Accessible Cruise Experience

by Tasha Cox

Travelling can be a challenge for people with hearing loss. My adventures in the Caribbean were very enjoyable and accessible thanks to the accommodations provided on the cruise ship Carnival Glory.
My parents and I took a Caribbean cruise in November 2014. The cruise company Carnival Cruise Lines has impressive accessibility services for guests with various disabilities, including hearing loss. More information can be found on their website at http://www.carnival.com/about-carnival/special-needs.aspx.
Always ask!!
Prior to going on a trip, always contact the travel company to ask them about what accessibility services they can provide.
Before the cruise, I contacted the cruise company at specialneeds@carnival.com to explain my hearing loss and to request a portable room kit, an extra set of keys to allow my parents access to my stateroom in case of an emergency. As a further back-up, I also requested that in the event of an emergency a staff member should come into my stateroom and tap me on the shoulder to wake me up. Staff support by phone prior to my trip, and all staff onboard the ship were so helpful to ensure that my needs were met.
For guests with hearing loss, Carnival Cruise Lines offers a portable room kit which includes flashing light alerts for door knocking, ringing telephone, and a smoke detector. The kit also includes a shaking alarm clock and a TTY which connects to the onboard Information Desk. Closed captioning was available on the stateroom TV for announcements related to disembarking from the ship. I found the visual doorbell alerter to be beneficial because the stateroom door was so thick that I couldn’t hear people knocking even with my hearing aids on.
The daily loudspeaker announcements were so fast and had so much information that I had a very hard time understanding the announcements. However, the same information was still accessible to me because all guests were provided a written program called “Fun Times”.
It’s not a surprise that in 2005, the Carnival Corporation was awarded the “Access Freedom” award by the Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality (SATH), which is the highest honor in the travel industry. This award recognizes individuals and organizations that have made great strides in promoting accessibility for travelers with disabilities. Thank you Carnival Cruise Lines; I appreciate your efforts to ensure that people like me are included.
Marine Memories
During the cruise, I enjoyed many activities that ranged from line dancing, bingo, to watching movies on the huge TV from the pool deck.
My favorite memory from the trip was swimming with stingrays in the Grand Caymans. It was an unbelievable experience standing in shallow water up to our hips with these incredible marine creatures brushing up against us and swimming between our legs.
The company that organized the swim with the stingrays is called Captain Marvin’s. Their staff were made aware that when I was in the ocean with my hearing aids off, I would be unable to hear them and would need to see their faces. I found them to be very friendly and understanding of my hearing loss. They would speak slowly and make sure that I understood them before they took pictures. They were the best!
In Belize, we took a local water taxi to a small island called Cay Caulker where we went snorkeling with nurse sharks and stingrays. It was surreal to be the only ones on the boat with my parents and the boat captain. We saw dolphins and amazingly colorful fish while snorkeling. There were very few people around and the animals came up so close to us in the water, totally unafraid of humans. This was an amazing experience, away from the crowds on a remote, laid-back island.
The trip was such fun with many new experiences. The cruise ship and other side trips were so accessible thanks to the excellent customer services provided. I would certainly recommend this cruise line for an affordable and accessible adventure.