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.