Cruising with an Autistic Child

Updated: Mar 8, 2019


I am a proud mom of an Autistic teenager who always needs to be pushed to try new things. He hates changes and transitioning is always a drag. However cruising seems to work for us.


Convenient

I always sail from the New York's Manhattan port which is less than 5 miles away from home. We jump in a cab and in less than 15 minutes we are at the cruise terminal. The wait to board the boat is never fun...not even for us “typical folks” however most cruise lines have priority boarding for guest with disability (no charge) or a VIP option (extra charge). A few months before sail date contact the cruises access team/service team and let them know you are sailing with an Autistic child. Some will require you to fill out a form or provide a doctor's note. Let them know if your child has any food allergies or restrictions, if they are non-verbal or any other issues that you feel are important to keep your child safe. They are usual pretty good at helping to make your vacation as stress-free as possible. I personally request priority embarkation/debarkation and assistance during muster drills because both are very crowded and at times very loud.


Preparation

Since my son’s first cruise in 2012 we created a ritual to create a colorful calendar where we put port and excursion information and label Sea days with an awesome picture of the sea. We hang that on the wall in our stateroom and he loves to cross out the days every night. We pack his favorite bear and even bring his comforter....yup it takes over one entire suitcase.

Another helpful preparation tip is using YouTube to learn all about the ship, onboard activities and excursions. My son and many autistic children are very visual so the videos are very helpful to introduce them to their new surroundings. Some cruise lines will also send you videos upon request.


On-board

Locate the library and/or board game room. 9 out of 10 times this is always the quietest location on the boat if your child needs some time to refocus. I avoid the stateroom because I find it harder for me to get him out of there.

Bring some activity books, paper, crayons and anything that keeps your little/big one busy. His iPhone and headphones come along with us and I do invest in the paid Wi-Fi option because it helps while I play Bingo, watch a show at the theater or enjoy a nice dinner ;-). Some cruise lines have better Wi-Fi then others.

Eating

Eating while sailing has never been an issue for us because his prefer menu consist of chicken nugget, pizza, hotdog and fries....this is usually available at all onboard restaurants but when all else fails, use the 24 hour room service option who serve one or all of these goodies.

Daily Schedule

What we love most about cruising is the ability to attend events that work best for us. A daily schedule is provided a day before to allow you to plan your day ahead. Bring a highlighter and get ready to have fun. I will also recommend downloading the cruises app for easier access.


We have sailed on Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Line and Disney. I will discuss them all in details on future post. But some of the stuff Damian and I love to do while sailing are the following:

  • Cupcake & Cake Decorating Workshops

  • Karaoke (Damian never did it but he enjoys seeing others do it)

  • Arcade Room

  • Watching movies on the lido deck.

  • Live Musicals (Disney has the BEST ones in the world)

  • Any events with cartoon characters.

Post your questions below and follow my Instagram page for some live cruise fun (Coming soon!).

#autism #Cruise #Family #NCL #Disney #RoyalCaribbean #travel

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