Traveling or taking a cruise can be difficult for children or adults with autism. Thankfully, cruise lines have added special programs and given their youth staff special training so everyone can enjoy taking a cruise. From Royal Caribbean’s industry leading programs to Disney Cruise Line, here are the best cruise lines for families living with autism.
Travel with peace of mind, thanks to Royal Caribbean’s new and existing amenities for individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities. These amenities available on Royal Caribbean cruise ships include:
- Enjoy complimentary television programming from The Autism Channel only on Royal Caribbean. Exclusive content includes entertainment and resources designed to enrich the lives of people with autism spectrum disorders.
- Family movies shown in a low-lit, low-volume, sensory friendly environment
- Toy lending bags with autism friendly toys
- Youth staff tour, consultation, and activities to accommodate the child’s speciﬁc needs
- A “social story” available online before cruising, helps parents explain the cruise experience
Other features available to these families are priority check-in, boarding and departure, special dietary accommodations that include gluten-free options, Adventure Ocean Youth Program flexible grouping for children three to 11 years old, and Adventure Ocean toilet-trained policy exception.
Royal Caribbean was named the world’s first ‘austim-friendly’ cruise line in 2014.
Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival Cruise Line works with parents or guardians to include all children within the designated age ranges in the available youth programs. Each child’s needs are assessed, on a case by case basis, to determine how she or he can be accommodated and integrated in the program to have a fully and equally enjoyable experience.
In order to participate in Carnival youth program activities, the parent or guardian will need to register their child for the program. When registering the child, the staff will work with the parents to determine what special assistance will help aid the youth staff in how to best serve the child while participating in the activities.
If a child with Autism is cruising, the family should meet with Guest Services upon embarkation to receive safety information and accommodations for the safety briefing.
Disney Cruise Line
Disney Cruise Line offers a number of service options for Guests with autism and other disabilities that impact their ability to wait in a line or remain in a crowded environment.
To see how Disney handles everything from embarkation to character meet and greets for children with autism, you can download a PDF full of information from their website here.
Celebrity Cruises offers a welcoming autism-friendly environment onboard its cruise ships. This includes sensory-friendly films and toys, dietary menu options, and overall autism-friendly training for Fun Factory staff.
In addition, Youth Staff have received autism awareness training which covers the following topics: characteristics of autism and developmental disabilities, and communication tactics, such as person-first language and terms, and skills to initiate a conversation with a parent about his or her child’s needs.
Services on Celebrity’s autism-friendly cruise ships include:
- Priority check-in, boarding and departure
- Special dietary accommodations including gluten-free and dairy-free
- Fun Factory flexible grouping by ability for children 3 to 11 years old
- Fun Factory toilet-trained policy exception
- Pagers/phones for parents of children while signed into the care of Fun Factory programs (subject to availability).
Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line has a dedicated team of experienced professionals who are available to assist guests with disabilities and other challenges before, during and even after your cruise.
Whatever your special requirements are, Norwegian Cruise Line will do whatever it reasonably can to accommodate you. But they do need adequate time to prepare for your arrival. Please make every effort to contact their Access Desk well in advance of your cruise – at least 90 days for interpreters and 45 days for all other requirements.
Autism on the Seas
Autism on the Seas provides staff assisted cruises throughout the year on multiple cruise lines. The cruise lines include Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, and Carnival Cruise line. They range from four to nine night cruises to the Caribbean, Bahamas, Alaska, and Bermuda.
More information can be found on their website at AutismontheSeas.com.
Their website also has a wealth of information, guides, and tips that helps families living with autism take vacations.