Interview with Ron Pettit, Access Manager at Royal Caribbean

In 2007, Vacations To Go launched a new department to help travelers with disabilities find suitable cruise ships. We introduced the first comprehensive, ship-by-ship guide to facilities, services and amenities for travelers with special needs, plus search tools that highlight the best rates on the most accommodating ships.

Today, I'd like to introduce you to Ron Pettit, Access Manager at Royal Caribbean. In his prior position at Northwest Airlines, Ron was responsible for improving the air travel experience for over 3.3 million customers with disabilities. Now Ron's role is to ensure that passengers with disabilities receive the accommodations and services they need on Royal Caribbean.

Ron is hard of hearing and finds his job particularly rewarding as he works to increase accessibility for all Royal Caribbean guests.

Below, Ron talks about the state of accessibility in the cruise industry and describes how Royal Caribbean is reaching out to travelers with special needs.

Can you give some examples of how Royal Caribbean makes cruises more accessible for passengers with limited mobility?

Sure. All Royal Caribbean ships have wheelchair accessible cabins with widened stateroom and bathroom doors, roll-in showers, shower benches, and toilet and shower grab bars. All ships also feature lowered guest-relations counters, lowered blackjack tables, lowered or ramped thresholds, and pool and whirlpool lifts.

Are there any new amenities or features on the most recently launched Royal Caribbean ships for passengers who have limited mobility?

Yes. Our Freedom-class ships contain several new amenities, including the H20 Zone, a water park for children where we have plastic wheelchairs for our guests to navigate this wonderful play area. At the OnAir Club, a dedicated space for karaoke events, we have a ramp to the stage to allow guests in wheelchairs and scooters to participate. And, we have an accessible Junior Suite that accommodates up to six guests.

Which itineraries are most attractive for first-time cruisers with limited mobility?

Alaska cruises are popular options as there is excellent accessibility in port as well as on shore excursions. In the Caribbean, the Eastern Caribbean may be preferable because many of the ports are "docked," versus Western Caribbean cruises where many of the ports require tendering to shore. I'd also recommend itineraries in Hawaii and Canada and New England.

Can you name some specific Royal Caribbean ships that would be ideal for first-time cruisers with limited mobility?

Sure. The Freedom-class ships and Voyager-class ships, because they are our newest new-builds and have a lot of accessible staterooms -- 32 on Freedom-class ships and 26 on Voyager-class vessels. And the Radiance-class ships, because accessible staterooms have automatic door openers, which makes it very easy for guests in wheelchairs and scooters to get in and out.

What features does Royal Caribbean offer for passengers who are deaf or blind?

Royal Caribbean welcomes service animals onboard for people who are blind and/or deaf, in addition to the following.

For passengers who are deaf or hard of hearing, we offer:

  • Portable Room Kits that include a visual/tactile alert system. The system provides alerts for door knocking, smoke detection and alarm clocks. It comes with an under-pillow or under-mattress vibrator alert.
  • Sign Language Interpreters (with advance notice)
  • Closed captioned televisions in staterooms
  • Amplified telephones in staterooms and public areas
  • Assistive Listening System in the main theatre

For passengers who are blind or have low vision, we offer:

  • Braille and large-print menus and daily Cruise Compasses (on request)
  • Braille Cruise Services Directories (on request)
  • Braille/tactile signage
  • Braille elevator buttons/audio call signals
  • Braille deck number to staircase handrails
  • Early boarding for orientation tours

To see special needs information for Royal Caribbean's ships, click here. For special needs information for other cruise lines and cruise ships, click here. To visit the main Special Needs section of our site, click here.

The Special Needs department at Vacations To Go is open Monday-Friday from 8am to 7pm, and Saturday from 9am to 6pm, CST, and can be reached at (800) 998-6902 or TTY Phone (800) 998-6795. It's important to tell the cruise counselor about all special needs prior to booking so that he or she can determine if they can be met.


Alan Fox
Executive Chairman
Vacations To Go

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