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Cruising with Muscular Dystrophy

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Hi everyone. I have some questions about cruising with a disability. Some background -

 

My little brother is 19 and has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. He uses a wheel chair full time, needs a shower/bath room chair, hospital bed and hoyer lift. My husband and I have been on 4 cruises in the past 4 years and are addicted to cruising. Every time we come home from one, my brother talks about wanting to go for the next few months. My parents are finally considering one for Thanksgiving this year. I have only ever cruised with RCCL (Allure, Oasis, and Freedom) so thats normally my go to because I know what to expect. So here are my questions:

 

1. What is the best accessible cruise line and ship IYO? and why?

2. Best accessible cruise itinerary? and why?

3. Best excursions and on board activities for people living with a disability?

4. What should we expect with the staterooms on the ship? Any one have pictures of an accessible stateroom they would like to share?

5. I spoke with RCCL a few moments ago, and the gentlemen said that they have some rental companies that they work with. Is one better than the other?

 

Any other tidbits of advice you can give will be appreciated as well.

 

Thanks everyone!

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DH and I were on the Veendam in May in an accessible Lanai cabin (automatic sliding glass door onto the wrap around deck. This was our first cruise since DH has begun to use a scooter. He can walk short distances, but like your brother, needs an accessible shower with chair and grab bars. I've attached several pictures of the cabin. The shower drain ran the length of the room, dividing the wet area from the sink / toilet area. The drain also ran in front of the door, to prevent water getting into the room. The bathroom was huge and the room was large enough so that we could park the scooter next to the closet and still have room to easily get by and open the closet doors. Holland America does attract an older group (like us). On our May cruise to Bermuda there were less than 20 children. We never encountered anyone trying to cut in front of DH as he backed his scooter into the elevator, making it much easier to get around.

 

There are two companies that provide rental rental equipment for the disabled cruiser. Equipment is delivered to your cabin and left in the cabin at the end of the cruise for pick-up. I know that there are some cruise lines that only work with one of the two; Holland American worked with both. We chose Special Needs at Sea for our scooter rental because their price was slightly lower and also included insurance. Pricing depends on the itinerary you select.

 

http://www.specialneedsatsea.com/

 

http://www.carevacations.com/

 

Keep in mind that if an itinerary includes tender ports, the tenders may not be accessible and, even if they are, it is at the ship's discretion if weather or some other variable would make it unsafe for your brother to use the tender.

 

America's ADA laws do not apply in foreign ports and there my not be curb cuts or other obstacles that would prevent your brother from getting around. In Bermuda, we independently hired an accessible van for an island tour. Expensive, and it was the only shore excursion we took. The guide was able to get Ed onto a small beach. None of the ship excursions could accommodate the scooter.

 

I'm sure someone with much more experience will be able to provide better information than I can. You may want to do a search of the RCCL board for information on disabled cruising.

 

I hope your brother has a great time on whatever cruise you select!

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Edited by Parker1

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I'm concerned that you will have difficulty finding a HC cabin for 3, especially one with space for a hospital bed and hoyer lift. I had an inside on Diamond Princess that would have had ample space for those items, but most of the cabins I have photographed do not fit the bill. They allow space for the wheelchair to turn, but not for the extra bed. In Princess HC balcony cabins, one of the twin beds would have to be removed for the hospital bed, and the third person would have to be in an upper bunk. EM

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Hi everyone. I have some questions about cruising with a disability. Some background -

 

My little brother is 19 and has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. He uses a wheel chair full time, needs a shower/bath room chair, hospital bed and hoyer lift. My husband and I have been on 4 cruises in the past 4 years and are addicted to cruising. Every time we come home from one, my brother talks about wanting to go for the next few months. My parents are finally considering one for Thanksgiving this year. I have only ever cruised with RCCL (Allure, Oasis, and Freedom) so thats normally my go to because I know what to expect. So here are my questions:

 

1. What is the best accessible cruise line and ship IYO? and why?

2. Best accessible cruise itinerary? and why?

3. Best excursions and on board activities for people living with a disability?

4. What should we expect with the staterooms on the ship? Any one have pictures of an accessible stateroom they would like to share?

5. I spoke with RCCL a few moments ago, and the gentlemen said that they have some rental companies that they work with. Is one better than the other?

 

Any other tidbits of advice you can give will be appreciated as well.

 

Thanks everyone!

 

Since your are talking about Thanksgiving cruise for this year it's going to be very difficult to get and accessible cabin at this point. Even more difficult to get an accessible cabin that can accommodate 3 people. Reasons being most people needing an accessible cabin book at least a year out and even up to 1.5- 2 years for cruise over Thanksgiving or any other major holiday.

 

Best accessible cruise line and ship - The newer the ship the better the accessibility. As far as cruise lines IMO it's also dependent on how new its ships are. You also have to consider if your brother wants to go in the pool or whirl poll as that will limit your choices. RCCL has a chair lift at one pool and one hot tub fleet wide. Can't say the same for others.

 

Best accessible itinerary - Try to avoid itineraries' that have a tendered port. Your brother will not be allowed to board the tender if the tender does not have roll-on capabilities. Also note that even if the tender has roll on capabilities the Captain may not allow anyone in wheelchairs to board due to sea conditions that day. Most ships use there life boats as tenders that do not have roll-on capabilities . Some exceptions are :

  • Grand Caymans - Local port authority provide tenders with roll-on tenders but you never know until that morning if the ship your on is provided with that tender as there's sometimes more ships in port than the local port authority have tenders to services.
  • Any cruise lines private islands as the cruise lines docks roll-on tenders as the site.

 

Best excursion - Most of time it will be very difficult to find excursions that provide accessible capabilities for someone that cannot transfer and must remain in the wheelchair. Remember ADA does not apply once out the USA and it will take a lot of research to determine if an accessible excursion available.

 

Best on board activities for people living with a disability. - The activities are designed for the general population. There will be no activities posted specifically for someone with a disability. Have never cruised with Disney but perhaps they might have activities more suited to someone in a wheelchair.

 

Rental companies - Both are very good . Pricing can vary and you must use the approved vendor for that cruise line. For example NCL only allows http://www.SpecialNeedsatSea.com. While most other cruise lines will also allow http://www.CareVacations.com as well.

 

Shower seat /bathroom chair. - There's a fold down shower seat in a bathroom of an accessible cabin and most cruise lines will provide a standard shower chair upon request. However both are probably not a safe option for your brother . Therefore you need to consider bringing a wheelchair designed specifically to be used in the shower. Not certain that this can be rented.

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We have a son with Muscular Dystrophy who is now 31. He has been on 3 cruises, Disney and Royal Caribbean. The bigger the boat the better. Next year, we are going on Carnival with his brothers and their families. We use Care Vacations, who supply us with a hospital bed and this time with a hoyer lift. In the past my husband just lifted him. Request a remote control with the bed. Carnival takes one twin bed out. I will sleep on the sofabed. All the others we had ample space for both beds.

 

We take alot of equipment onboard, which we take straight to the room- shower chair(breaks down for travel), cough assist, bi-pap, extra small pillows for comfort and all his supplies. I know people look at us wondering why we do this......because we and he loves to cruise. His favorite itinerary to date has been the Panama Canal. The experience going thru the canal was worth it. He wheeled all over the ship to see it from different views. Also, we had a great accessible tour in Cost Rica. His most memorable so far. We had a balcony on that cruise. He loved the balcony. The other two we had inside rooms. The cabins were decent sizes, with more than enough space. Disney was the largest. On Carnival, we have an obstructed inside room which is really an outside room with a window to the deck on the front of the ship and a view of the ocean. This deck is accessible thru a hallway that many do not know about except those few cabins or anyone that ventures up the stairs to see it is a deck that goes nowhere. All at an inside room price. Should be fun. Accessible rooms go fast. His first cruise went to San Juan, St Thomas, St Maarten and Disney's private cay. San Juan has nice accessibility at the forts but their idea of accessible sidewalks are not mine- only one ramp on each block and cobble streets. Doable though but time consuming. Forts were great! Old San Juan- No. St Thomas has accessible shore excursions- we booked privately(much cheaper), St Maarten- short walk to Phillipsburg for shopping, beach and boardwalk. This was the weekend after Thanksgiving. Most islands have their Christmas decorations up, so that was nice. Best port accessible itinerary was this Eastern Caribbean one. We are doing a Western with Carnival but we have 2 tenders out of 4 ports, so he will stay on board with me and we will find something fun to do. On board, some ships have putt putt that is accessible and ice rinks that allow them to go in a small space (if that is still allowed)-Explorer. There is so much on board that my son can do, that he does not get bored.

 

Tip: Decide on an itinerary. Call the cruise line special needs department and find out all the cabin numbers available accessible rooms, ask for square footage, and google the ship cabin numbers. Some cruise websites give a 360 of each room just by clicking on the cabin number on the deck plans. Look at the elevator placement- not all floors at the top are accessible. Your brother will love it!

Edited by paml

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I have my doubt that your son will be able to access that 'secret' forward deck. I was in a 4J cabin on Splendor, and that deck was accessed by double set of doors, very heavy, sometimes with wind pressure, and at least 4" lip st each. EM

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My parents would have to get a second room. We've know that. It would just have to be conjoining so that if my brother needs help at night, they can get in easy.

 

I'm concerned that you will have difficulty finding a HC cabin for 3, especially one with space for a hospital bed and hoyer lift. I had an inside on Diamond Princess that would have had ample space for those items, but most of the cabins I have photographed do not fit the bill. They allow space for the wheelchair to turn, but not for the extra bed. In Princess HC balcony cabins, one of the twin beds would have to be removed for the hospital bed, and the third person would have to be in an upper bunk. EM

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My parents would have to get a second room. We've know that. It would just have to be conjoining so that if my brother needs help at night, they can get in easy.

 

Am not aware of any Accessible cabins ,regardless of cruise lines ,that are conjoining. May not be possible. Since they're already planning to have your brother in a separate room than they'll be paying a the single supplement. There they might be better off trying to book an accessible suite for all 3 of them that would be able to accommodate all the equipment as well as a hospital bed.

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Update:  We went on Carnival Conquest with our son.  There were 4 of us in the room..... twin bed, rented hospital bed, sofa and overhead bunk. We had plenty of space in our room.  The room was larger than RCCL and about the same size as Disney.  We had the room at the front of the ship on deck 4 overlooking the secret deck.  Loved it.  Yes he could access the secret deck.  There was a lip going thru the door to the deck but his wheelchair went over it.  We placed his bed sideways in front of the window so he had a perfect view while in bed.    Next cruise we are going to go without renting the hospital bed.  Mattresses are nicer on the cruise ships that I think my son can handle it with a wedge.   

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Just to add that MSC has some cabins connected to HC cabins on some of their newest ships.  EM

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On 8/7/2015 at 4:53 PM, LEOwife said:

Hi everyone. I have some questions about cruising with a disability. Some background -

 

My little brother is 19 and has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. He uses a wheel chair full time, needs a shower/bath room chair, hospital bed and hoyer lift. My husband and I have been on 4 cruises in the past 4 years and are addicted to cruising. Every time we come home from one, my brother talks about wanting to go for the next few months. My parents are finally considering one for Thanksgiving this year. I have only ever cruised with RCCL (Allure, Oasis, and Freedom) so thats normally my go to because I know what to expect. So here are my questions:

 

1. What is the best accessible cruise line and ship IYO? and why?  all of the mainstream lines do a comparable job 

2. Best accessible cruise itinerary? and why?  avoid any itinerary that involves a tender port.  if he cannot transfer, he would not be permitted on  tenders much of the time.  

3. Best excursions and on board activities for people living with a disability? they are all the same anyone can participate  . well, not counting Flow Rider or Ifly

4. What should we expect with the staterooms on the ship? Any one have pictures of an accessible stateroom they would like to share?  HA staterooms are  larger with adapted bathrooms.  you'd have to research each individual line and category for pictures.   

5. I spoke with RCCL a few moments ago, and the gentlemen said that they have some rental companies that they work with. Is one better than the other?  not really although IIRC only of them actually has Hoyers;

 

Any other tidbits of advice you can give will be appreciated as well.

 

Thanks everyone!

can he  use an ECV?   that would give him more freedom on board without having to wait for someone to push him somewhere.  

 

the private islands all have  sand WC( the ones with big fat tires) .  

 

you could just look at it as the ship is the destination and not actually worry about ports/itinerary.   which would mean sticking with the larger ships which have more on board activities of all  shapes and sizes.  

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