Accessible Cruising Is a Huge Growth Market
by Fran Golden

Part 1 in a series.

If there is a big reason for both cruise agents and cruise lines to target travelers with special needs, it is this: The market is huge.

Ron Pettit, who heads access programs for Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (including Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Azamara), said he uses this argument a lot in internal meetings.

More than 21 million people with disabilities travel every year, and they spend more than $13.6 billion in the process, said Pettit, a passionate advocate for accessibility.

"How many people take a cruise? About 12% of people with disabilities, studies have shown. And you know what? Only about 10% of people without disabilities cruise," Pettit said. "What those numbers tell you is more people with disabilities are cruising than those without."

Clients for life
The market is growing fast, said Debra Kerper, whose Easy Access Travel/Cruise Planners agency near Dallas specializes in accessible cruises.

"The aging of America is also the disabling of America, as boomers get hips and knees replaced, slow down as they age and suffer the effects of various health conditions. The travel agent that can keep this group traveling and going places will have clients for life," Kerper said.

An amputee herself, and a lecturer on the subject of accessible travel, Kerper said the cruise industry has made great strides when it comes to accessibility.

Still, she said, it's important for agents to understand that not all cruise lines are created equally.

Take it case by case
"Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Princess and Holland America provide excellent service to aging and/or disabled cruisers, as do several of the luxury lines. But each client must be evaluated on a case by case basis in order to choose the best ship and itinerary for them," Kerper said.

"Travel agents have to educate themselves on cruise lines. See what accessible rooms are like.

“Does the cruise line have an access department where you can get the facts? Will the shore excursion department help people at the ports? The agent needs to understand the itinerary and really understand the ports of call."

Legalities
Agents should also understand the laws, including:

•    Cruise lines operating in the U.S. are not allowed by law to discriminate against passengers with disabilities.

•    Cruise lines are not required to meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, lawsuits by passengers and court rulings have made it clear that cruise lines are expected to comply.

"We have taken those (ADA) standards and implemented them where we can," said Royal Caribbean's Pettit. "The reason large numbers of people with disabilities are cruising is that they know cruising is an accessible vacation option."

Cruise line advances
Older ships have been retrofitted to offer access, and newer ships are getting close to universal accessibility. Today's new-built cruise ships are designed with accessibility in mind, and that goes beyond the staterooms.
 
Example: On Royal Caribbean’s ships with ice skating rinks, lifts make it possible for passengers in wheelchairs to get onto the ice and mingle with skaters.

"We want to make sure all guests can do the wonderful things we have on our ships. People with disabilities have done the zipline and the FlowRider (the surf simulator), even rock climbing," Pettit said.

On the new Quantum of the Seas, the North Star mechanical arm ride, which will take passengers high above the sea for views, will be accessible. Pettit is also working on making the ship's simulated skydiving experience accessible.

Quantum will have 34 accessible staterooms all with automatic doors – making it possible for a wheelchair user to enter the stateroom on their own, Pettit said. Two suites will have both a shower and a newly designed accessible bathtub.

Older ships too
Kerper said agents should not just consider the newest ships for clients with disabilities.

"Cruise lines that excel in providing good access and service will make sure that every ship in their fleet will meet the needs of all.  Sometimes an older ship means a smaller ship and many clients may prefer this," she said.

"Agents have long been taught to qualify their clients. For this market, they must learn to qualify cruise lines, ships and itineraries.”

Next time: Getting started selling cruises to travelers with disabilities.

  0
  0
Comment:
You must be logged in to leave a comment Login | Register
Tip of the Day
Remember that your travels, too, are part of this important aspect of provenance. Hard-copy photo albums or visuals on a smart phone can be part of the sales process where your photos, selfies, and home-made videos show where you've been and what you've done.
 
Steve Gillick
President, Talking Travel
Daily Top List

Popular Honeymoon Resorts in Hawaii

1. Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort

2. Sheraton Kauai Resort

3. Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa

4. Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, Maui

5. Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa

6. Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa

Source: Condé Nast Traveler

Top Stories
River Cruise Inspection: An African Safari on AmaWaterways’ Zambezi Queen
River Cruise Inspection: An African Safari on AmaWaterways’ Zambezi Queen

The river cruise vessel offers one of the most comfortable and scenic ways to experience a safari on the water, or any safari for that matter.

Trending Under the Umbrella of Wellness Travel: More Product for Agents to Sell
Trending Under the Umbrella of Wellness Travel: More Product for Agents to Sell

New retreats, new showpiece spas, multi-day programs at resorts, themed tours from operators, and other initiatives continue to grow the wellness-travel sector.

TSA Removes Head Of Security After Congressional Scrutiny
TSA Removes Head Of Security After Congressional Scrutiny

As complaints about long lines at security checkpoints grow, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has removed its head of security Kelly Hoggan from his post because of “mismanagement.”

Guadalajara Outlines Plan To Boost Tourism, Says Agents Hold Major Role
Guadalajara Outlines Plan To Boost Tourism, Says Agents Hold Major Role

Known as Latin America’s Silicon Valley, Guadalajara is looking to expand beyond the niche and make a push into leisure tourism. And it is asking travel agents to help.

EgyptAir Plane Goes Missing Midair
EgyptAir Plane Goes Missing Midair

Flight 804 was traveling from Paris to Cairo when it disappeared from radar over the Mediterranean Sea.

Where U.S. Travelers Plan To Visit This Year
Where U.S. Travelers Plan To Visit This Year

A new survey shows Europe still tops the list.

News Briefs
Advertiser's Voice
Travel Market Report Spotlight: Celebrity Cocktails