Planning a family vacation is a lot of work, especially if you have a child with special needs. To ease the stress that comes with planning a vacation, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (RCCL) and Autism on the Seas (AotS) are here to help!
RCCL believes that the best vacations are those without limitations. Whether you or a family member needs oxygen, dialysis, wheelchair accessibility, has Autism, an intellectual and developmental disability, or is blind, deaf, pregnant, etc., it has always been a top choice in customizing accommodations to meet every guest’s specific needs.
Now, RCCL is proud to be the first cruise line to be certified as “Autism Friendly” by Autism on the Seas. They’ve achieved the Bronze Certification Level, which means that guests will receive reasonable accommodations on all cruises, and currently, completion of the Silver Certification Level is in the works.
AotS offers services from the planning stages of your vacation all the way to its completion. Prior to your cruise, they provide a Social Story and a variety of Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) pictures to help guests get an idea of what to expect on their trip. AotS also asks that you complete a pre-vacation questionnaire to help get specific information so that they may properly customize the activities and staff provided for each special needs guest.
AotS staff greet you at the port when you arrive on the day of your departure. They’re there to direct you where to go and to offer any help you may need. “Priority Check-In” is available at the port to greatly reduce the time waiting in line to board the ship.
Each staff member holds a degree, or is working towards a degree in child development, special education, sociology, psychology, behavior therapy, etc. and is selected once the pre-vacation questionnaires are submitted. Each cruise has a minimum ratio of 1 staff member to every 3 special needs guest.
Cruises are able to meet most, if not all special dietary accommodations for each guest, whether he/she is gluten/cassien free, dairy-free, vegetarian, Kosher, food allergies, etc.
There may be dinner dress codes, however people with Autism are excused from any dress codes and may wear whatever’s most comfortable. You and your family have the option to dine in a private dining room or a specially selected area of the Main Dining Room and can have the same table/seating and wait staff for each meal.
AotS offers a variety of activities made to accommodate guests with Autism. Autism friendly films are presented in low-lit and low volume environments where guests are encouraged to freely walk around and talk during the film. As part of their Adventure Ocean Program, a bag of autism friendly or other appropriate toys can be provided for your special needs child upon request.
Respite sessions are offered, ranging from 1-2 hours at a time to allow parents to enjoy their own activities. Typically developing siblings are welcome to join any of the respite sessions. 1-on-1 respite services are available as well. Staff members are available to care for your child with special needs during activities your child is or is not participating in, can accompany you and your family on Port Excursions, and is available for in-cabin babysitting.
Special needs families are given the option for separate luggage arrangements and can be the first group to get off the ship, allowing for an expedited departure.
Autism on the Seas provides vacations that families with special needs may not have ever considered. By the end of 2014, RCCL should have completed the Silver Certification, which allows them to being Autism Awareness Training for the staff onboard. Visit AutismontheSeas.com to learn more or to book an Autism on the Seas Cruise or Land Resort vacation.