Eight Cruise Line Accommodations to Request When Traveling with Autism

Eight Cruise Line Accommodations to Request When Traveling with Autism pin

For parents of children with autism or other special needs, there is more to planning a cruise than making reservations. Booking is only the first step for families to ensure their needs are met. Here are eight cruise line accommodations parents should consider requesting.

Eight Cruiseline Accommodations to Request When Traveling with Autism ship

Boarding

The port is often noisy and chaotic with hundreds of people waiting to board. It is best for parents of children with autism to request pre-boarding ahead of time. However, for families who don’t, the cruise line personnel will still be there to help upon arrival.

Parents should ask a company representative to help their family go to the VIP or suites boarding area. The service people there are savvy and experienced and have fewer passengers to deal with. If all else fails, parents can ask for wheelchair assistance.

Tips for First Time Families Cruising with Autism food

 

Dining

Those who want to dine in the dining room fast with little waiting time should ask to talk to the maître d directly, explain their situation, and ask for a particular location of table or time.
Many cruise lines have special events with loud singing in the dining room so parents might want to request a quiet corner. If the child starts feeling uncomfortable, parents can also ask the waiter for permission to take the food out to the cabin. Some eateries like O’Sheehan’s Irish Pub on the Norwegian Breakaway wrap the dishes with saran wrap for passengers.
If these options don’t work, families can always dine at the buffet or order room service.

Eight Cruise Line Accommodations to Request When Traveling with Autism show

 

Shows

Parents of children who want to attend the shows but can’t wait in long lines should know that guests line up by the door to get good seats as early as half an hour in advance.
Therefore, parents should not only book tickets in advance but call Guest Relations and let them know their need to be pre-seated. At times Guest Relations or the Activities Director can even give families VIP seats. They have even been known to bring chairs and place them in the very back of the theater away from the crowds for guests if necessary.

Sometimes, children will want to see a specific show on the cruise, but tickets will get sold out. In this situation, parents should contact Guest Services and ask to be put on a waitlist. Last minute unexpected cancellations always happen.

 

 Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess show

Stimulation Overload

For children who want to attend a show but might find it an overwhelming sensory experience, parents should ask the Access Desk or Guest Services to hold seating near the theater exit for a quick exit if need be. Furthermore, some cruise lines like NCL provide headphones to kids with autism upon request.

Eight Cruiseline Accommodations to Request When Traveling with Autism pool

Meet and Greet Characters

Some ships offer “meet and greet” character experiences just like theme parks do, but these events often have long lines. Parents should go to Access Desk or Customer Service on the ship and ask if they could be first in line. During our trip with Norwegian Cruise Lines, the Nickelodeon* staff in charge of the Meet and Greet was incredibly attentive and accommodating. The lady remembered our son from the morning activity and helped him on the line in the evening.

*This partnership has come to an end since our last cruise with NCL.

Eight Cruise Line Accommodations to Request When Traveling with Autism flowrider

 

Sports Activities

It is best to book activities in advance. Parents can show their child what activities are offered onboard and ask which ones he or she would like best.

If there is one that they are unsure about, it is always better to book and later cancel than not to book at all. Parents can also ask the Access office if their child can try the activity before the attraction opens to the public or right after it closes. This way the staff might be able to give the child more specialized attention and keep them safer.

Eight Cruise Line Accommodations to Request When Traveling with Autism kids

 

Kids Club Activities

Parents may want their child to enjoy the Kid’s Club, but the child might not fit into their age group.
In this case, after booking parents should let the Access desk know they wish to use the Kids Club and detail their child’s capabilities so the staff can best try to accommodate families. In some cases, the team will place older sibling with a younger acquaintance or sibling to assist the younger child.

For arts and crafts projects, parents can ask the staff member in charge if the family can take the activity to a quieter place like an empty lounge or the cabin. During one cruise, our son was given a full set of markers and two T-shirts to take back to the cabin thereby preventing a meltdown.

Eight Cruise Line Accommodations to Request When Traveling with Autism pool

Disembarkation

Disembarkation can often be even more chaotic than boarding. Before disembarkation, parents should arrange a no-wait time to exit the ship with Guest Services. Technically, the cruise-line can take passengers through the crew elevators and get them disembarked within minutes if necessary. In most cases, cruise line staff can schedule an early departure for families to avoid the crowds.In the case that the staff can’t accommodate the family, parents should consider staying till the last passengers get off and then leave.

Eight Cruiseline Accommodations to Request When Traveling with Autism stair

These days, many more cruise lines are aware of autism and will be happy to accommodate any family. The most important thing for parents to remember is the importance of communication. Hence, they should never be shy about explaining accurately what their child requires. Furthermore, they need to understand that Guest Services and staff are there to help and the more information they have about one’s child with autism, the easier it will be for them to help.

 

Family Tips for Cruising Quantum of the Seas

Family Tips for Cruising Quantum of the Seas ship

Royal Caribbean has always been a favorite cruise line with our family. My husband and I celebrated our honeymoon on the now defunct ‘Song of America’ in 1992, and it was aboard ‘Radiance of the Sea’ that our kids enjoyed their first cruise in 2005.

After having cruised with Royal Caribbean numerous times over the past two decades, we were very excited to sail onboard their ‘Quantum of the Seas’ ship and share our family tips after experiencing the ship’s eateries and attractions.

Super fast Boarding at Bayonne

We arrived at the pier by 11:30 AM and expected large crowds, but there were none. There were multiple agents checking guests on I -pads and the process went along so fast, we didn’t need even need to mention our son’s disability.
Check-in took less than 10 minutes from start to finish, which was surprising if you consider the fact that there were over four thousand of passengers coming through.

Our Cabin

We liked the innovative closet design along with the ‘virtual balcony concept that gave us a sense of the ship’s geographical location at all times, but we were somewhat disappointed with the cabin’s lack of sound-proofing.

Quantum of the Seas Cabin: HD Virtual Balcony View

Tips When On Quantum of the Seas:Ship's Aft Rockers

Muster drill

As customary with all vessels, the ship’s exercise started at 4 pm before sail away from New Jersey.
The ship had multiple areas designated as emergency assembly spots for passengers to sit and watch the informational movie. We appreciated the short presentation along with the reminder to wash hands and prevent the dreaded Norovirus!

Service

On our first night, We were slightly peeved to find out that our son’s sofa bed wasn’t set up by 11 pm when we were tired and ready to go to sleep.Moreover, the room attendant was rude when we tried to speak to him about it the following day.
But we’re thrilled to report that RCCL Customer Service bounced back in a big way.After we complained to Guest Services, Carol, the deck housekeeping supervisor, assigned a new attendant and sent an apology note with a complimentary wine bottle to our cabin.

Though the lines for Guest Relations were somewhat long (most complaints we heard were about the new restaurant booking system and the wristbands) we did find the staff courteous and helpful.

Tips When On Quantum of the Seas:Jeffrey With Stoick

Tips When On Quantum of the Seas:Kids ClubDining

In the old system, passengers were assigned specific dining times, servers and tables for the duration of the entire cruise. The fun part about that was the relationships travelers got to develop with the servers and fellow diners. The downside was that if one didn’t like their fellow travelers or servers they had to ask the Maitre D’ to be moved to a different table, which was a hassle.

The new “Dynamic Dining’ concept the cruise line recently switched to, gives guests more flexibility.With this system, Guests can dine whenever, wherever and with whoever they chose every night. The upside is that passengers can try multiple food venues with different settings and servers.The downside is that each of these more intimate restaurants offers a fixed and relatively limited menu. And now, passengers need to remember to pre-book their restaurant choice ahead of time, dine at undesirable hours or wait in somewhat long lines for a table to open up.

Overall, we liked the new concept of the different venues and food diversity and thought that it was a good step in the right direction.
With that said, things can be improved in terms of food choices ( we would love to see sampler plates as part of the menus) and getting the current reservation system to work more smoothly.

Tips When On Quantum of the Seas:Chic Lobster

Tips When On Quantum of the Seas:Crab CakeThe Free Restaurant Options

The ship had ten complimentary restaurants that offered diverse dishes from different cuisines

  • Our favorite for breakfast and lunch was Cafe 270, next to the ships aft with freshly made to order paninis and salads.
  • Chic restaurant with its bistro-style food and American Icon with its southern grub reminded us of the typical dining room food on the older ships while Grande’s menu was a nod to the bygone formal cruise dinners.
  • Silk, the Asian venue was beautifully decorated and our favorite personal for its noodle selections
  • The International Cafe and Sorrento Pizza served their usual sandwiches, pastries, salads, and pizzas.We finally got around to trying Sorrento’s gluten free pizza, and I have to admit it was delicious
  • The Windjammer Buffet, another old time favorite, seemed to be modest in choices, but the bakery’s fresh cookies and muffins were a big hit with everyone.

Tips When On Quantum of the Seas:Jaime Oliver Cake

Tips When On Quantum of the Seas:Wonderland Dessert

 

The Quantum had several restaurants that offered meals with a fixed menu and price.

  • If you enjoy innovative food in an unusual funky setting, then Wonderland is the place to try. At 50 dollars per person, diners start with discovering the different elements of ice, fire, earth through their five senses.I won’t give away details, so I don’t spoil the surprise, but all the items we selected, completed each other wonderfully, and provided a memorable symphony to the senses.
  • Chops (30$ per person) is a staple steak house with consistently excellent quality food and service while Izumi is a good place to grab your sushi/sashimi fix when you crave a quick, tasty lunch.
  • Like everyone else we found the Devinly Decadence (20$ per person) concept of 500 calorie dishes tantalizing, so we tried it one evening.Our son voted the flatbread pizza choices a cruise favorite.
  • In Jaime Oliver’s Italian (25$ per person) restaurant, we found the appetizers and desserts more tempting than the main courses, so we geared our appetite accordingly.
  • Michael Swartz’s pub exceeded our expectations and managed to wow us with its charcuterie platter that complemented our selection of libations well.

Tips When On Quantum of the Seas:Wonderland Entrance

Tips When On Quantum of the Seas:Wonderland Decor

Attractions

Quantum of the Seas comes with an impressive array of activities guests can enjoy.The ship offers trapeze lessons; a skydiving simulator called I- fly, surfing lessons, rock climbing, and bumper cars as well as several pools and hot tubs.
Because of the stormy weather during our trip our son only tried out the indoor trapeze lesson, the I-fly simulator and bumper cars.
The weather also interfered with our original booking, and we ended up riding the North Star, an enclosed gondola, while sailing at sea with only waves to watch, instead of near on of the ports where the views would have been more spectacular.
Noteworthy was the glass swing in the aft theater that our son discovered and sat on for hours along with the comfy rocking chairs nearby.

Entertainment

We thought the Mama Mia production was a worthy addition to the ship lineup but ended up too tired from the day trips to see the other two productions.
For kids, the Quantum offered, the not-to -be-missed DreamWorks parades along with character breakfasts and photo apps.

Decor and Art

Quantum of the Seas is one of the more interesting ships to walk around and to admire the artwork as well as ride every elevator to take  ‘selfies’ with the quirky pictures displayed inside.
Not to be missed is the Bionic Bar that all passengers get to gawk at and watch robots mix and serve drinks.

TIPS When On Quantum of the Seas:Seating Area

TIPS When On Quantum of the Seas:Art

Autism Travel Tips

  • Royal Caribbean is very Autism Friendly and not only provides a particular department (like other cruise and airlines) designated to special needs accommodations but is in the process of training its staff to understand and help passengers with autism better.
  • Contact the access desk after booking your trip make sure to notify the cruise line of your kid’s individual needs and any accommodations he/she needs
  • Pre-book your itinerary your show times and paid restaurants online to help you plan better
  • After boarding the ship, head on to guest relations and remind them you are traveling with a special needs child
  • Ask to meet with the activities coordinator and kid’s’ club director to relay your child’s needs.
  • Ask for help in disembarkation! If your flight is later in the day ask permission to stay in the room until 9:30 AM when most crowds have left, and your kid won’t need to brave any crowds.

Tips When On Quantum of the Seas:Restraunt Theatre

Tips When On Quantum of the Seas:Restaurant Show

For Shows

  • Ask for pre-seating for shows! Similar to pre-boarding you can request permission to get into the show halls ten minutes before the other members of the audience to get your kid settled down.
  • Try to sit as close to an exit as possible in case your kid wishes to leave in the middle of the show.
  • If that’s not a possibility, then you can ask for seats next to in the hall’s disability seating area (close to the main entrance)  and see if that is available.
  • Remember to bring a set of noise canceling headphones to lessen the sound if your child is noise sensitive.

For Dining

  • Ask to meet with the ship chefs if there are known food allergies.
  • Go in person every night, pre-book the restaurant you wish to dine the next day and ask the Maitre D’  for a quietest table possible way from loudspeakers, music, bars and the kitchen.
  • Always try to book a table at the time they first open for dinner, so your child doesn’t have to wait in any line
  • Ask to get a copy of the menu so your kid can decide ahead of time what he /she wants to order.

For Activities

  • The I-Fly is not recommended for noise sensitive children as it is incredibly noisy.In fact, the staff makes travelers wear ear plugs and goggles for protection.
  • For Rock Climbing and I-Fly require passengers to wear special shoes that are provided free of charge.,make sure your kid wears socks
  • You should prepare your kid in advance to the idea of wearing the ship wristband.
    Passengers open the cabin door and can pay charges onboard with it
  • Bring a piece of a stick -on velcro to substitute for the buckle and help them put it on and take it off quickly.

Tips When On Quantum of the Seas:Glass Swing

Tips When On Quantum of the Seas:Rock Climbing

 

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