of elevators (Lifts). The Midship Lifts are larger than the Forward/Aft Lifts and therefore maybe easier to use for a scooter or wheelchair to use, especially during busy times.

In 2005 we had 3 people on scooters. All 3 had old fashion bike squeeze horns mounted on the handle bar of their scooters. As they went down the halls they would honk back and forth at each other to let each other know they were still together. The horn was also used to politely let people know they were coming and in need of room to get by. This became a way our group made new friends. People would stop and honk one of the scooters horns as we waited for the lift, dinner or a show. Our Dinning servers always came running across the restaurant to honk the horns as we came in. It made all of us smile and laugh.

There are a limited number of handicapped rooms on each Disney ship. These are larger and have several some design changes from standard rooms to make it easier for handicapped people to get around. There is no “lip” at the cabin or bathroom doors so you can wheel right in. Also the shower is handicapped accessible. The entry hall to the room is wider and there is more open space in the cabin than the standard cabin. If you can walk some you can leave your scooter in several places out in the hall or near the elevators. Your Stateroom Host will show you where you can park your scooter and even show you places to plug it in outside your cabin if necessary.

At most ports of call Disney tries to pull right up to the dock so there is no need to transfer to a Tender Boat. That makes it easy for people in wheelchairs and on scooters to get on and off the ship. In fact Disney’s privet island, Castaway Cay was designed to be totally accusable to guests with disabilities. If the ship pulls into a port that they have to use Tender Boats people in wheelchairs and scooters cannot get off the ship. To use a Tender you will need to be able to walk down a short flight of steps and step onto the boat and then back. A folded wheelchair can be accommodated on the Tender Boat but not a scooter. Crew will be glad to assist you but will not lift/carry you. When booking your cruise ask if the ship will be pulling up to the docks or if you will need to Tender to shore at any ports you are going too.

Not all Port Adventures are Handicapped Accessible. Before booking a Port Adventure read carefully all the description and ask if any special needs you have can be accommodated. The ADA is not standard in other countries. Remember Disney is not responsible for the accessibility of Port Adventures. The Port Adventures are not run by Disney but are only checked out for service, quality and safety by Disney.

The pools on the ship have transfer chairs to help wheelchair bound passengers to move from the wheelchair to the water. All you need to do is ask for assistance. We never saw the transfer chair in use.

If you have a hearing problem, as my DH does they offer audio amplification headphones for shows, lectures and movies. In truth even though he has significant hearing loss he did not need the headphones because the sound system in the theaters was so good. It was never too loud for those with normal hearing. Even the cabin TV has closed caption if needed. The only thing DH had problems hearing were the overhead announcements. We were on the cruise when the March earthquake hit Japan. There were a lot of announcements about the earthquake and how the tsunami warnings were affecting our cruise. During announcements DH preferred to be with others who could fill him in on what was being said.

Crew is always there to help with any needs. When getting a meal at any of the buffets a crew member will be happy to help carry your tray to your table if you need. If you need to know an alternate entranced to a location they will be happy to show you. Do you need some extra help in your cabin? Could the bed be turned down differently or maybe the Towelgomi animal they leave needs to be left in a different place so you don’t have to move it. Maybe you need a suitcase moved. Do you need extra towels or maybe you always like a glass of milk/juice before bed every night. Just ask! Most of the “extra” help comes with no extra charge. Here is an example of where they do charge. There is a laundry facility with self serve washers and dryers on the ship so you can do your laundry. If you ask for help with the laundry they will do your laundry and charge you for doing it.

I must say disabled or not the crew of the Disney ships does their best to make each guest feel comfortable and totally pampered. They will help anyone who asks. In fact most of the time you don’t have to ask for help. They seem to be looking for guests whose hands are full and need another or are disabled and could use help. Does not matter, disabled, able bodied or something in between the Crew of the Disney Cruise Ships seem to be looking for ways to assist.

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