to a Wheelchair Accessible Stateroom on Holland America Line
by Linda Coffman
A mere dozen years ago
"accessibility" on a cruise ship meant little more than a
few inside staterooms set aside for mobility impaired passengers.
Most public restrooms and nearly all en suite bathrooms had a
"step-over" entryway—even passengers without mobility
problems often tripped until they became accustomed to them.
In the wake of the Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA), the cruise industry began demonstrating ADA
compliance. However, some older ships may still have physical
barriers in both cabins and public rooms. In April 2001, the family
of Carnival Cruise Lines announced an ambitious six-year plan for
ship renovations to comply with the ADA. Cruise lines have always
welcomed disabled passengers and are now designing new ships from
the keel up with wheelchair access in mind.
Accessible Stateroom with Balcony on Holland America Line
When evaluating a cruise,
passengers with disabilities (ranging from use of a cane or walker
to complete dependence on a wheelchair) should pay particular
attention to the facilities on board their chosen vessel as well as
those they are likely to find in ports of call. More than the usual
amount of pre-planning is necessary for smooth sailing.
Booking a newer vessel will assure more choice for disabled
passengers. Cabins are often available in a larger variety of
categories, some even with private verandahs. Public rooms are more
accessible and facilities planned especially for wheelchair use are
Haven't we all seen people park
their vehicles in handicap designated slots and emerge with no
noticeable disability? Some health related problems aren't readily
If you suffer from a chronic medical condition, inform your
travel agent to alert the cruise line and bring along a report from
your physician. Most ships' medical staffs are not available for
ongoing daily care, unless you are hospitalized once on board. As a
passenger, you must be prepared to care for yourself and your
personal needs, including attendance at the ship's muster drill. If
you are unable to function independently, you must travel
with a caregiver to provide these services for you.* It is essential
that the cruise line be notified of any special medical, physical,
or other requirements as soon as possible.
Wheelchair Accessible Private Bathroom on Holland
Holland America Line is in the forefront of accessible cruise
travel and offers a variety of services to their guests with
mobility, sight, and breathing impairments. To the extent possible,
they attempt to accommodate guests with a wide range of
disabilities. However, they cannot provide personal care and should
not be expected to. Like all other cruise lines, Holland America
offers a limited number of staterooms designed to be wheelchair and
Beginning with embarkation, every effort is made to accommodate
passengers who require assistance boarding. Even so, certain ship
transfer operations may not be fully accessible to wheelchairs or
scooters. When a ship is unable to dock, passengers are taken ashore
on tenders, which can even be difficult for the able bodied to
negotiate under adverse conditions. Some people with limited
mobility may even find it impossible to embark or debark the ship at
certain times of day when docked due to the steep angle of gangways
during high or low tide.
For persons incapable of walking, a wheelchair is generally their
primary mobility assistance aid for getting on and off the ship. In
some situations, crew members may offer assistance that involves
carrying guests. Situations sometimes occur when mobility-impaired
guests may not be able to go ashore at the time they prefer, or they
may be unable to go ashore at all in certain ports. For the safety
of all concerned, the captains of Holland America Line ships make
the final determination regarding carrying mobility-impaired
passengers and their mobility assistance devices ashore (wheelchair,
scooter, walker, etc.). They take into account all appropriate
conditions including weather, the ship's location, weight of the
guest, and so on. Captains try to realistically accommodate all
America Line shore tender equipped with wheelchair
Passengers should be aware that
third party transfer and shore excursion facilities may not be fully
accessible to those with disabilities. Cruise lines attempt to deal
only with companies that comply with legal requirements. However,
they can't guarantee that all those companies are able to provide
accessible facilities to persons with disabilities, particularly
those contracted in foreign countries.
For detailed information on
accessibility issues involving shore excursions, Holland America
strongly recommends visiting the Shore Excursion Office on board
In limited situations where a
person with a disability would be unable to satisfy certain
specified safety and other criteria, even when provided with
appropriate auxiliary aids and services, cruise lines may find it
necessary to ask them to make alternative travel arrangements.
Policies & Conditions
Holland America Line has a limited supply of wheelchairs
onboard each ship. In order to accommodate guests, they reserve the
wheelchairs exclusively for embarkation and debarkation assistance
in the pier facility, emergency situations, and time-to-time usage
only. They are unable to confirm the exclusivity of a wheelchair to
a specific individual for the entire duration of a cruise.
Passengers who require the use of a wheelchair should plan to bring
their own or rent one to bring along rather than relying on the
availability of Holland America's equipment. Wheelchairs and
scooters must be stored inside passenger cabins. Additionally,
wheelchairs from the ship are not allowed to be taken off the vessel
for shore excursions or land tours.
For guests participating in an Alaska cruisetour, it is important to know
that complimentary wheelchairs will not be available on land.
Holland America Line service offices in Alaska do not have access to
wheelchairs for guests except in the case of an emergency.
Wheelchair assistance that is requested for airports must be done
directly through the airline. Holland America does not arrange for
wheelchair assistance at airports.
Guests who need
continuous oxygen for chronic conditions must make their own
arrangements prior to travel. Contact your travel agent for more
information. Also, bring the service company's address and their
local contacts in foreign countries, as applicable. Holland America
does permit oxygen to be brought on board their ships for personal
use. However, the ships are not equipped to provide passengers with
these services other than on an emergency basis in the ships'
medical center. There are companies, however, that regularly provide
supplemental oxygen and/or oxygen equipment for cruise ship
All oxygen and oxygen equipment arrangements are the responsibility
of the passenger and the third party provider. Passengers assume the
entire risk of utilizing third party services subject to whatever
terms or arrangements are made by the guest or on the guest's behalf
with the service provider.
Holland America requests that all passengers who require the use
of oxygen and/or oxygen equipment advise the Access & Compliance
Department once all arrangements have been finalized, in order to
properly notify the ship.
Holland America welcomes service animals aboard their fleet.
However, itineraries may or may not include ports of call that have
very specific and strict requirements that need to be met prior to a
service animal being allowed off of the ship. It is the passenger's
responsibility to research each of the ports of call and the
requirements of the local governments for a service animal. The best
places to obtain specific information on required documentation and
immunizations are the U.S. Department of Agriculture, local customs
offices in the specific ports, and personal veterinarians. All
documentation and immunization requirements are established by
government authorities and not by Holland America. If a service
animal does not have the proper documentation of proof of
vaccinations, or if there are local quarantine requirements, the
animal can be denied the right to leave the ship. In this case, the
guest will need to remain onboard in order to take care of their
Public Bathroom on a Holland America Line Ship
New Holland America
Line vessels include these facilities:
- More than two dozen wheelchair-accessible staterooms in various
- Dedicated elevator for wheelchair users, to assist with tender
- Two tenders equipped with wheelchair accessible platforms
- Accessible areas at the bar counter and other public desks,
- All public rooms accessible.
Companies that frequently provide wheelchair rental services for
cruise ship passengers are:
Web site: www.cruiseshipassist.com
Special Needs at Sea
If you plan to bring a scooter on any ship, please contact the
cruise line first for their guidelines.
For the safety of all passngers and crew, Holland America
advises that scooters and other mobility equipment need to be
securely stored and charged in staterooms; not in hallways or
elevator lobbies. Scooters left in those areas could restrict people
needing to travel through them in an emergency, particularly others
using mobility aids, since they would have no way of getting by a
scooter left in a hallway. For scooter rentals, see:
Web site: www.scootaround.com
Two approved supply companies that frequently provide oxygen and
oxygen equipment rental services for Holland America Line and other
cruise lines' passengers are:
Web site: www.cruiseshipassist.com
Special Needs at Sea
Another supply company that provides oxygen and oxygen equipment
rental services to cruise line passengers is:
Web site: www.aeromedic.com
If you have questions regarding a ship's facilities, please
contact Holland America Line's Access & Compliance Department
toll-free at 800-547-8493; locally at 206-281-3535 ext. 4514; or via
e-mail at HALW_Access@hollandamerica.com.
Every cruise line has a similar "help" desk to assist you.
Holland America Line deserves
a special note of appreciation for the information
contained in this article and for providing the
photographs exclusively for CruiseDiva.com readers.
*While the above policies are those of Holland America
Line, other cruise lines impose similar conditions for
travel on their vessels.
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