The New Year has finally arrived, and it is time to start planning your family’s travel for the coming spring and summer. You’ve heard all about them and have finally decided to take the proverbial plunge and go on that first family cruise.With so many choices out there: how do you choose a cruise that all family members will enjoy including your child with autism? Here are some tips to help you decide which cruise to book when traveling with autism.
For Outdoor Lovers
If you and your family like to spend time outdoors, then Alaska should top your list since it remains one of the few unspoiled natural wonders, still readily available for travelers to enjoy.
For the traveler with autism shore excursions like dog sledding, glacier trekking, and white water rafting can become the epitome of sensory experiences.
Multiple cruise lines have ships offering seven-day Alaskan itineraries, during in which you can visit the small but quaint towns of Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway.
Prices can range between 100 and 150 dollars a day per person, depending on the month and ship you choose. Airfare for a round-trip starting and ending in the same port is usually cheaper than open-jaw tickets (where you fly into one city and return from another.)
Cruise lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Princess are by far the most family-oriented and provide the best activities in their kids’ clubs.
For History and Art buffs.
For families with autism that enjoy history, archeology, art, and architecture, a Mediterranean cruise is a perfect choice. There are two main itineraries during the spring and summer: westbound, which covers Spain, the south of France, and Italy, or eastbound, which usually include Italy, Turkey, and Greece.
Both itineraries are huge crowd-pleasers and are bound to captivate and supply your family with great stories and cherished memories. Visiting world-famous museums, churches, mosques, and famous battlefields quite cheaply on your vacation while sampling the local foods will expose your child with autism to new cultures and experiences.
Travel in late spring is recommended for families on a budget especially if your kid with autism is heat-intolerant and can’t wait in long queues. Many European travelers like the MSC, Costa, and Fred Thompson Cruise lines that are cheaper than their US counterparts but may not cater as well to the American guest.
American cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Lines, and Carnival offer the European itineraries this year, leading to a wider price diversity of between 150 and 300 dollars per person per day, depending on the ship and date of sailing.
For Thrill Seekers
Is your kid with autism a thrill-seeker who likes to push it to the limit? Then, a Caribbean cruise is the one to take.
Multiple cruise lines circulate the tiny islands, offering their travelers action-packed vacations.
You can try activities like zip-lining, rock climbing, swimming with dolphins, snorkeling scuba diving, and horseback riding, all in less than a week.
Check out the newer mega-ships that provide additional thrills on board, like Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas. They feature onboard ice skating and rock climbing lessons, surfing simulators, zip lining, as well as a boardwalk-like section complete with a hand-painted carousel and other attractions.
Older ships offer SeaTrek Scuba lessons, golf simulators, and mini-golfing, in addition to Ping-Pong tables, basketball courts, and a professional running track.
NCL’s Epic offers a bowling alley, batting cages, a bungee trampoline, an enormous rock-climbing wall, a rope adventure course, a 24-foot climbing cage named Spider Web, and a rappelling wall where you descend instead of climbing.
Prices, especially on Royal Caribbean, tend to be on the high-end during the summer and holidays, often reach 190 to 230 dollars per person per day; however, there are some real bargains offered if your travel dates are flexible.
For Theme Park and or Animation Junkies
For those who wish to extend their Disney exposure past Disney World, there’s the Disney cruise line option that supplies you with pirate deck parties with the only firework at sea show allowed, original stage performances, and character appearances.
The goal is to make you feel the magic from the moment you board, starting with the ship’s horns playing “When You Wish Upon a Star” when setting sail.
But the Disney Magic does not come cheap—be prepared to shell out anywhere between 100 dollars per person per day off season to 280 dollars per person per day during summer vacation or the holidays.
If you are cruising from Florida, a close second is Royal Caribbean, which has just signed a new collaboration program with Dream Works that includes character breakfasts, character parades and ice shows, and even 3D movie experiences on its newer ships.
In an effort not be left behind, NCL has also teamed with Nickelodeon for slime game show fun, Dora, and Spongebob sightings, and other on board surprises on two of its ships—the Epic and Jewel.
If you enjoy volunteering, you should consider doing so on your next family cruise. Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans accepts volunteers for the day, as do some of the orphanages in Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan or Puerto Vallarta all stops on a Mexican Riviera cruise.
Working with a charity organization during your journey makes for an excellent opportunity to teach your son or daughter compassion and ways to lend a helping hand in society. If that’s not feasible, you could always organize a fundraiser in your community and bring or buy much-needed items to donate.
Make sure you contact the facility first and tell them of your intention; don’t just show up there unannounced. Prices are moderate—80-140 dollars per person per day—but satisfaction is priceless!
Even if you plan every detail of your vacation, your first cruise may not go quite as planned.
It may take several cruises to discover which cruise style works best for your family. So, if you find out that one type didn’t work, don’t give up and try a different one.