Common Cruising Misconceptions for Parents of Kids with Autism

Common Cruising Misconceptions for Parents of Kids with Autism pin

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.

Common Cruising Misconceptions for Parents of Kids with Autism cake

 

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.

Common Cruising Misconceptions for Parents of Kids with Autism movie

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.

Common Cruising Misconceptions for Parents of Kids with Autism dining

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.

Common Cruising Misconceptions for Parents of Kids with Autism ship

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.

Common Cruising Misconceptions for Parents of Kids with Autism pool

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.

Common Cruising Misconceptions for Parents of Kids with Autism limes

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.

Common Cruising Misconceptions for Parents of Kids with Autism sushi

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.

Common Cruising Misconceptions for Parents of Kids with Autism carousel

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.

Common Cruising Misconceptions for Parents of Kids with Autism

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.

Common Cruising Misconceptions for Parents of Kids with Autism flow

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.

Common Cruising Misconceptions for Parents of Kids with Autism drill

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.

 

 

Common Cruising Misconceptions for Parents of Kids with Autism arcade

Have you taken a cruise with your special needs kid? What was your experience?

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess pin

Owned by the Princess Cruise Lines, this vessel is a Grand-class cruise ship that entered service in 2001. Sister ship of Grand Princess and Star Princess she can carry more than 3,600  passengers and crew.
Last month while the ship was traveling between L.A and the Mexican Riviera we decided to book a weekend cruise and enjoy the outstanding Princess amenities provided onboard.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess movies

What Makes it Family Worthy?

As we mentioned before we are huge fans of cruising since it is a way to enjoy a great vacation at a reasonable price, visit several ports yet unpack only once.
Though this particular ship offers less family friendly activities than its counterparts on competing cruise lines, it still had multiple venues to engage passengers of all age groups.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess blue

Fellow Travelers

Depending on its itinerary this vessel attracts more retirees and couples. However, families still make a decent sized segment of onboard guests.

 

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess piano

Décor

The ship decor was modern using vibrant colors with wood accents throughout the vessel. The dining spaces were designed in hues of tans and browns while the entertainment areas looked more glitzy dressed in pinks, purples, and golds.

Neutral colors like cream and silver were prevalent in our bathroom, but the floor consisted of blue and white tiles arranged in a checkerboard pattern. The bedroom area was mostly decorated in white and other neutrals with lightly hued wood paneling throughout. There was also red patterned carpeting and a blue chair in our cabin blending some color to the overall design scheme.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess muster

Family Entertainment


As mentioned before, this particular ship had fewer entertainment options than other ships we had previously vacationed on.
With that said our son with autism enjoyed some of the ‘grown up’ activities that he had never tried before.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess pool

We all tried the outdoor activities like the pools, water slides, mini golf, giant chess, shuffleboard, virtual bowling (WII) and ping pong games. He discovered Bingo which though a bit of a money pit helped him practice, his social interactions with staff and fellow passengers. Also, he found the cupcake decorating class fun so he went back the next day to do it again.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess chess

For evening entertainment, we did sit through a Broadway review of the British 60’s invasion songs which was mediocre, and we were disappointed the movie under the stars was canceled due to high winds.
Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess show

What was surprisingly good was an acrobatic show in the lobby area that we watched mesmerized, and the pretend New Year’s countdown party, a Princess tradition.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess cake

The ship featured several spots to dine throughout the cruise.
Apart from the Horizon Court  Buffet and regular dining restaurants it had pay for purchase restaurants like  Sabatini’s, serving Italian fare, and the Crown Grill, offering steakhouse style grub.
We dined at Sabatini for 25$ Prix fix menu per person and had an overall enjoyable experience.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess bar


Our Cabin

Our family stayed in the P303  cabin on Plaza Deck Five.
We were greeted by balloons and a celebratory poster tacked to our cabin door in honor of our son’s birthday, which was a nice touch.

Our cabin had a  porthole window providing an excellent view of the outside. The safety information found on the back of the door was clearly marked to let us know where our muster station was in the event of an emergency.

 

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess curtain

Upon entering our cabin, the bathroom area was on the left. Just across the small entryway, there was a closet that contained all the lifejackets in the case of any unforeseen emergency. It had ample amount of storage space and could easily hold lots of our luggage.

The cabin itself had two beds with nightstands in between them. There was also a pull out bunk bed that could be opened at night and closed during the day for our son. It contained a safety bar that helps keep sleepers from falling out.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess tv

Our cabin’s television was placed over the desk, as was a large mirror. The latter feature allowed the space to function as a vanity. A hairdryer was attached to the wall nearby to further facilitate this usage. More in keeping with the desk’s traditional purpose as a workspace were the additional shelves and drawers that were included in its design.

There was a phone and some beverage glasses on the desktop for our use, and one of the cabinets beneath it contained a mini fridge. There were also a fair number of outlets provided, but travelers who find that they need more may want to bring their electric strips.A visible thermostat helped complete the picture as it allowed the room temperature to be quickly adjusted to our liking.
Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess safe

Our Bathroom

The bathroom was incredibly well organized with several hooks for hanging towels and wet clothing. There were two fully stocked towel racks above the commode. Extra toilet paper could be found under the sink just in case it was needed. There was a sizeable open cabinet at one end of the sink counter that was capable of holding even more personal belongings.

Under the sink was a shelf that held the waste bin but it could also be used to store supplies. The shower itself was fairly ordinary in design.

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess towels
However, it had excellent water pressure and featured raised up edges along the bottom so that water didn’t get splashed all over the floor. The shower was separated from the toilet area with a curtain.

The cabin also contained a full-length mirror near the bathroom area so that we could check our outfits before departing their room to go anywhere.
Overall, though the room was not large, it turned out to be functional and well organized.

 

Family Weekend Cruise on the Golden Princess glasses

Autism Travel Tips

  • The shower in the cabin has a safety handle so that those who need to do so can use it.
  • We discovered that walkie-talkies were useful devices on cruises and recommend that other families bring along their own sets to communicate with each other.
  • Gluten free and other diet observing passengers should let the cruise line know ahead of time whether they plan to stay on the ship while in port so they could be accommodated.
  • Parents to kids with autism should ask guest services for  restaurants and show seating arrangements .t
  • Word of caution about the coffee shop on the ship; the hot beverages are served at a very high temperature so parents should remind their kids to take extra precautions to avoid scalding themselves,
  • Parents should pack a set of noise canceling headphones or earplugs if their kid wishes to attend the ultra-noisy new year’s or sail away parties.

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