Which Cruise to Book when Traveling with Autism

 Which Cruise to Book when Traveling with Autism ship

The New Year has finally arrived, and it is time to start planning your family’s travel for the coming spring and summer. You’ve heard all about them and have finally decided to take the proverbial plunge and go on that first family cruise.With so many choices out there: how do you choose a cruise that all family members will enjoy including your child with autism? Here are some tips to help you decide which cruise to book when traveling with autism.

Which Cruise to Book when Traveling with Autism pool

 

 

For Outdoor Lovers

If you and your family like to spend time outdoors, then Alaska should top your list since it remains one of the few unspoiled natural wonders, still readily available for travelers to enjoy.
For the traveler with autism shore excursions like dog sledding, glacier trekking, and white water rafting can become the epitome of sensory experiences.
Multiple cruise lines have ships offering seven-day Alaskan itineraries, during in which you can visit the small but quaint towns of Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway.
Prices can range between 100 and 150 dollars a day per person, depending on the month and ship you choose. Airfare for a round-trip starting and ending in the same port is usually cheaper than open-jaw tickets (where you fly into one city and return from another.)
Cruise lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Princess are by far the most family-oriented and provide the best activities in their kids’ clubs.

Which Cruise to Book when Traveling with Autism adult pool

 

For History and Art buffs.

For families with autism that enjoy history, archeology, art, and architecture, a Mediterranean cruise is a perfect choice. There are two main itineraries during the spring and summer: westbound, which covers Spain, the south of France, and Italy, or eastbound, which usually include Italy, Turkey, and Greece.

Both itineraries are huge crowd-pleasers and are bound to captivate and supply your family with great stories and cherished memories. Visiting world-famous museums, churches, mosques, and famous battlefields quite cheaply on your vacation while sampling the local foods will expose your child with autism to new cultures and experiences.

Travel in late spring is recommended for families on a budget especially if your kid with autism is heat-intolerant and can’t wait in long queues. Many European travelers like the MSC, Costa, and Fred Thompson Cruise lines that are cheaper than their US counterparts but may not cater as well to the American guest.

American cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Lines, and Carnival offer the European itineraries this year, leading to a wider price diversity of between 150 and 300 dollars per person per day, depending on the ship and date of sailing.

Which Cruise to Book when Traveling with Autism mini golf

 

 

For Thrill Seekers

Is your kid with autism a thrill-seeker who likes to push it to the limit? Then, a Caribbean cruise is the one to take.
Multiple cruise lines circulate the tiny islands, offering their travelers action-packed vacations.
You can try activities like zip-lining, rock climbing, swimming with dolphins, snorkeling scuba diving, and horseback riding, all in less than a week.

Check out the newer mega-ships that provide additional thrills on board, like Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas. They feature onboard ice skating and rock climbing lessons, surfing simulators, zip lining, as well as a boardwalk-like section complete with a hand-painted carousel and other attractions.
Older ships offer SeaTrek Scuba lessons, golf simulators, and mini-golfing, in addition to Ping-Pong tables, basketball courts, and a professional running track.

NCL’s Epic offers a bowling alley, batting cages, a bungee trampoline, an enormous rock-climbing wall, a rope adventure course, a 24-foot climbing cage named Spider Web, and a rappelling wall where you descend instead of climbing.

Prices, especially on Royal Caribbean, tend to be on the high-end during the summer and holidays, often reach 190 to 230 dollars per person per day; however, there are some real bargains offered if your travel dates are flexible.

Which Cruise to Book when Traveling with Autism flowrider

 

 

For  Theme Park and or Animation Junkies

For those who wish to extend their Disney exposure past Disney World, there’s the Disney cruise line option that supplies you with pirate deck parties with the only firework at sea show allowed, original stage performances, and character appearances.

The goal is to make you feel the magic from the moment you board, starting with the ship’s horns playing “When You Wish Upon a Star” when setting sail.
But the Disney Magic does not come cheap—be prepared to shell out anywhere between 100 dollars per person per day off season to 280 dollars per person per day during summer vacation or the holidays.

If you are cruising from Florida, a close second is Royal Caribbean, which has just signed a new collaboration program with Dream Works that includes character breakfasts, character parades and ice shows, and even 3D movie experiences on its newer ships.

In an effort not be left behind, NCL has also teamed with Nickelodeon for slime game show fun, Dora, and Spongebob sightings, and other on board surprises on two of its ships—the Epic and Jewel.

 

 

Which Cruise to Book when Traveling with Autism shows

For Volunteers

If you enjoy volunteering, you should consider doing so on your next family cruise. Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans accepts volunteers for the day, as do some of the orphanages in Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan or Puerto Vallarta all stops on a Mexican Riviera cruise.
Working with a charity organization during your journey makes for an excellent opportunity to teach your son or daughter compassion and ways to lend a helping hand in society. If that’s not feasible, you could always organize a fundraiser in your community and bring or buy much-needed items to donate.

Make sure you contact the facility first and tell them of your intention; don’t just show up there unannounced. Prices are moderate—80-140 dollars per person per day—but satisfaction is priceless!

 

Which Cruise to Book when Traveling with Autism charity walk

 

Final Tip

Even if you plan every detail of your vacation, your first cruise may not go quite as planned.
It may take several cruises to discover which cruise style works best for your family. So, if you find out that one type didn’t work, don’t give up and try a different one.

 

 

 

The Autistic Friendly Carnival Legend

 

We arrived at Tampa pier at two o’clock, after finding out they started boarding by one.After notifying one of the porters that we are traveling with special needs persons, they called their supervisor immediately, and we received VIP treatment.
Aldona, a Carnival superior took us to an air conditioned lounge and took care of our embarkation paperwork in less than five minutes.
A unique port security person accompanied us, carrying our luggage on a trolley up to the autistic friendly Carnival Legend ‘s entrance.

The Autistic Friendly Carnival Legend SHIP

The ship

The muster drill was a breeze too-Carnival provided a special enough air conditioned lounge for the special needs persons.

Moreover, the crew members handed out a printed page with instructions on what to do in case of a real emergency.

The Autistic Friendly Carnival Legend DESSERT
Dining

In the main dining room, our excellent Maitre D’, Ken made sure we had a separate table for four.He came every night to make sure Jeffrey got his blue cheese dressing for his salad!Our servers were excellent and remembered everyone’s likes and dislikes, especially our son’s.
On the very last night, they even surprised him with two portions of bread pudding that were not on the menu.Everyone in the main dining room was extremely helpful during breakfast and lunch times too, catering patiently to our every need.We enjoyed both formal nights, especially since the boys were not required to wear a jacket, tie, or even a long sleeve shirt.
Instead, I brought short sleeve, button down, pure silk Hawaiian shirts [twenty dollars at our local costco], and soft cotton long pants from Nordstrom’s, that magically make even huge lobster butter stains disappear, in contact with soap detergent and water, for them to wear.

The Autistic Friendly Carnival Legend SURF TURF

Our Cabin

Our room steward was equally helpful, supplying our room with extra towels, pillows, and sheets on a daily basis. After complaining about the warm temperature in our room, and the technician’s failure to correct the issue, the chief engineer came to our cabin in person to oversee what could be done.
Moreover, the hotel manager came to our table, in person, to ask us if everything had been corrected.

 

The Autistic Friendly Carnival Legend CABIN

On the third day, the boys each got a bag of goodies from Club O2, accompanied by a personal invitation.They politely declined, but enjoyed the gift bag nonetheless.
The truth is we were all pretty tired from the daily trips we took and chose to bond as a family over the great option the cruise line offers of pay-per-view movies in the room.Room service, a favorite with most kids, was unusually fast with orders, even at peak hours.

The Autistic Friendly Carnival Legend FRIENDS

The captain was gracious to sign Jeff’s ceramic ship model, while Wee Jimmy, the Legend’s cruise director gave him a ship on a stick.Needless to say, Jeff’s was floating in souvenir heaven.

Luckily, we managed to visit all our intended ports of Grand Cayman, Belize, Roatan and Cozumel but did get some windy days from the end tail of tropical storm turned hurricane, Alex.

The Autistic Friendly Carnival Legend CAYMAN

The important lesson to learn is that during hurricane season you should book your shore tours through the cruise ship, especially in ports that require tendering, as you never know when the high winds will pick up and change your plans!

In the Grand Cayman, we visited the sandbar with stingrays and a turtle farm, both great sensory, and educational tools. Skip the little town of Hell which is a store selling funny t-shirts with an owner dressed as the devil, unless you want to sample a different sensory perspective of surprise hugging and kissing.

The Autistic Friendly Carnival Legend ROATAN

Snorkeling in Roatan and Belize was amazing, and I do have to commend the tiny local sand flies that are ever so polite, you don’t even notice when they come, bite and leave.Even better is the fact the bite sites do not itch and disappear overnight.

The Autistic Friendly Carnival Legend PARROTS

In Cozumel, we opted to explore the Eco park of Xcaret, with its caves, lazy river, zoos and turquoise lagoon.If you ever decide to go, make sure you pay a visit to the magnificent butterfly garden and the rainbow colored macaws that use discarded feathers to clean out their beaks!

The Autistic Friendly Carnival Legend HAMMOCK

Disembarkation was an easy affair too, and we reached Tampa airport in plenty of time to spare, after using Alamo’s free shuttle.Completing the memorable experience, United Airlines decided to upgrade the four of us to first class on the Tampa-Dulles segment and to Business class on the Dulles-Los Angeles flight, by itself a memorable event on a historic day.

Happy July 4th everyone!

Cabin Accommodations for Travelers with Autism

Cabin Accommodations for Travelers with Autism pin

For parents of kids with autism, one of the best tips I can give when taking a cruise is to get the kids acclimated to their cabin as fast as possible.The key to doing that is communicating with the cabin steward efficiently and relaying the necessary accommodations to him or her as soon as possible. For those not acquainted with how to do so here are a few useful tips to follow so you can get the necessary cabin accommodations for travelers with Autism.

Meet your cabin attendant as soon as possible

Try to meet your room steward as soon as possible after boarding, since it might be necessary to make certain adjustments to your cabin.Be patient, courteous and remember they are busy and tired, particularly on embarkation days when they wake up early and have the task of clearing the cabins to prepare them for next travelers.After the usual pleasantries exchange , asks him or her for the following cabin accommodations.

Clear the fridge

Ask the steward to clean out the cabin fridge of sodas, snacks and alcohol as soon as possible so you can store your foods and beverages that you bring back from the buffet or room service to help with those late night hunger attacks.
Another good reason to do so is the sensors on the fridge door might falsely charge your cabin account for an item even though you only moved it to a different location inside the refrigerator to make room for your bottle of water.
Carnival Legend:Towel Animal

Remove  Breakables 

To avoid accidents injuries or damages ask for any breakable objects like standing lamps, glass tops and mirrors to be removed from the cabin especially if your kid has a history of meltdowns s or likes to touch everything.
Inquire about the availability of guard rails for the lower beds if you are concerned your child is in danger of falling out of bed.

Ask for hypo-allergenic bedding 

If you have a pronounced feather allergy like I do, ask for hypoallergenic bedding (including pillows and blankets) as well as a complete change of your bed linens to make sure there aren’t any allergen residues on the bed.
Most cabins have the possibility of separating the large main bed into two twins, so you might want the room steward to do that for you as soon as possible. Not only will it provide you with a slightly larger area to move about, but it also might be helpful if your young family members decide to play “musical beds” and switch beds in the middle of the night.
If your family members enjoy afternoon naps tell your steward you would like the beds ready 24/7 otherwise you might find the top bunks or sofabed closed till the evening.

Cabin Accommodations 4 Travelers With Autism:Our Cabin

Request  an extra tv remote control and  additional seating

Getting an extra TV remote and chairs to sit on is always a good idea as most cabins have one single seat that is not enough for a family of four.Extra chairs might prove helpful as an additional door block if your child wanders and needs to be stopped from exiting the room at night.

Ask for extra  linens

If your child has ‘night accidents’ or suffers from OCD  and takes several showers during the day you need more than your usual linen and towel allotment. It is much easier to get extra supplies in the cabin ahead of time than to sit on the phone with guest services begging for the items in the middle of the night.

Ask  to turn the room speaker volume off

If your child is noise sensitive, the loud daily announcements will bother him or her so it is better to turn the volume off inside the cabin.You can still listen to the reports by opening the cabin door or reading the daily newsletter.

Tips For Boarding A Cruise Ship With Autism

Tips For Boarding A Cruise Ship With Autism muster drill     

Boarding a cruise ship is exciting, but it can also be stressful if one travels with kids, especially ones with autism.
You get past security, enter the cabin to put your luggage and at that point, all everyone wants is to relax.
However, when traveling with autism, it is imperative to check on certain accommodations to make sure that everything will run smoothly and that everyone including your child with autism will enjoy the vacation.
If you haven’t cruised before and aren’t sure what to do here are some tips for boarding a cruise ship with Autism to start you off on the right path.

  The VIP desk

Make sure you fill all the pre-boarding paperwork online and arrive at the pier an hour after the initial crowds board the ship.This way, the check-in lines are less crowded, and the staff is less stressed and more helpful.
If your kid with autism cannot wait in-line, head on to the VIP/handicap desk equipped with your medical documents, and ask for expedited embarkation.

Don’t use porters

The best way to ensure both the safety of your luggage along with your quick embarkation or disembarkation is to carry your suitcases onboard on your own.Luggage for your kid with autism may include special medications, clothing, bedding and toys that might not readily be available to re-purchase if destroyed or lost (which will lead to meltdowns that can ruin the family’s trip) should be handled solely by you.
Clearly,  this suggestion is not for everybody, as it does translate into fewer items packed, and might not prove feasible to some.

Head on to the Service Desk

  • Ask to do the muster drill in an air-conditioned room, or if you can send a representative from your group to the muster drill. Make sure later that evening to take your entire group to the assigned evacuation spot so you will know exactly where it is.
  • Ask the customer service representative to make sure that your kid cannot charge anything to their ship card, including at the video games arcade onboard.Also, ask to block the pay-per-view in the room option, so you don’t get charged for the same movie 51 times  (happened to us, true story) when you have a child enamored with pressing buttons continuously like mine.
  • Be advised that all cruise lines provide all kids under the age of eleven with an ID bracelet, to help during emergencies. If your child cannot wear one, ask if you can replace it with a tag attached to his/her clothing at all times, or look into those non-permanent tattoos you can stick on during the cruise. Wearing an ID is an important safety issue, and any problems with it need to be addressed with the ship’s personnel.If your child likes shows but is noise or light-sensitive, remember to request reserved back and aisle seating for the evening shows, so you can skip waiting in the long lines and exit the theater fast without disturbing anyone.
  • If your child wishes to attend the kids’ club, onboard you should seek a meeting with the supervisor and or youth counselor to tell them in person, of any needs your child has.Boarding time is also the time to double check that any pre-bookings you made to restaurants, shows, and shore excursions are recorded correctly to avoid possible mishaps.

In the Cabin

  • Make sure you meet and chat with your cabin attendant as soon as possible, so he or she knows what accommodations your child needs.This way your child will feel comfortable in the cabin from the very first day.
  • If you are cruising a ship that offers specialized dining and you have made  any booking: check to see that your bookings are in order and that the restaurant staff knows of any special diet or request.

Benefits of Cruising For Travelers With Autism

 

At first, many parents to kids with autism tend to shy away from cruising; thinking that spending multiple days confined in a ‘swim box’ is just horrifying.
All they can imagine for their vacation days are endless stares and nasty comments from fellow passengers, dramatic meltdowns, and incessant whining from their family members.
As I see it, cruises are not only a great value for the budget conscience family but beneficial for travelers with autism as they provide the perfect learning platform in a relaxed and fun environment.

Benefits of Cruising for the Travelers with Autism ship

Exposure to an incredible variety of foods

Between the main dining room and the buffet, your kid with autism will be tempted to sample many dishes that he or she have never seen before. Since tastes change, you never know when you might return home with a kid who is absolutely in love with mushrooms and asparagus! In our case our son fell in love with escargot on his first cruise experience and still likes to order them every time he finds them offered on the menu.

Benefits of Cruising for the Travelers with Autism soup

Participation in group activities or games

At home, our son never waited for his turn and was always the sore loser in board games. So naturally I was reluctant to pay and have him participate in the ship’s bingo games.But he promised to be on his best behavior if I did take him, so I caved in. And I was surprised when he didn’t seem to mind waiting patiently and losing at Bingo or Trivial Pursuit to other passengers.

Benefits of Cruising for the Travelers with Autism hall

Collectors Paradise

Cruising is a golden opportunity to collect both ship and port memorabilia. Ship memorabilia includes anything with the vessel’s name or logo, including free daily newsletters. Port memorabilia can be anything from the corny t-shirts, pens or caps to maps, napkins, and public transportation tickets.

When we first started cruising with our kids, they were very young, so they collected all the free pamphlets and trinkets they could lay their hands on.

When they grew older, they learned to save their weekly allowance so they would have the money to buy more expensive souvenirs at the different ports we visited. In our son’s case, he has a designated corner in his room with everything he has amassed from years of travel and he likes to look at them to remind him of his various travels.

 

Benefits of Cruising for the Travelers with Autism dolls

Introduction to thrill sports

Do you get to parasail the Caribbean, zip line a tropical forest, rock climb or ice-skate on-board, pet dolphins, manatees, or sea lions every day? That’s what you’ll be doing for an entire week when you go on a cruise!

When we first started traveling, we were the epidemy of couch potatoes.Yet, for the week, we are on board a ship we all become adventurous and try new sports at least once.

Benefits of Cruising for the Travelers with Autism ropes

cruise ship is akin to living in a small village where everyone is in a good mood for a week, so it is a terrific opportunity for your child to practice their social skills. The more your kids cruise and are exposed to other passengers, the better they will learn how to interact with different people. We were surprised on one of our cruises when our son hit it off with an older gentleman who turns out was a television producer and chatted for over two hours about the future of children’s programming.

 

Benefits of Cruising for the Travelers with Autism formal night
Have you taken your child with Autism on a cruise?  What did you find was the most beneficial experience for them?

 

 


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