I recently read an article in AFB’s AccessWorld Magazine titled “Cruising as a Senior with a Visual Impairment: How to Get the Most Out of Your Adventure” by Jamie Pauls. Although I am not a senior I agreed with the article as I have been on two cruises before. Additionally, this month is National Senior Awareness Month and thought it would be a great idea to share some of the information with the readers of this blog.
Cruises are a great vacation option for seniors as they enter their retirement years because everything is all included. For example, on a cruise ship you have 24-hour room service, various entertainment options, exercise facilities, classes, workshops and seminars, opportunities to meet interesting people, and of course the ability to travel to exciting locations. Cruise liners have become more accessible over the years and can be great options for the visually impaired traveler. In the article Pauls interviews Bill Kociaba, an experienced cruise taker who is visually impaired. He is very familiar with cruises because his family took numerous trips at sea when he was young. Additionally, Kociaba sold cruises for a living for about five years and has been on about 50 cruises in his lifetime. In the interview he gives some sage advice on how to cruise with a visual impairment. I will give the highlights below but to read the full article read the February 2016 issue of AccessWorld Magazine.
First, check out what type of ship you want to be on. What type of experience do you want to have? Each cruise line offers a different kind of experience. For example for the party life, Kociaba recommended Carnival. If you want to be pampered, try Celebrity Cruises while Holland America specializes in meeting the needs of seniors.
Next look at cost. This can vary from hundreds to thousands of dollars. It depends on the cabin, number of days, ports of call, shore excursions, etc. But the one great thing is that the majority of your cost can all be paid for up front in a variety of cruise packages. So by the time you take your cruise your cost is pretty much covered and you can really enjoy your vacation.
When planning for your cruise pay attention to details. It might be a good idea to have a travel agent or someone who is very familiar with booking cruises to assist you. When I took my last cruise I went through Mindseye Travel, a company that specializes in group tour packages for people with visual impairments. They put the whole package together for me including my shore excursions; even offering to help with flight arrangements.
Some people might be concerned about how accessible a cruise ship might be since they are so large and vast. More ships are becoming more accommodating to the blind and visually impaired. Ships have braille on cabin doors these days. I even got a braille bingo board for the ship’s bingo night so that I could actively participate with everyone else. I also got another larger book in braille that outlined other information about the cruise that was in my cabin when I arrived. Staff on the ship was overall very friendly and helpful as well. One last thing I noticed, on the ship and this might not have been for the disabled, but was very helpful. There were metal rails in the hallways near the cabins. So as I walked along the narrow corridors I was able to walk independently by trailing with my white cane with one hand and holding on to the metal rail with the other.
Two things to think about when planning a cruise are what you will do on and off the ship. Cruise liners have plenty of activities to keep you busy. There are classes, workshops or seminars you can attend on a variety of topics. I went to one on Microsoft and acupuncture. There was also an exercise room to workout in and a spa for massages. People sat by the pool or in the hot tub and read a book or listen to music. Some went to the library and use WIFI or played board games. Off the ship you have a list of shore excursions to choose from as well. You could swim with dolphins, feed stingrays, or tour the landmarks of Europe or a Caribbean Island; there is plenty to do if you leave the boat for the day. While on my cruise I took a walking tour of Old San Juan in Porta Rico. It was a beautiful walking tour and the weather was very nice. Then we stopped at a nearby café for food and drinks before heading back to the ship.
If you are a senior who wishes to enjoy your golden years by traveling to exciting locations, the time on a cruise ship might just be what you are looking for.