Thirty Tips for Newbie Cruisers with Autism

For anyone considering or already booked on a first-time cruise, here are thirty useful tips to help you get the most out of your cruise experience!

 


Before You Board

  • Before you board, be sure to get travel insurance.
    Although there is a doctor on board, they do not take Medicare or other private insurance, so without travel insurance, you would still have to pay for any unforeseen services.
    Check ahead of time what your travel insurance covers in case of medical emergencies related to autism.
  • You should pre-book your reservations for the spa, specialty restaurants and shore excursions you have your heart set on online.
    Once you have everything squared away, you’re ready to go!
  • Sign up for CruiseCritic’s roll call for your sailing to meet fellow passengers.
  • Notify the cruise line of any accommodations you and your family need.

When You Board

  • The cruise line hosts a Sail Away party that is lots of fun!
    At the start of your vacation, it’s an excellent way to meet others before you unpack and get together with friends and family.
  • The first day is essential for getting oriented and planning ahead, choosing activities you would like to do during the trip.
    Register for activities like the character breakfast, ice skating, Flowrider, cupcake decorating as soon as you get on board since there are also some discounts you might be able to benefit from if you sign up early and also some activities will fill up fast.
  • Head on to guest services and make sure that they are aware of your family’s special needs status.
  • Don’t forget to disable your kids’ card from charging in the stores, arcade and other venues. If you are afraid, they will make charges without your permission.

Tips for Newbie Cruisers with Autism chess

Aboard the Ship

Once you have gotten settled, there are all kinds of activities to do aboard the boat.
Make sure you check the daily cruise newsletter for announcements and information; since there is so much to do aboard, finding something for everyone is quite easy.

Shopping

  • Be a savvy consumer and get acquainted with jewelry and electronics prices before you board the ship to avoid overpaying. Remember, whatever you buy will be harder to fix overseas, and there are no returns.
  • The cosmetic store sells makeup (if you have not restocked your makeup in a while) and offers a free makeover, which would be perfect for tween and teen girls.
  • Careful with the duty-free items; check allowed quantities first and know you cannot use the alcohol during the trip. Only the last night (hint, hint).
  • On formal nights, they hold a $10 item sale where you can get fake jewelry and accessories that are perfect for the younger crowd.
  • Wait for the last day to purchase the ship logo store  T-shirts since some will go on sale  2-for-$20.

 

Entertainment and Sports

  • Involve your child in the ship’s activities by having him or her visit any venue first and ‘test the waters’.
    • On board, ships have an entire gym, bikes, boxing arenas, rope and rock climbing, paid yoga and pilates classes, pools for lap swimming, water polo, soccer, and volleyball; so there is always plenty to do.
      If your kid wishes to try independent activities like rock climbing, ice skating or the FlowRider ask the coordinator if you can arrive either ten minutes before the official start or after the action ends when there are fewer people, and your child can get more individualized attention.
    • Cruise lines now offer classes, so this may be a good opportunity to try something new: like scuba diving, cooking, cupcake decorating, or even scrapbooking and pottery making.Make sure you talk to the person in charge ahead of time so they can accommodate your kid.
  • In the case, you choose to let your child wander by himself/herself you should consider buying a set of high-quality walkies talkies to be in constant touch  with them or teach then and how to use the public phones available around the ship to call you and inform you of their whereabouts
  • You can watch free movies in the regular theater, the 3D theater, by the poolside, or even in your room.Be aware some ships also offer paid options for movies so you may want to block that if you don’t want to incur unauthorized charges.
  • You can borrow all kinds of games from the library for free, such as Sudoku, trivia, bridge, chess, scrabble, and Scattergories.Most ships offer Bingo with prizes for a nominal fee. If your kid wishes to attend, the Bingo sessions arrange for them to be seated in a quieter spot on the edge of the room away from the additional noise.
  • Remember to stay hydrated. It’s not necessary to pay for bottled water when you can get water from the nearest bar if you get thirsty.At night just call room service and ask for a free pitcher of cold water to be delivered to your room.

Tips for Newbie Cruisers with Autism ropes
When you go ashore, make sure you keep a few things in mind.

  • First of all, ship time and port time can be different at times (When traveling through various time zones ships might decide to adhere to one particular region to inconvenience their passengers less .) A good way to keep track of time is to keep your own watch on ship time and get a $10 watch that will show the port time.
  • Above all, don’t miss the ship! Yes, it will sail without you (some travelers with balconies admit that watching people miss the ship is a favorite pass time.)
  • Another tip to remember is to check the weather forecast for the week on the weather channel website.
    That way, you can choose shore activities that will be appropriate and realistic for the day.
  • As a newbie, you might want to take the cruise line tours for ports that are far from the attraction you wish to visit since those are the only shore excursions guaranteed to bring you back to the ship on time.
    Moreover, if they are delayed for any reason the ship waits for those passengers.
  • Be leery of paying a third-party guide ahead of time since sometimes the cruise ship may end up skipping a  port entirely due to unforeseen reasons.
    If you decide to pre-book a private tour and pre-pay (Which I don’t recommend), then check their refund policy and your travel insurance to make sure you are covered if something goes wrong.
  • Also double check the time it takes to get from the ship to your intended destination and back through traffic since if things don’t go as planned, you may miss your ship.
  • Make sure your child has some form of identification on their person at all times when going ashore, in case they get lost.
  • Parents of nonverbal kids with autism should look into using temporary tattoos with the child’s name and a cell number to call in case the child wanders off especially in a foreign country.
  • Prepare a small shore excursion bag with sunscreen, insect repellent, first aid kit and a small fan if temperatures get unbearably hot.
  • Always carry a bottle of water and some sealed snacks as some ports will not allow you to come ashore with any fresh food from the ship.

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Sea-trekking in the Cayman Islands

Guest post by Jeffrey Francus

             Sea-trekking in the Cayman Islands masks

       

 So what’s the scoop?

The frigid water was a sharp contrast to the balmy weather of the Caymans, I thought, stepping into the seas. Soon after plunging, a white, bulky helmet was thrust upon me, necessary apparel to breathe on the ocean floor. At that point, I had already become used to the cold water and wondered how much the white breathing helmet would weigh—the guide had told us that it was impossibly heavy on land—when I reached the sandy beach below.

Sea-trekking in the Cayman Islands man

“When you go down the ladder and into the water, it’ll start feeling lighter,” one of the guides assured me; I smiled nervously. Even if I had something, the helmet prevented any sound (like my voice) from being heard. As I descended the ladder, I saw the cloudless blue sky being replaced by the crystalline waters of the Caribbean ocean. The helmet presented no issue, but, as the guide had promised; my ears were popping.

Sea-trekking in the Cayman Islands fish

 

Scary but there’s a helping hand!

My discomfort must have been quite visible, as the second operator who was guiding me down the ladder motioned me to swallow and keep my jaws apart (to minimize building pressure). The ladder had ten steps, each foot and a half lower than the previous, and I was still on step one.

Sea-trekking in the Cayman Islands shorts

I continued down slowly but surely, finally reaching the halfway point, a crossroad—should I proceed into the unknown, or return to the safety of the boat? As I got deeper and deeper into the water, the popping intensified, and my rapid heartbeat and panicked demeanor did not help either. How could twenty feet feel so deep? Every impulse said to turn back, yet the allure of sea life up close made me persevere.Sea-trekking in the Cayman Islands group

Wow-corals!!

To quell my anxieties, I reminded myself that no known person has yet died from this—so far, though—but then, I see my parents and brother waiting impatiently on the sea bottom. So what’s it going to be? Throwing away my fear, I take another step, and feel the sandy floor of the sea. My jaw dropped and eyes opened: I was under the sea, watching fish float by in the waving coral!

The color, the light, the brightness, and intensity of it all! Disregarding safety and all, I rushed off the ladder and joined up with the group. Schools of fish of all colors floated nonchalantly by, grazing the coral and the open palms of group members holding food for them. The colors of the ocean floor and the life frolicking beneath the sea took my breath away ( not literally).Sea-trekking in the Cayman Islands swimming

My family’s  travels have exposed my brother and me to different cultures, tastes, sounds, and places. Yet, the Grand Caymans adventure holds importance because, as my travels as a young child to Yosemite, the Sea Trek endeavor this past April introduced us to the beauty of nature in the most far off of places.

While I was accustomed to beautiful buildings and artwork in cities, nature had always represented something to be avoided, because of my sensory integration disorder. I still recall the days when I would scream at the sight of sand or the potential touch of water, so to walk on the ocean floor for me was to accomplish the incredible.Besides, the sea trek adventure helped me combat one of my worst fears—fear of the unknown—and enjoy my time in the water, far out of my comfort zone.

Over the years, we’ve visited many places and seen many things, but this one qualifies as both the most educational and inspirational of them all. .Sea-trekking in the Cayman Islands yoga

So, after reading my story would you like to go sea-trekking with me next time I go?

 

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