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Travel Tips for the Visually Impaired
Travel Tips for the Visually Impaired
Part Six - Cruise Ships

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Travel Tips for the Visually Impaired
Part Six - Cruise Ships

By Rochelle Caviness - July 23, 2002

Guide Dogs

Most cruise ships are very accommodating when it comes to traveling with a guide dog. However, if the ship makes port calls, you may not be able to bring your dog along for two reasons. 1) If the ship stops at a port in country or state with quarantine regulations, your dog will be subject to such a quarantine if you bring them off the ship. 2) Many cruise lines make port calls in locations where they cannot actually dock at a pier. In these cases, passengers are ferried to the landing in smaller boats called tenders. It can be very difficult, and dangerous to try to transfer your dog to one of these smaller boats, and most cruise lines will not even attempt the maneuver. In both cases, you can still visit the various ports, but you'll just have to leave your dog behind on the ship. Kennel facilities are usually available for such occasions, but it is always wise to check with the cruise line first, as services can vary greatly from ship to ship.

On all cruise lines, you will be required to keep your dog under control at all times. Most ships will have a limited area in which you can walk your dog - and you will be required to pick up after him. You will also have to feed your dog yourself, even if the cruise line provides the food.

If you will be traveling with a guide dog, let the cruise line know in advance. And be sure to enquire if you will be able to take your dog with you if you visit the various ports of call that ship makes. Also be sure to ask if the ship will provide the dog food, or if you need to bring you own. In addition, some cruise line may require that you provide evidence that your guide dog is in good health, and that he is current on his vaccinations.

Passports & Other Necessary Documents

If you leave the cruise ship to visit a foreign country, you may have to go through that country's customs and passport control. Consequently, you may need to produce a valid passport and visa (if required) in order to gain entry. You may also be asked to show an additional form of ID, such as your birth certificate combined with a picture ID such as a driver's license. These requirements may vary depending upon the destination and the cruise line you will be traveling on - so it is always wise to enquire about what you will need before setting forth on your journey.


Just as when you fly on an airplane, cruise lines make all of their passengers go through a security screening before boarding the ship. In addition, all passenger cruise ships have onboard security personnel. You will also have to pass through 'security' every time you disembark or re-embark on the ship during port calls. You may also have to go through customs screening every time you enter a new port or country.

Onboard Health Care

All cruise ships have medical personnel onboard. However, the level of service provided can vary greatly from ship to ship. If you have any medical problems or concerns, check with your cruise line to see if the ship you will be traveling on has the facilities to meet your medical needs. In an emergency, onboard personnel will stabilize the patient, so that they can be transferred to the nearest hospital, if the patient cannot be treated onboard the ship. You may also want to check to see if your current medical insurance policy will provide coverage while you are on a cruise. If not, you may be able to purchasing travel medical insurance, to cover you should a medical emergency arise while onboard the ship.

Accessibility features on cruise ships for the visually impaired.

Accessibility features can vary from cruise line to cruise line, and even from ship to ship in the same fleet. However, for visually impaired individuals, cruise ship travel should present no more problems that you would expect when staying at a luxury hotel. You may have to spend some time getting oriented to your new surroundings. And, you'll most likely have to deal with keyless locks, and similar items that you would find in hotel or spa situations. Otherwise, it should be fairly normal other than the floor may have a tendency to sway. Plus, the food is great, and in most cases, very abundant! For some general travel trips, including a neat trick for dealing with the cards used in keyless lock systems, see the first article in this series, General Overview.

To find out exactly what features and services will be available on the ship on which you will be traveling, you will need to contact the cruise line. Don't forget to ask about braille or large print menus. If they don't normally carry such items, they may be able to provide them to you if they have enough advance warning.

If you will need special assistance while onboard, let the cruise line know well in advance. This will give them time to determine if they can provide the service requested, and if so, to make any arrangements needed.

In most case, elevators will have braille markers and individual floors will be noted by an audio signal. Normally, traveling on a cruise ship will be no different from spending time in a luxury hotel.

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