Traveling parents of children with autism often have many concerns over cruising. However, many common concerns are either unfounded or easily remedied. Here are some cruising concerns we frequently hear about and how families can navigate them and enjoy cruising.
Cabin is too Small for my Child
The average inside cabins encompass about 160 square feet, so it is no surprise that they can feel a bit claustrophobic. However, there are options on the bigger and more modern ships for larger family style cabins or two connecting inside cabins. These options provide much more space for families.
Balcony cabins aren’t recommended for most special needs families due to safety reasons, especially for younger kids with autism who don’t have an understanding of danger.
My Kids is a Picky Eater and on a Special Diet
Nowadays cruise lines do a great job of accommodating everybody’s needs. The dining areas now frequently offer gluten-free and low-salt items. Most restaurants offer vegan items as well. Parents can sometimes request a particular dish, especially in the main dining room at night.
Ships are Too Crowded
Many times we hear that people don’t like the big ships, especially the larger ones that have 4000 people on them. However, parents should remember that 4000 people are never in the same place at once. People do different activities in different parts of the ship, and since the ship is large, there are many activities spread out in various areas.
Parents of children with autism can request accommodations during boarding or disembarkation. That way, families won’t ever have to face the crowds. There are quiet areas and even serenity decks on some ships so finding a quiet or uncrowded area is as easy as asking a cruise director or purser for suggestions.
We Might Hear Nasty Remarks
All parents of kids with autism face nasty comments at a particular point in their lives. Our best advice would be for parents to ignore them. If they are rude or even insulting, then there’s not much to say to the offending person except to either just ignore what they said, move to another area or perhaps pass out informational cards on autism.
If somebody asks questions, this would be a great opportunity for parents to educate others about autism. Such a situation has the potential to be a great thing because parents can raise autism awareness and help the autism community.
Activities are Unsuitable
On older ships, this used to be a problem because all the events meant either coloring in the kids club or sitting drinking a beer and playing bingo or trivia. That is no longer the case nowadays as the ships are filled with activities. On Norwegian cruise line, kids can enjoy a rope course. There are shows and parties for everyone in the family to enjoy. Parents can take their children to classes on cupcake decorating, dancing, cooking, photography, or computer programming.
As an example, RCCL recently teamed with DreamWorks and NCL with Nickelodeon. Therefore, there are now character breakfasts, parades, and other themed activities.
If some things aren’t comfortable for them, kids can still either use the pool or watch TV. A lot of the cruise lines show kids movies at the pool or kids clubs. Some even have theaters. Of course, if all else fails, most of the modern ships have WiFi. A lot of the new ships also have Nintendo and other electronic games. Whenever parents come on board, they can just communicate their needs to the activities manager or the youth director.
Cruise Ships are Dangerous for Our Child
Once in a while, we hear from parents concerned about safety on ships. These are colossal ships, especially the newer ones with 4000 people.
First, parents should not get a balcony cabin. As romantic as it sounds, unless the kid knows not to lean on ledges or overboard then parents much better off in an inside cabin.
Parents should bear in mind that the pools on the cruise ships do not have lifeguards. Parents of children who wander off should choose a cabin away from pools, places with water, and elevators.
Cruise ships don’t have supervision except for a few safety officers. Parents should go to them if their child goes missing. They have procedures and can start looking for a lost child immediately.
We Won’t be Relaxed
Most of us want to go on vacation and relax. However, parents of children with autism might worry they will have to be hyper vigilant at all times. Kids will likely be excited to be on the cruise ship and maybe want to explore. Meanwhile, parents will want to get a massage or at least sit by the pool.
Parents should think of either teaming up with another family member to help watch the kids or bring a caregiver. They could even team up with several other parents of children with autism and take turns, especially during the activities.
Cruises are too Expensive
Pricing is a factor for many people going on cruises, especially the modern crew ships with the endless activities. Families should seek bargains at every opportunity.
We recommend traveling off-season for many reasons. There are fewer guests on board and families will get more personalized attention. The silver lining to going off-season is the fact that the prices can be almost 50% off compared to the summers or holidays.
Cruises are too Long
The average cruise is seven days for most first timers. Parents of children who react adversely to changes might want to consider a shorter journey. These shorter cruises of three to five days can be hard to find, but they do exist. We recommend starting with these to get children acclimated to cruising. Then if they enjoy themselves, parents can always book a longer cruise later.cruises of three to five days can be hard to find, but they do exist. We recommend starting with these to get children acclimated to cruising. Then if they enjoy themselves, parents can always book a longer cruise later.
Have you taken a cruise with your special needs kid? What was your experience?