How to Choose the Very Best Accessible Cruise (for YOU!)

By John Sage

Choosing the best accessible cruise for your accessibility needs and personal preferences can be overwhelming. When you start to look at all the different cruise lines, all the different cruise itineraries, the dates, and the various shore excursions, you can soon find yourself choosing from hundreds of options!

Many disabled and senior cruisers focus on the wrong aspects when selecting their cruise. They first pick a cruise line based on a friend’s recommendation or their own previous cruise experience. Next they select an itinerary that they like and book their cruise. Finally they check the accessibility of the ports. They end up staying on the ship in some of their cruise ports because they didn’t check the accessibility first!

Book a Cruise Package and Get 50 Off Each Shore Excursion

These 12 Steps to Choose the Best Accessible Cruise are proven to work! They will ensure you focus on the right things so you can quickly narrow down the options and select your perfect cruise!

1) Which ports do you want to visit? The first step in choosing the best accessible cruise should be figuring out where you want to go. While most travelers can visit any port that interests them, disabled travelers have to do some homework.

Mediterranean cruise port accessibility can vary great. The best accessible cruiseports have attractions within walking/rolling distance on the cruise dock (Monaco, Naples) while the least accessible cruise ports require using buses with steps to get anywhere (Livorno, shown on the right).

There’s no need to spend any days on your cruise trapped on the ship while other people go ashore…check out the accessibility of the ports before selecting the best accessible cruise.

2) Decide on your embarkation/disembarkation ports – Are there any cities that you would like to spend more time visiting before or after your cruise? The most popular embarkation ports in Europe are VeniceBarcelona, and London. Other popular cities include Rome (Civitavecchia), Naples, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and Athens.

Of all these cities, Barcelona and London are the best accessible cruise ports in terms of wheelchair accessibility. If there’s a particular city that you want to spend additional days in, you can quickly eliminate some cruise itineraries.

Barcelona and Venice are two great cities
to visit before or after your accessible cruise

3) Compare cruise itineraries – Many cruise lines run similar itineraries such as the popular “Grand Mediterranean” cruise between Barcelona and Venice.  However the subtle differences can make a big difference on your trip!

Sage Travel Tip: Research the ports before deciding on a cruise line!
Does one itinerary dock in Monaco and another one tenders in Villefranche?  You can see the same sights from either port so you will definitely want to go with the cruise that docks in Monaco!

Naples instead of Sorrento, Dubrovnik instead of Split, Mykonos instead of Santorini, Livorno instead of La Spezia…each of these choices can mean the difference between you enjoying world-class destinations or having to stay on the ship! Choose the best accessible cruise itinerary before deciding on a cruise line.

4) Decide on a time of year – Cruise ships generally relocate so that you get the best weather. Nevertheless, taking a Mediterranean cruise early in the season could mean it’s too chilly for pool time, and taking a cruise in early August could mean that your experience in Rome and Naples is scorching and exhausting.

There are also certain periods to avoid. If you want a relaxing time on the beaches, avoid the crowds in August.  Visit Venice during high water season, and you could be trapped by extensive flooding (shown in the photo on the right) throughout the city!

5) Choose your accessible cruise length – Cruise lengths vary drastically…from 1 day re-positioning cruises between London and Rotterdam, to 3 month long world-wide cruises. In the Mediterranean and Northern Europe, most of the itineraries are between 7 and 21 days.

The shorter cruises visit a smaller region (for example, Venice, Athens, and some Greek islands), while longer cruises such as the 12 Day Grand Mediterranean Cruise will have at least one “day at sea” built in and visit cities throughout the Mediterranean (such as Venice, Athens, Ephesus, Istanbul, Mykonos, Naples, Rome, Florence, Monaco, and Barcelona).

6) Decide on a cruise ship size – Cruise ships come in a variety of sizes. Smaller ships will mean shorter distances to travel onboard. Since the mega-ships are 1200 ft (360 meters) long, this can make a big difference to disabled passengers who can’t walk long distances. The smaller ships like Azamura, Regent, Crystal, and Seabourn are typically more luxurious and consequently cost more.

Small ships are the best accessible cruise option for many people because
they have shorter walking/rolling distances and shorter wait times to disembark

7) Pick a cruise line – Many people do this step first, but you should actually decide on the ports first before picking the cruise line!

While many cruise lines are similar, each tries to sell themselves a little differently. Do you want to choose a cruise that is “Fun for All. All for fun” or a cruise that is “A Signature of Excellence”?

The most popular companies are Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and Carnival (Carnival has fewer European itineraries). Other popular cruise lines are Celebrity, Princess, and Holland America. Premium lines include Azamura, Seabourn, and Crystal. The best accessible cruise for you will use a cruise line that fits your travel style.

8) Choose a sailing date – When choosing the best accessible cruise itinerary, you will need to factor in your accessibility needs and your energy level. “Days at sea” often give some much-needed rest and relaxation.

Look at how many hours are in each port…some itineraries may spend a half-day visiting your favorite port, while other itineraries give you a full day to explore. Our accessible cruise consultants can help with choosing your itinerary.

9) Select the cabin type – Cruise ships offer something for every traveler type. The best accessible cabin type for budget travelers will be interior cabins which are often at a rate 1/3 less than the rate of balcony cabins. At the other end of the spectrum, enormous suites with hot tubs on the balcony will make for a ultra-luxurious vacation!

10) Book your cruise – Now that you’ve selected your cruise line, your cruise itinerary, your cruise dates, and your cabin type, you’re ready to book the best accessible cruise for you! You can make your reservation directly with the cruise company, use a local travel agent, or book a discounted accessible cruise and excursion package. When you make the reservation, you’ll need to put down a deposit that is typically refundable before a certain date.

11) Book your pre/post-cruise activities – As mentioned in our Top 10 Europe Handicapped Travel Tips, booking your hotel early will allow you to save money and get a centrally-located accessible hotel. If you want to get the best hotels in the summer, you’ll need book 6 months in advance. Other times of year, you should book two or three months in advance. You’ll also want to book the tours and transportation in your destination city, although these are not as urgent. Accessible travel packages are available for AthensBarcelonaLondonRome, and Venice.

This accessible Athens hotel with a roll-in shower
is one of the many that we offer.

12) Book your accessible cruise excursions – You should have already confirmed that excursions that meet all of your accessibility needs are available in each of your ports.  Now is the time to make the reservations! If you’re traveling during the summer, accessible van transportation could get scarce in some ports. We’ve had to tell clients visiting Rome and Mykonos that all of the accessible vans are already booked. Make your excursion reservations two months in advance if you want to be safe. 

The best accessible cruise excursions use officially-licensed local tourist guides to explain the significance and history of the sights and share their culture with you. We provide accessible cruise excursions in numerous ports including AthensBarcelona,Florence (Livorno), the French RivieraIstanbulKusadasi & Izmir (Ephesus)Mykonos,Naples & SorrentoRome (Civitavecchia)Venice, and more.

If any of these essential steps seem too time consuming,
our accessible cruise consultants will plan your cruise for FREE!

Book a Cruise Package and Get 50 Off Each Shore Excursion

Read more:

Accessible Cruising in Europe
Accessible Cruise Travel vs. Accessible Land Travel
Choosing Your Accessible Cruise
13 Tips for Disabled Cruisers in Europe
Top 20 Accessible Mediterranean Cruise Itineraries
Accessibility Reviews of European Cruise Ports
Are Cruise Tenders Accessible?
Accessible Mediterranean Cruise Excursions
Discount Accessible Cruise & Excursion Packages
Cruise Port Accessibility Reviews
Athens (Piraeus) Cruise Port Accessibility
Barcelona Cruise Port Accessibility
Civitavecchia (Rome) Cruise Port Accessibility
Istanbul Cruise Port Accessibility
Kusadasi Cruise Port Accessibility
Livorno (Florence) Cruise Port Accessibility
Monaco Cruise Port Accessibility
Mykonos Cruise Port Accessibility
Naples Cruise Port Accessibility
Sorrento Cruise Port Accessibility
Venice Cruise Port Accessibility
Accessible Mediterranean Cruise Excursions
Athens Accessible Cruise Excursions
Barcelona Accessible Cruise Excursions
Civitavecchia (Rome) Accessible Cruise Excursions
Ephesus (Kusadasi & Izmir) Accessible Cruise Excursions
French Riviera Accessible Cruise Excursions
Istanbul Accessible Cruise Excursions
Livorno (Tuscany) Accessible Cruise Excursions
Mykonos Accessible Cruise Excursions
Naples Accessible Cruise Excursions
Venice Accessible Cruise Excursions
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