Cruise lines have taken the area of special needs to new levels – it’s more than just a complimentary wheelchair to use aboard the ship. Special needs covers three areas – mobility issues and accessibility throughout the ship, assistance for hearing and visually-impaired guests, and special dietary needs. Today cruise lines have departments specifically dedicated to accessible and special needs travel.
In recent years, cruise lines have added more wheelchair-accessible staterooms. The introduction of state-of-the-art ships, coupled with the upgrading of existing ships and phasing out of older ships, has helped enormously. Ease in boarding and disembarking from the ship is also important. Holland America Line, for instance, was the first cruise line to provide hydraulic tender lifts.