Celebrity Cruises is known within the disability community as being more accessible than other lines due to the perception the line caters to an older demographic. While we didn’t notice a heavily skewed older demographic on our 4 night Caribbean cruise we did notice that we had very few concerns with wheelchair accessibility.
Feature of Accessible Cabins
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We booked two balcony staterooms across the hall from one another for our family of 4: cabins 6107 and 6108. I would have preferred adjoining cabins but 6107 was the last accessible cabin available so I took the closest non-accessible cabin I could find.
There are only 26 accessible cabins on the Constellation (typical of most cruise ships) so booking early is key when cruising with a mobility disability. Cabin 6107 was twice the size of 6108 to accommodate the accessibility features.
There was ample room for the chair to move about the cabin and the bathroom had a roll-in shower.We pulled the twin beds farther apart to allow my son to roll up to the bed easier. This modification of ours made it impossible for him to use the wide wooden ramp to the balcony. (Hint: the ramp is hidden under the bed.) We ended up just helping him roll the chair over the threshold when he wanted to sit on the balcony. He attempted once to visit us in our non-accessible cabin and could not roll his chair into the entrance. If you are a full-time chair user, there is no way to make a non-accessible cabin work.
Accessibility Challenges Onboard the Ship
Access onboard the ship was not an issue except for a few entrances. My son struggled most with the one on Deck 12 by Tuscan Grille because it was a tight fit and an odd tipping angle.
Access to the pools was a source of frustration. At the time of our sailing, there was one pool lift which allowed a wheelchair user to access a Jacuzzi in the Solarium. The Solarium is a kid-free zone which left our 14-year-old wheelchair user unable to enjoy the fun of the outdoor pools.
I had a chance to speak with the hotel director while onboard. We discussed the few challenges we had experienced and he explained that the ship would be dry docking on April 13, 2013, and they were looking forward to addressing some of the threshold issues that had been brought to their attention as well as installing more pool lifts.
I was impressed with our conversation and the level of knowledge he displayed about the wheelchair community and the challenges we face while traveling.
Accessibility at Ports of Call
This cruise docked at both Key West, Florida, and Cozumel, Mexico. Being in the US and under ADA laws, I did not expect to have difficulty in Key West and that was indeed the case. We were relegated to sight-seeing as few port excursions are equipped to handle manual non-folding wheelchairs. But we found the town charming and had a nice lunch at Sloppy Joes.
The people at Old Town Trolley Tours went out of their way to make sure we had accessible transportation and I highly recommend using them.In Cozumel. The ship’s excursion crew helped us locate a wheelchair accessible van and we spent the day on the beach at Playa Mia where they had sand wheelchairs and accessible swimming pools. The people in Cozumel were helpful and gracious in dealing with the wheelchair.
We found booking through the cruise line was less expensive than if we have tried to plan it on our own and we felt safer that if anything went wrong the ship knew where we were headed.
Overall Accessibility Experience
This being our first cruise with our son, I was anxious how he would do. I am happy to report that it was a great first experience.Our family is looking forward to cruising more together. We will have to do extensive research on the ports of call of any cruise we choose because sadly, accessibility is not a given in other parts of the world. Ports that require tenders are going to be nearly impossible for us to disembark.
Making sure the ship that we choose is one we won’t mind staying on most of the cruise is going to be especially important. I would love to revisit The Constellation and see how accessibility has improved after her dry dock makeover. With just the few minor things we encountered fixed, this is a ship we would be more than happy to stay aboard for at least 5 days.
Barb Likos and her family of four travel often and she writes about the world of travel from the perspective of having a full time wheelchair using teenage son in the mix. Her goal is to help all families with mobility challenges enjoy travel by giving you the information you need to plan successful trips.