Cruises are proving a popular choice for Australian travellers. Not only do they offer great value for money with all meals and many activities included in the package price, but there’s good accessibility on many of the ships. Passengers with mobility restrictions can take hoists, commodes and shower chairs on board making it easier to travel with specific equipment.
We decided to ask a group of regular seafarers for their tips – the kind of information they wished they knew when they set sail on their first cruise. What I received was a list of practical tips peppered with a few amusing ones.
So here’s the top tips for a cruise holiday –
Cabin choice – Book accessible cabins well in advance as they are in high demand. The Travel with Special Needs travel consultants know the ships well and will help you with your cabin choice. The location can make the difference between a good cruise experience and a nightmare one (imagine being in the cabin beneath the dance floor).
Research shore excursions prior to booking – Not all shore excursions will be accessible. Some tenders may not be able to accommodate wheelchair users. Check with your travel consultant ahead of time.
Pack first day essentials in your hand luggage – It will take a while for your luggage to be delivered to your cabin on the first day of the cruise. Pack essentials in your hand luggage so you have access earlier in the day. Suggestions include, essential medication, swimmers (if you fancy hitting the pool early), a change of clothes and make up.
Repair kit – If you’re travelling with a wheelchair tool kit, pack it in your main luggage, not in your hand luggage, as security may confiscate it.
Pack duct tape – If the high seas become seriously rough you may need duct tape to stop drawers and doors from banging.
Choose your clothes wisely – Don’t pack clothes that crush easily as no irons are provided on ships. Choose items which will mix and match easily to eliminate over packing.
Take a lanyard – You’ll store your cabin key in your lanyard. If you have a spare one at home, take it to avoid buying one.
Pack magnetic hooks – Cabin space is limited. Maximise space by taking magnetic hooks. Place the hooks on the magnetic cabin wall so you can store your caps, cruise lanyard and bag away neatly and out of the way.
Under the bed storage – Store suitcases under the bed if they’ll fit. This will free up cabin space.
Buy before you sail – If you fancy lounging by the pool with a magazine, stock up before boarding the ship. There are no magazines available to purchase once on board. Chocoholics should take a little stash because sweet treats are more expensive on board.
Pre-purchase drinks – Consider purchasing a drinks package before departure to save money. Often once on board ships all charges are in US dollars. There are savings to be made by pre-paying for items prior to boarding as you will be charged in Australian Dollars and there are sometimes specials available. You can prepay for beverage packages and other activities ahead of time and save.
Book ahead – Pre-booking will ensure you don’t miss out on some of the most popular restaurants and shows.
Avoid illness – Pack your hand santiser and if you have compromised health, spray the air conditioner outlets with Glen 20, use antibacterial wipes on commonly used surfaces in your cabin like the remote control and light switches.
Bendy straws – With straws being removed from many venues, pack your own if needed. This also ensures the hygiene of the straw as it won’t have been accidentally touched by many hands.
First Aid Kit – A medical facility is available but save money and time by carrying basic supplies including paracetamol, sea sickness medication, medication for stomach upsets and Hydrolite or similar.
Prescribed medication – Ensure you have a good supply of your usual medication. In case of delays, take more than you’ll require for the number of days of travel. Ask if your doctor will prescribe a generalized antibiotic to cover you for common ailments. Carry a letter from your doctor listing the medications you are travelling with.
Bin liners – Many hotels and even cruise ships no longer line their bins with bags. If you are travelling with continence supplies, or even food, take some bin liners so you can discreetly tie up your rubbish to leave for the cleaners.
Power boards & extension leads – The majority of cruise lines do not allow passengers to bring these on board the ship. It’s advisable to contact the cruise company and fill out a Special Requirements form alerting the staff to your needs regarding charging or power needs.
Avoid long waits – Just like hotels, cruise ships have peak times when long waits occur for lifts. Try and get ahead of the pack for meal times and shore excursions by leaving earlier.
Dietary requirements – cruises can cater to specific dietary requirements and provide blended foods if needed. Advise your agent or the cruise company at the time of booking if this is required.
Buffet overload – The main buffet will be busy and popular so consider trying some of the smaller venues for breakfast and lunch. Although they won’t have the same range of food, it will be quieter.
A moment on the lips – Cruises are famous for the amount, and variety, of food on offer. It’s easy to over indulge, so remember to schedule some laps around the decks so that moment on the lips doesn’t turn into a lifetime on the hips, or belly!
Guests with a vision impairment– Some cruise ships will provide large print menus and orientation tours. Enquire when making a booking about this service.
Guests with a hearing impairment – Some cruise lines will provide visual or tactile alert systems for guests.
Guests with Autism or developmental disabilities – Priority boarding, dietary accommodation and other services are provided by some cruise lines.