How to Enjoy a Disney Cruise with Special Needs or Disabilities
Does someone in your family or party have special needs or require special services?
If so, Disney Cruise Line does an incredible job at offering a variety of services, facilities and amenities for guests with disabilities or special needs to help provide a magical vacation experience!
The Disney Cruise team goes out of its way to accommodate everyone, no matter their disability or medical condition.
4 Things to Do Before Sailing
One thing I absolutely love love love about Disney Cruise Line is their attention to each passenger.
My experience over multiple cruises and hours working with their customer service before and after sailing is that they truly care about each passenger.
Put this amazing service to work for you and do these four things before cruising with special needs.
1. Notify Disney Cruise Line of Your Special Needs
If you or a member of your travel party has a disability or special medical needs, please complete and submit the Special Services Information Form at least 60 days prior to your sail date.
This optional form allows you to alert DCL, in advance, of any special requirements that you may have and make any requests you may need during your voyage.
While DCL can't guarantee all requests, they will do their best to accommodate you any way they can.
2. Get Personalized Advice about Specific Individual Needs
Call or email Disney Cruise Line’s Special Services Team to get more information and ideas on how to make the most of your cruise.
They will be happy to answer any and all of your questions. They often have suggestions that you haven’t thought of and can ease your mind.
And of course, practically speaking, if you don’t let Disney Cruise Line know about your needs early, they are less likely to be able to provide assistance or make special arrangements for your situation.
Will you be travelling with any of the following?
- Mobility aid
- Medical equipment and/or supplies
If so, you definitely should contact the Special Services Team in advance. Certain items may require documentation and they can assist you with any necessary arrangements.
Special Services Team
Email: [email protected]
3. Check with Your Doctor Before You Go
If applicable, contact your doctor and make sure you are well enough to travel to the destinations on your itinerary. Your doctor might be able to give additional insight about how to make it a safe and comfortable voyage.
4. Prepare & Pack Copies of Medical Information
It is recommended that guests carry copies of any pertinent medical information as well as emergency contacts info. Hopefully you never need it, but it can be helpful to provide if you need care from professionals on your trip.
Disney Cruise Special Needs
Disney does a great job of making sure that their ships are wheelchair-accessible to all guests so that everyone onboard has an enjoyable time.
Most public spaces, including restaurants, shops, theaters, and public restrooms are all wheelchair accessible.
There are also accessible staterooms that you can book which have wider entrances and larger pathways to navigate around the room.
What are the accessible staterooms equipped with?
- Minimum 32" doorways (typical staterooms doorways are 23”)
- Open bed frames
- Ramped bathroom thresholds
- Toilet and shower grab-bars
- Roll-in showers
- Fold-down shower seats
- Adjustable-height shower heads or hand-held shower heads
- Lowered towel and closet bars
- Emergency call buttons (contact Guest Services once onboard to activate)
What other special equipment can I request for my room?
The items below are available upon request to use in any stateroom (accessible or not).
Contact Disney Cruise Line Special Services at 407-566-3602 to confirm availability before your cruise.
- Portable toilet
- Raised toilet seat*
- Shower stool
- Transfer bench
*The height of the toilets in the accessible staterooms is 17 ½ inches without the raised toilet seat
How do I reserve an accessible stateroom?
There are a few different ways you can reserve an accessible stateroom.
1. Go to Disney Cruise Line's website
- Click "Cruises & Destinations"
- Then "Find a Cruise"
- Then "Travel Party"
Here you will see a box where you can select "accessible room". Tick this box and it will pull up the available accessible staterooms for your itinerary.
When you check the box this message pops up:
“By selecting a wheelchair-accessible room, you have indicated that you or a member of your party has a disability that requires the features of this stateroom. You may be required to provide written confirmation of this need.”
I’ve never heard of anyone being asked to ‘provide written confirmation’ for booking an accessible room, but you will need to click "I Understand" before proceeding.
2. Call Disney Cruise Line directly at 800.951.3532 or your travel agent and they can help you book an accessible room.
When you call, have the interactive deck plans of your ship pulled up on your computer so you can locate the staterooms the agent tells you about over the phone. This way you can visually see exactly where your cabin will be on your cruise.
TIP: The Midship elevators on the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder are small and narrow. If you have a wheelchair you may want to consider booking a stateroom near the Forward or Aft elevators on these ships.
Does Disney Cruise Line rent wheelchairs and mobility devices onboard their ships?
No, DCL does not provide or rent wheelchairs on their ships. They do have a few on board but they are for assisting in embarkation and debarkation as well as for emergency use only and not for everyday use.
If you need a mobility device or medical equipment, you must bring your own or arrange a rental from a third-party supplier and have it delivered and picked up from the ship.
There are several companies that provide these rentals for DCL guests. The company that I've heard recommended most is Special Needs at Sea. They rent equipment that can be delivered directly to you at ports across the world. Here’s a list of rental companies that Disney recommends.
Special Needs at Sea
Advanced Aeromedical, Inc.
Brevard Medical (Port Canaveral)
Anything else I should know about the use of wheelchairs and mobility devices on Disney Cruises?
Disney strongly recommends that guests sail with someone who can physically assist them when needed.
Some activities onboard require guests to transfer out of their wheelchairs and may need the help of a friend or family member. Some of these activities include using a tender boat at certain ports of call or accessing the pool.
For safety reasons, wheelchairs, scooters, and other personal belongings may not be left in public passageways and must be stored inside your stateroom.
If you require electrical power for your medical equipment, be aware that there are normally only two 110-volt electrical outlets in a stateroom that has a total power capacity of 12 amps. Power back-up is suggested in case of a power outage.
Do Disney Cruise Line’s pools have lifts for guests with disabilities?
Yes, there are certain pools on each ship that have a lift available. You’ll need to request the lift in advance from DCL’s Special Services (407-566-3602). Maximum weight allowed is 300 pounds.
Is there priority boarding for guests with disabilities and special needs?
Unfortunately, there is no priority boarding on Disney cruise ships.
I recommend not arriving to the port until after 1:00 pm on your sail date.
Normally the biggest crowds are already on board by then and you can easily get right on the ship.
You can still grab some lunch when you get on and you shouldn’t have to wait for your stateroom too long as they are typically ready around 1:30 pm.
Is Castaway Cay wheelchair accessible?
You’re going to find Castaway Cay, Disney's private island, to be quite accessible.
- Castaway Cay features paved pathways to the main areas of the island, allowing easy access to shops and restaurants.
- The tram that runs on the island allows personal and electric wheelchairs to be brought on. Motorized scooters and sand wheelchairs do not fit on the tram.
- There are accessible restrooms on the island.
- There is even an accessible private cabana on Castaway Cay's Family Beach. Cabana #1 has a ramp at the entrance as well as a ramp to the beach.
- Castaway Cay has a limited number sand wheelchairs available on a first-come, first-served basis. The best part? They are free to use! You can pick one up on the island across from Scuttle’s Cove or there are a few available at the adult beach, Serenity Bay. Your personal wheelchair may be left at these locations while you are using the sand wheelchair. Sand wheelchairs are not meant to be used in water - only in sand - and may cause injury if not used properly.
NOTE: Many of the shops and facilities in other foreign ports of call besides Castaway Cay may not be accessible to those with disabilities.
MEDICAL CONDITIONS & EQUIPMENT
First things first. Contact DCL’s Special Services by phone (407.566.3602) or by email ([email protected]) at least 60 days prior to your cruise.
If they are aware of your medical condition and needs, they can help make your vacation that much better!
Guests are responsible for arranging any needed medical equipment rentals from a third-party supplier and have it delivered and picked from the ship on their own.
If you plan to travel with a wheelchair, a mobility aid, or medical equipment or supplies, please contact the Special Services Team in advance.
Certain items may require documentation and they can assist you with any necessary arrangements.
Are there sharps containers on the ship?
Yes, there is a sharps container in each stateroom bathroom if you need to dispose of needles, syringes and lancets.
If, for some reason, you don’t have one in your room, tell your stateroom attendant and they will get you one.
There are also sharps containers in the public restrooms as well.
Is there Wi-Fi on the ship so I can monitor and/or maintain my medical condition?
Yes, all of Disney Cruise Line’s ships offer internet packages to purchase. Internet plans can be shared with others in your party and used interchangeably on laptops, phones or other devices.
NOTE: Wi-Fi on the ship will not be as fast as you’re used to. Because of the technology involved and the satellite connectivity it’s quite a bit slower and internet service may be interrupted or unavailable at certain times.
If you have a medical condition that uses wireless monitoring or if you need the internet to maintain a medical condition, please have an alternative way to do so just in case.
Can I bring oxygen equipment onto the ship?
Yes, you are allowed to bring oxygen equipment with you, but there are some things you need to be aware of before you do.
- Contact Disney Cruise Line Special Services by phone 407-566-3602 or by email [email protected] as soon as possible to discuss your individual needs. They are so helpful and can let you know what services are available to you.
- Guests are responsible to set up delivery and return arrangements with a third party rental company for any oxygen cylinders or related medical equipment.
- Guests can only carry-on 2 cylinders per stateroom. If you need more than that they must be delivered.
- DCL does not allow guests to carry-on or use liquid oxygen.
- Large cylinders that are greater than 680 liters or E / M-24 size are also not allowed.
- There are restrictions on some types and quantities of oxygen cylinders. To find out more specifics, call the Special Services number above.
- If flying, guests are responsible for letting their air carrier know of any oxygen requirements.
- Guests are only allowed to carry on one oxygen cylinder on Disney Cruise Line’s ground transportation. If you need to transport more than one cylinder, you must make your own arrangements for transportation between the airport, Disney Resorts and the cruise terminal.
Disney goes out of their way to accommodate guests with all kinds of varying abilities and offers a number of service options for those with autism and other disabilities that impact their ability to wait in a line or be in a crowded environment.
Disney Cruise Line has a great resource that you should check out for further information:
I also highly recommend you contact Disney’s Special Services Team prior to your cruise so they can answer any questions you may have and ease your mind.
The Special Services Team is a wonderful resource and they are so nice and helpful. They will gladly make note of any special needs on your reservation so the youth club and servers are aware of your needs.
They can be reached at 407.566.3602 or by email at [email protected]
Can my special needs child participate in the youth clubs?
Yes, special needs children are most definitely welcome to participate in the youth clubs.
Just know that the Cast Members in the clubs can’t provide one-on-one attention during secured programming.
So if your child requires one-on-one care, consider participating in the clubs during their Open House hours where adults are invited to come in and play too! They will most likely have several Open Houses during your cruise so just check your Navigator for times.
There are also plenty of other activities throughout the ship that the whole family can enjoy together such as theater shows, movies, deck parties, excursions, and fun activities at Castaway Cay.
Does my child have to be present for the mandatory Muster Drill?
Regulations require that all passengers at sea attend the muster drill.
If you have a child or member in your party that would make the mandatory Assembly Drill hard, DCL asks that all members of your party arrive at your assembly station 10 minutes before the drill will start.
Check-in with your Assembly Leader and let them know of your situation. Once everyone has been accounted for in your stateroom party, one adult member can stay for the drill while the others can go back to your cabin.
Please note that the ship’s alarm is sounded during the drill and is quite loud.
Tips For Cruising with Autistic Child
I have gathered tips and recommendations from others who have cruised with an autistic child. Hopefully these tips will help make your cruise as magical as possible.
- Go swimming when it’s less crowded - early in the morning, at night during dinner, or on a port day.
- Do Character Meet & Greets during meal times. The lines are much shorter.
- Bring noise cancelling headphones for the mandatory safety drill.
- Consider booking a group cruise just for autism families. DCL usually offers a couple autism sailings a year. Check out Autism on the Seas for more information.
- Eat breakfast and lunch at off times.
- If it’s your child’s first cruise, start with a shorter length one to see how he or she does.
- If your child isn't able to wait in line to meet the characters, a member of your family can wait in line while they explore nearby until it’s your turn.
- To avoid being seated with another family for dinner, call Disney Cruise Line and request a private table.
- Attend the youth club’s Open house hours when an adult can accompany the child into the club. All other times there is a strict “no adults allowed” policy in the youth clubs.
- Talk to your server about food options. They will do everything they can to fulfill your specific food requests.
- Attend "Family Movie Fun Time" in the Buena Vista Theatre. DCL leaves some of the lights on and the volume is lowered so kids are welcome to talk, laugh, move about, clap, sing and dance around without disturbing other guests.
- Ask the Special Services Team when the ship’s horn will be played during your sailing. The horn is quite loud and can be startling to those who don’t expect it.
- Avoid the fireworks deck party. The noises are loud and it gets pretty crowded.
- On embarkation day, wait to get to the port until at least 1:00 pm to avoid crowds. Typically the first two hours of boarding are the busiest.
- You can bring your own food/snacks on the ship as long as it’s non-perishable and sealed in its original packaging. You can also carry-on a cooler that is no larger than 12" x 12" x 12" for storing medications (in their original containers) or items related to dietary restrictions.
- Your stateroom is the only place you can absolutely 100% control the environment and noise level. Consider booking a veranda room so you have a nice place to relax if you are confined to your room.
- Ask your server if you can order your meals the night before. This will speed up your service.
- Don’t try and get off at the ports right away. Wait until an hour or two to avoid the rush and the crowds.
- During the day the adult clubs and lounges are kid friendly and are pretty quiet. They are a great place to escape to if you want to be somewhere other than your room.
- Before you set sail, printout DCL’s "My Disney Cruise Adventure” booklet. This free 30-page printable activity packet will help your child get acquainted with all the fun they can expect on your Disney Cruise.
CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES
I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but I highly recommend you call Disney’s Special Services team before you set sail to discuss any questions and to get clarification on the following guidelines.
Special Services Team
Can children with disabilities participate in the youth clubs onboard Disney Cruise ships?
Disney Cruise Line welcomes children with special needs to participate in the youth clubs, but there are guidelines to consider first.
- The youth clubs are age-specific. The Oceaneer Club and Lab are for children ages 3 to 12, the Edge is for tweens 11 to 14, and the Vibe is for teens 14 to 17.
- For safety and security reasons, adults are not allowed in the clubs except during Open House hours. Each club will have Open House hours where the entire family can enjoy the clubs together. Check the Navigator for times or just swing by the clubs on the first day and ask.
- Children who attend the club must be fully toilet-trained.
- Children must be able to participate individually. The counselors are unable to provide one-on-one care including counselor-assisted medical attention.
- Children should be able to interact comfortably with the other children of their own age and physical size.
SPECIAL DIETARY REQUESTS
Does Disney Cruise Line cater to special dietary requests?
Disney Cruise Line offers the following at all of their table-service restaurants. No need to make a request - they already have these options on the menu!
- Gluten free
- No sugar added
- Lighter note offerings
You can also request other meal options at no additional charge. Give DCL a call at 800-951-3532 or contact your travel agent to make your request as early as possible.
Below are a couple of options that can be accommodated. Yours not listed? Still call DCL and ask. They will do their best to meet your needs.
These meal option requests can only be accommodated in the main dining rooms with table-service. Unfortunately, these requests are not available at Cabanas, other quick-service restaurants nor room service.
What should I do if I have food allergies?
If you have any food allergies - especially if they are life-threatening - please do the following:
- Contact DCL’s Special Services team at 407-566-3602 as early as possible prior to your cruise and they will note it on your reservation.
- Let your Head Server know of any food allergies or dietary restrictions when you arrive at the restaurant.
Disney Cruise Line will do their best to prepare allergy free food per your request but they do offer this warning that you should be aware of...
“We strive to use reasonable efforts in our food sourcing, preparation and handling procedures to avoid the introduction of the named allergens into your menu choices. While we take steps to prevent cross-contact, we do not have separate allergy-friendly kitchens and are unable to guarantee that a menu item is completely free of allergens.
Please also note that our allergy-friendly offerings are reliant on supplier ingredient labels, and we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the contents of each food item. Allergen advisory statements (e.g., "may contain") are not regulated and therefore not taken into consideration when developing allergy-friendly meals. It is ultimately up to your discretion to make an informed choice based upon their individual dietary needs.”
Can the kitchen make substitutions for my food allergy?
They sure can! DCL can accommodate requests at table-service restaurants (but not the quick-service locations).
They can make substitutions for the following common food allergies.
- Gluten or wheat
- Milk or lactose
- Peanuts and tree nuts
Can they store my medications for me?
Crew Members are unable to store medications for guests. There are fridges in each stateroom if your medications need to be refrigerated.
Can I bring my own food onboard?
Yes, snacks are definitely okay to bring onboard!
Some kids are picky eaters and will only eat Goldfish crackers and Nemo fruit snacks (how fitting for a Disney cruise!) so throw them in your bag!
Before you do though, make sure to check out DCL’s guidelines first. Keep these in mind when deciding what to pack. You are welcome to bring on these items:
- Non-perishable snack foods that are sealed and in original packaging
- Breast milk*
- Coolers no bigger than 12" x 12" x 12" (30.5cm x 30.5cm x 30.5cm)*. The cooler should only be used for storing medications in their original containers, baby food or food items related to dietary restrictions.
* Must be carried onto the ship
NOTE: All personal food items must either be entirely eaten on the ship or remain unopened and sealed to take home with you.
These items are prohibited on Disney Cruise Line:
- Homemade or precooked foods
- Perishable foods
- Open containers of food
- Ice chests or coolers (with the above exception)
- Electrical appliances such as coffee makers, heating pads, rice cookers, hot plates, electric griddles and blenders
If I bring my own food onboard, can the kitchen heat it up for me?
Crew Members are not allowed to store, prepare, cook or reheat any food that guests bring onboard.
For those that suffer from life-threatening food allergies, the Health Center on the ship and the First Aid station at Castaway Cay both have EpiPens available.
If, in the event of an emergency, you do not have an EpiPen, notify the nearest Cast Member, or dial 7-3000 from any ship phone or 41-3000 from any Wave Phone.
If you have your own EpiPen and you administer it, seek emergency medical attention immediately afterwards.
What services are available for those that are hearing impaired?
Assistive listening devices
Guest Services has Assistive Listening devices to amplify sound at various locations onboard the ship. A refundable security deposit is required.
Stateroom Communication Kits
Stateroom Communication Kits are available that contain a base unit with alarm clock, doorbell and phone alerts, bed shaker notification, and a smoke detector with a strobe light.
Captioned television and movies
Stateroom TV’s captioning may be turned on using the CC button or TV menu options. Some movies in the Buena Vista Theatre are available with open captions. Check your daily Navigator or go to Guest Services for more information.
To obtain these, make a request on your reservation at time of booking or ask Guest Services while onboard the ship.
Guest Assistance Packets
Packets containing show scripts can be signed out and kept until the night before debarkation. These are available at Guest Services.
American Sign Language
Select U.S. based sailings and European sailings have a shared American Sign Language interpreter that is scheduled for variety of different shows and entertainment onboard.
You must request a shared ASL interpreter by calling 407-566-3602 (voice) or 407-566-7455 (TTY) or by filling out the Request Special Services Form.
For a U.S. based cruise, make sure you contact DCL at least 60 days prior to your sail date. If your ASL interpreter request is not confirmed, DCL may not have an interpreter available for your cruise.
For European cruises, contact DCL at least 120 days prior to your sailing. Not all European cruises have an ASL interpreter. Call the above number to ask which sailings provide ASL services.
TIP: When you book your Disney cruise, ask for the Main Dinner seating (the first seating). Then, after dinner, you can go to the second show at the Walt Disney Theatre where the ASL interpreters will be signing. They don’t sign at the first show, only the second one.
What kind of services does Disney Cruise Line provide for guests with vision loss?
- A larger-print format on select communications
- Information in audio format
- Audio-described movies
- Braille signage
- Stateroom Communication Kits are available on request which contain:
- Door knock and phone alerts
- Bed shaker notification
- A strobe light smoke detector
- A stateroom Text Typewriter (TTY)
Can I bring my service animal on a Disney Cruise?
Yes. Trained service animals are welcome in most areas of the ship.
Here are the guidelines:
- Service animals must be on a leash and under your control at all times
- Service animals may not be left unattended in staterooms
- You are responsible for taking care and feeding your service animal
- Service animals are not allowed in the pools or water play areas on the ship
- Crew Members are not allowed to take care of your service animal
Do I need special permits or documents to bring a service animal on a Disney Cruise?
It is your responsibility to get import permits for each port of call you will be visiting. You can find information about these special documents by contacting the United States Department of Agriculture, or the United States consulate, or embassy of each country.
These original special documents must be on you and available at all times.
Copies of completed permits for each port of call must be sent to Disney Cruise Line Special Services prior to your sail date.
Disney Cruise Line Special Services
P.O. Box 10210
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-0210
NOTE: Obtaining the needed permits can take weeks or months, and some countries may not allow animals to enter at all.
If you are traveling with a service animal, please contact Disney Cruise Line’s Special Services team at 407-566-3602 or by email at [email protected] as soon as possible to discuss required documentation, the set-up of a relief area and the availability of Port Adventures.
Not all Port Adventures allow service animals so make sure to ask before booking.
On all Disney Cruise Line ships there is a Health Center located on Deck 1, forward. It is open during the day to provide first aid and basic non-emergency medical care.
The Health Center has over-the-counter medications and bandages for minor needs. You can also get similar first aid items at the Guest Services Desk and at most onboard shops.
For emergencies, there is a doctor and nurse on-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
If a patient can’t be treated onboard, it may be necessary for them to be transported to a nearby hospital.
It’s nice to know that there’s a doctor onboard if you need them and that the medical team will get you where you need to be for the best care, but these services are not included in your Disney cruise and are probably not cheap. Medical personnel on the ship are not employed by Disney and your stateroom will be charged for any treatment you receive.
When on a ship you are considered outside of the United States so any care you receive will need to be paid BEFORE you can leave the ship.
The good news is they do accept health insurance and travel insurance and will even provide you with the paperwork you’ll need to process a claim.
If you have a medical condition, I strongly urge you to call your medical insurance company to see what medical coverage you have while on a cruise.
If you don’t have great coverage, you may want to consider getting travel insurance to cover any unexpected medical costs and give you peace of mind.
Try reading over these Disney Cruise Line resources and... you guessed it... contact the Special Services team at 407.566.3602 or by email at spec[email protected].
They will be more than happy to answer any and all of your questions!