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Cruising with Child with Special Needs


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Any parents with children with special needs? Looking for advice/tips/suggestions on how to make our cruise go smoothly.

Planning far in advance to be best prepared and hoping to make cruising our yearly trip.

This will be my 4th cruise, 2nd on Royal, but first as a mother. I will also be traveling with my brother (usual travel companion) and my parents. Next cruise (2024) I will most likely be going alone with my daughter. My daughter will be 5 for her first cruise but developmentally maybe a year old. She is also very tiny and most likely to be about the size of a two year old by then. We are booking Oasis because they have the "baby" pool so she can have some water fun while in a swim diaper. She is just starting to walk (almost 4 years old) but will be walking by then. Not long distances though and I will still be bringing a small stroller. She is non-verbal and has some sensory issues.

Looking for general tips, excursion advice, dining suggestions (she has dietary restrictions for eating plus feeding tube for all liquids), mobility advice, activities for sea days etc.

Thanks!

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Hello 'OurSlowSimpleTravel' and welcome to the forums!  I am not able to provide any advice to you...however...I would like to commend you for your upbeat inquiry and am sure you will receive some great tips, etc.  Your beautiful and positive attitude shines through in your writing!!  From what I just read, I believe your sweet daughter is very lucky to have you as her MOM!!  I truly hope your cruise (and hers) is amazing!    

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1 hour ago, PPPJJ-GCVAB said:

I believe your sweet daughter is very lucky to have you as her MOM!!  

Thank you so much! I'm very lucky to have her as a daughter. It was a long journey to motherhood and she was worth every moment. I'm very excited to finally start travelling with her. I adopted her from Eastern Europe so we have a bit of travel experience together but nothing fun like cruising is 🙂

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3 hours ago, OurSlowSimpleTravel said:

Any parents with children with special needs? Looking for advice/tips/suggestions on how to make our cruise go smoothly.

Planning far in advance to be best prepared and hoping to make cruising our yearly trip.

This will be my 4th cruise, 2nd on Royal, but first as a mother. I will also be traveling with my brother (usual travel companion) and my parents. Next cruise (2024) I will most likely be going alone with my daughter. My daughter will be 5 for her first cruise but developmentally maybe a year old. She is also very tiny and most likely to be about the size of a two year old by then. We are booking Oasis because they have the "baby" pool so she can have some water fun while in a swim diaper. She is just starting to walk (almost 4 years old) but will be walking by then. Not long distances though and I will still be bringing a small stroller. She is non-verbal and has some sensory issues.

Looking for general tips, excursion advice, dining suggestions (she has dietary restrictions for eating plus feeding tube for all liquids), mobility advice, activities for sea days etc.

Thanks!


I would certainly reach out to your travel agent or Royal to ensure you have correct information direct from the source.  However these links may be able to assist as well.

FAQ about accessibility — https://www.royalcaribbean.com/faq/topics/accessibility-disability-needs?country=USA

special needs form — https://www.royalcaribbean.com/resources/guest-special-needs

 

the special needs form covers a ton of things and there’s an option to have Royal contact you.

 

good luck!

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Hi and welcome to the blog!! I'm a mom of 2 special needs kiddos ages 5 and 7 and a cruise fanatic! It might a little lengthy so I'll message you directly. 🙂 As every family needs are different, I hope what we experienced can assist you and your daughter in some way. Royal has gone above and beyond to assist us with our children's needs and I'm sure they will do the same for you. 

You are an AMAZING MOM!! 💗

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Good luck.  We have triplets, all 3 with special needs.  They are now 25 YO.  Boy it makes me feel old every time I say their age.  

When they we little, we took them every place.  The advise I would say is get your daughter involved in activities.  Special Olympics was important for them and us.  The interactions with other parents was critical.  

If another parent/adult says something on the cruise, ignore them.  This is your vacation and your daughter's opportunity to learn.  Have fun.

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47 minutes ago, SteelersNationVA said:

The advise I would say is get your daughter involved in activities.  Special Olympics was important for them and us.  The interactions with other parents was critical.  

The Special Olympics here just restarted and we joined. I'm very excited for her to have lots of experiences.

I adopted her in September 2020. The first two years of her life she spent in a crib. Since coming home we haven't been able to do much due to closures and getting her medical stuff figured out. I'm so happy that we are going to be traveling. We just booked and will be trying a promenade view room. I was hoping to get my parents beside us but wasn't able to. I did get them across from us so maybe we can wave through our windows lol.

I've never been a fan of the dining room but decided it's probably best for us this trip (with dietary stuff) so we are doing traditional dining. I'm hoping we can all sit together since we are in the same family even though we aren't in the same room.

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Hi @OurSlowSimpleTravel!  I cannot speak to cruising, but as a father of two sons with autism (who are now grown), I can speak to just traveling in general with a child with special needs and sensory issues. 

  1. Keep your expectations flexible as to activities. Go with their flow.  
  2. Take frequent breaks.
  3. Avoid sensory overload
  4. Get a note from your child's doctor, and make copies.  It can be handy.
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Hi!  I am a mom of two exceptional kiddos and we have been cruising with them for 6 years.  I can speak to my wonderful experiences with RCL as well as Autism on the Seas, who provides volunteers for respite and support on cruise ships.  You can check out their website or just Google it.  They also have a Facebook group you can join called Autism on the Seas Community. There is also financial assistance available if you qualify.

They have over 50 cruises a year where you travel with their volunteer staff who assist you and your family with your kiddo.  All volunteers are highly trained (i.e. special education teachers, therapists, BCBA's, etc).

RCL staff is also very accommodating.  Call their special needs department.  My biggest piece of advice as a parent of two extra special kiddos....don't be afraid to ask for what you need politely.  This is true especially if you need to wait in lines, which can be difficult for our kids.  Politely say excuse me and make your way through if your child is having a hard time.  You may get the all too common dirty looks, but just ignore them (we have lots of practice with this) and do what you need for your family.

I am happy to go into more details.  Please shoot me a private message.  I am here to help.

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On 2/24/2022 at 12:51 PM, OurSlowSimpleTravel said:

What should the note have in it? Just her diagnosis?

Yes. For example when my youngest son was between the ages of 3-11, his behavior because of his autism was sometimes sporadic, unpredictable and to the outside eye loud and unruly.  Our doctor wrote a short letter explaining his diagnosis, why he may exhibit certain behaviors, and explaining that accommodations that could be made because of his condition would be beneficial to everyone involved.   It may not be needed, as I am sure most cruise lines have had issues of a similar nature.  But, it may come in handy in other venues as well.  We showed it a couple of times, once at Disney World in 2005 when getting his Guest Assistance Pass (Now renamed the Disability Access Service).  

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1 hour ago, Butch R said:

Yes. For example when my youngest son was between the ages of 3-11, his behavior because of his autism was sometimes sporadic, unpredictable and to the outside eye loud and unruly.  Our doctor wrote a short letter explaining his diagnosis, why he may exhibit certain behaviors, and explaining that accommodations that could be made because of his condition would be beneficial to everyone involved.   It may not be needed, as I am sure most cruise lines have had issues of a similar nature.  But, it may come in handy in other venues as well.  We showed it a couple of times, once at Disney World in 2005 when getting his Guest Assistance Pass (Now renamed the Disability Access Service).  

Thanks! My daughter doesn't usually have many behaviour issues and her disability is quite visible. Our biggest issue is usually people thinking she is much younger than she is and therefore treat her as a baby. Currently she is almost 4 but developmentally (cognitive and physical) only about 12 months and she's the size of an 18 month old. I will definitely get the letter though because there are some accommodations that might be helpful as well as giving them a heads up of her feeding needs (restrictions plus feeding tube).

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