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Old 08-21-2013, 04:27 PM   #1
redwings30
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Cruising with a disabled teenager - tips, advice, anything!

Hello!

We will be cruising in October of 2014 on the Fantasy, and our oldest son will be 15 at the time. He has cerebral palsy, is completely nonverbal, has trouble swallowing own saliva so he wears a bib, uses an adaptive stroller for long trips and a walker for short trips. He is very sweet, loving, and thinks other kids are hilarious and so much fun! He has a communication device (kind of heavy and cumbersome) and REALLY loves other kids. He is into tween things, yet very much appreciates all of the things his 3 year old brother enjoys. In other words, he really can get along with anyone.

My main concern is regarding the clubs. He would be best suited to the Oceaneer's Club or Edge, however, from everything I've read, they do not allow for going to a club outside of your age range any longer. I know he would absolutely love spending time with the other kids, but I'm not sure if Vibe is equipped to accept a child who has mobility issues, drools (will wipe his own face to an extent), etc. We will do all feeding/toileting (he is toilet trained just cannot take himself physically to the restroom) outside of the club, and would not leave him there for more than a couple hours. Anyone have experience in this area? We are happy to have his company, but he really hates the pool and is sensitive to the heat of being outside a lot, so we are trying to give everyone time to do there own thing, since the rest of us do enjoy the pool, and since he does love hanging with other kids.

My next concern is in the MDR. As a family of 4, will we be seated directly with others or do they seat families individually? My son has no behavioral issues, but he wears a bib to eat and really is messy while eating, due to his difficulty chewing and poor coordination. We are used to it, but others may find it a bit...unappetizing? Just don't want to disrupt anyone else's dinner if we can avoid it. Obviously, if not, then sorry to our table mates - but you will fall in love with him.

I'll end it by saying I appreciate any and all tips, advice, suggestions regarding traveling with teens/kids with disabilities even outside of these two areas - we want each person to have the best time possible! Thanks
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Old 08-21-2013, 04:36 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by redwings30 View Post
Hello!

We will be cruising in October of 2014 on the Fantasy, and our oldest son will be 15 at the time. He has cerebral palsy, is completely nonverbal, has trouble swallowing own saliva so he wears a bib, uses an adaptive stroller for long trips and a walker for short trips. He is very sweet, loving, and thinks other kids are hilarious and so much fun! He has a communication device (kind of heavy and cumbersome) and REALLY loves other kids. He is into tween things, yet very much appreciates all of the things his 3 year old brother enjoys. In other words, he really can get along with anyone.

My main concern is regarding the clubs. He would be best suited to the Oceaneer's Club or Edge, however, from everything I've read, they do not allow for going to a club outside of your age range any longer. I know he would absolutely love spending time with the other kids, but I'm not sure if Vibe is equipped to accept a child who has mobility issues, drools (will wipe his own face to an extent), etc. We will do all feeding/toileting (he is toilet trained just cannot take himself physically to the restroom) outside of the club, and would not leave him there for more than a couple hours. Anyone have experience in this area? We are happy to have his company, but he really hates the pool and is sensitive to the heat of being outside a lot, so we are trying to give everyone time to do there own thing, since the rest of us do enjoy the pool, and since he does love hanging with other kids.

My next concern is in the MDR. As a family of 4, will we be seated directly with others or do they seat families individually? My son has no behavioral issues, but he wears a bib to eat and really is messy while eating, due to his difficulty chewing and poor coordination. We are used to it, but others may find it a bit...unappetizing? Just don't want to disrupt anyone else's dinner if we can avoid it. Obviously, if not, then sorry to our table mates - but you will fall in love with him.

I'll end it by saying I appreciate any and all tips, advice, suggestions regarding traveling with teens/kids with disabilities even outside of these two areas - we want each person to have the best time possible! Thanks
I do not have an answeer for the kids clubs, but I will chime in on the MDR. You can call the reservations number and request a table top for 4 and that you dine alone. You can also request a table handicap accessable so that you can get in and out of the dining room easier. If you choose to have table mates, that will be fine also, but you do have that option.

I would suspect in regards to the kid club areas that they would have staff there that will make your son's time there enjoyable. I would contact guest services once on board.
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Old 08-21-2013, 04:40 PM   #3
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While true, at 15 he would have to attend Vibe, you can accompany him into the Club/Lab or Edge during Open House hours for him to enjoy the activities there.

I'm not sure of the CM makeup in Vibe, but the ratio (CM to kids) is probably fairly low. There wouldn't be any one-on-one assistance available.
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Old 08-21-2013, 04:53 PM   #4
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I know you will get different answers from different CM's when you call DCL, but I would call them and ask if they can provide one-on-one assistance or what they recommend. I had to inquire about some healthcare questions for my mom, who is on oxygen, and I found an email address specifically to ask health related questions. The person I communicated with was very helpful.

I am sure you won't be the first family to ask these questions. I wish you were on our cruise because our kids would gladly be your son's buddy in the clubs. One of our good friends as a son with CP and all of our kids and other friends fight over who will be his buddy! He has an entourage everywhere he goes.

I hope you find the answers you need and enjoy your vacation!
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Old 08-21-2013, 05:04 PM   #5
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I know that there were only 3 CMs assigned to the Edge on our last Fantasy cruise. I wouldn't expect more in the Vibe. We met three at the open house after boarding when DS14 was checking out the space. As far as getting information from DCL's 800#, call and request to speak to someone in the special needs department which has been noted here often. They will be able to get you the most accurate information.
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Old 08-21-2013, 06:14 PM   #6
redwings30
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Thanks for the suggestions! We went to WDW in May and got hooked on the Disney magic...and all of the Cast Members were so wonderful to my son - just hoping for the same type of experience on board.
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Old 08-21-2013, 08:01 PM   #7
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This may not be music to your ears but there is NO one on one assistance in any of the kids clubs. Based on what you stated about your sons needs you will not be able to leave him in the club alone, you will only be able to take him during the open house times when you can accompany him. The CM's are not trained or equipped to care for any one child that needs one on one attention of any kind. I know this is very sad news for you as it has always been sad news for us. My daughter Jen (now 25) and is severely disability has never spent any time in the clubs over the 11+ sailing on DCL, or any cruise line for that matter.

Now for the good news! DCL has always done an amazing job getting me the things I need for my daughter while on the ship. I call and email the Special Needs department and advise that we need to be seats nearest the doors in each dinning room allowing for a quick get away if needed. I also request an "egg crate" on her bed for extra padding, these are just 2 of the many requests that are granted by DCL.

When we are walking/wheeling around the ships the CM's and ALL the characters ALWAYS stop an pay extra special attention to my sweet girl. On our last Fantasy cruise in May, Mickey Mouse himself helped her out of her wheelchair and helped her walk so she could get a picture with the Mouse himself.....this made me cry like a baby....so much joy and so much kindness is amazing on DCL!.
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Old 08-21-2013, 08:23 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by barbarasc
This may not be music to your ears but there is NO one on one assistance in any of the kids clubs. Based on what you stated about your sons needs you will not be able to leave him in the club alone, you will only be able to take him during the open house times when you can accompany him. The CM's are not trained or equipped to care for any one child that needs one on one attention of any kind. I know this is very sad news for you as it has always been sad news for us. My daughter Jen (now 25) and is severely disability has never spent any time in the clubs over the 11+ sailing on DCL, or any cruise line for that matter.

Now for the good news! DCL has always done an amazing job getting me the things I need for my daughter while on the ship. I call and email the Special Needs department and advise that we need to be seats nearest the doors in each dinning room allowing for a quick get away if needed. I also request an "egg crate" on her bed for extra padding, these are just 2 of the many requests that are granted by DCL.

When we are walking/wheeling around the ships the CM's and ALL the characters ALWAYS stop an pay extra special attention to my sweet girl. On our last Fantasy cruise in May, Mickey Mouse himself helped her out of her wheelchair and helped her walk so she could get a picture with the Mouse himself.....this made me cry like a baby....so much joy and so much kindness is amazing on DCL!.
:'( how sweet. It brought me to tears.
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Old 08-21-2013, 08:24 PM   #9
redwings30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by barbarasc View Post
This may not be music to your ears but there is NO one on one assistance in any of the kids clubs. Based on what you stated about your sons needs you will not be able to leave him in the club alone, you will only be able to take him during the open house times when you can accompany him. The CM's are not trained or equipped to care for any one child that needs one on one attention of any kind. I know this is very sad news for you as it has always been sad news for us. My daughter Jen (now 25) and is severely disability has never spent any time in the clubs over the 11+ sailing on DCL, or any cruise line for that matter.

Now for the good news! DCL has always done an amazing job getting me the things I need for my daughter while on the ship. I call and email the Special Needs department and advise that we need to be seats nearest the doors in each dinning room allowing for a quick get away if needed. I also request an "egg crate" on her bed for extra padding, these are just 2 of the many requests that are granted by DCL.

When we are walking/wheeling around the ships the CM's and ALL the characters ALWAYS stop an pay extra special attention to my sweet girl. On our last Fantasy cruise in May, Mickey Mouse himself helped her out of her wheelchair and helped her walk so she could get a picture with the Mouse himself.....this made me cry like a baby....so much joy and so much kindness is amazing on DCL!.
Hey, I appreciate the honest truth. As moms of disabled kids, it's much easier knowing what to expect so you can be prepared, so thank you. I was hoping that because of his ability to use his walker, he might get away with it. He would be very content to sit and watch movies in the cabin, too, while we are at the pool, but we will see how it goes. Thanks again.
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Old 08-21-2013, 08:34 PM   #10
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I would ask the CM's at the Oceaneer's Club for the entire week's schedule of open house times at the beginning of the cruise. We had a two year old on our first cruise and only found out we could do this on about day three. There are lots of fun family activities in the club that you could enjoy with your son and I found it helps to know the schedule more than one day in advance. We also asked for a table for four since our two year old has a speech delay and had started into a stage where he got really frustrated and would start yelling, often at meals and we didn't want to worry about disturbing another family's meal. They didn't seem to have any problem finding one for us. Happy travels!
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Old 08-21-2013, 08:36 PM   #11
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As your cruise gets closer, and before your paid in full date, do as recommended by others....contact DCL's Special Needs department and explain the situation. Ask them to contact the Youth Activities Manager onboard and see what they can do to work with you. It's possible that they may be able to include him in the Lab, and they will definitely be able to help you find out if he would do well in Vibe, or if you would be allowed to attend with him.
Special Needs dept can also handle your dining request. When you get onboard the first day, you can also go to the meeting for dining requests/changes (it will be listed in the Navigator that they'll give you) and make sure that you have a table to yourselves.
If by some chance....and mixups happen, you arrive at dinner and there's another family there, go back up to the Head Server's podium and speak with him.
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Old 08-21-2013, 08:46 PM   #12
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We're using Autism of the Seas for our Dec. cruise on the Wonder. They work with passengers with special needs (not just Autism). My DS 11 has Down syndrome and they are making arrangements for a dinner table just for our family, priority boarding, providing info to CMs in the club in advance of the cruise, etc. The services area free because we are using them as our TA. You can also transfer your current reservation to them. Another cruiser also told me they were able to purchase these services from them as we'll be cause they couldn't transfer their reservation. I haven't used them before so we'll see!
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Old 08-21-2013, 08:47 PM   #13
redwings30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by justmestace View Post
As your cruise gets closer, and before your paid in full date, do as recommended by others....contact DCL's Special Needs department and explain the situation. Ask them to contact the Youth Activities Manager onboard and see what they can do to work with you. It's possible that they may be able to include him in the Lab, and they will definitely be able to help you find out if he would do well in Vibe, or if you would be allowed to attend with him.
Special Needs dept can also handle your dining request. When you get onboard the first day, you can also go to the meeting for dining requests/changes (it will be listed in the Navigator that they'll give you) and make sure that you have a table to yourselves.
If by some chance....and mixups happen, you arrive at dinner and there's another family there, go back up to the Head Server's podium and speak with him.
Quote:
Originally Posted by deanimal View Post
I would ask the CM's at the Oceaneer's Club for the entire week's schedule of open house times at the beginning of the cruise. We had a two year old on our first cruise and only found out we could do this on about day three. There are lots of fun family activities in the club that you could enjoy with your son and I found it helps to know the schedule more than one day in advance. We also asked for a table for four since our two year old has a speech delay and had started into a stage where he got really frustrated and would start yelling, often at meals and we didn't want to worry about disturbing another family's meal. They didn't seem to have any problem finding one for us. Happy travels!
Both great suggestions, thank you!!
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Old 08-21-2013, 08:48 PM   #14
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As a couple others indicated, DCL will not provide direct 1:1 assistance. You mention he drools but wipes it himself, uses a walker. How is he in group settings on his own? Does he have a 1:1 aide at school during the day, or does he move along with the general population, only needing assistance for specific things? I ask because I know people at all ranges of CP - some whom you would hardly know other than an odd gait when walking, and others who are not independent in the least. If your son functions at school or other activities with minimal support, he may be able to do Vibe. Due to his age it will be Vibe and not the other kids clubs except during Open House times (which are usually 1 hr per day in each club, so 2 hours total in the Club/Lab). In late 2011 DCL became very strict on not allowing "too old" to move down to a different club even due to disability; prior to that time they were much more lenient, so you may still hear posters suggest DCL will allow it, but not any more.

Keep in mind that much of the Vibe activities are very social based. Will he interact with the other teens, or just sort of watch and enjoy being around them? If he doesn't connect with peers, he might have trouble "fitting in" with the teen group.

There are a LOT of family activities in which he can participate outside of the clubs. Movies, classes, tours, game shows, board games in one of the lounges, just to name a few. And as already mentioned, Open House at the various kids clubs; there may or may not be formal programming occurring in the Club/Lab during Open House.

With regards to dining - you can request a table for just your party. This is only a request and not guaranteed, but DCL does try to honor the request unless too many people ask for it. I've heard it's easier to get if you have late dining; not sure if that timing would work for your family though. But I'd put in the request along with the reason.

I also suggest contacting the Special Needs Department so they have on record the passenger's information about his disability.

Enjoy your cruise!

Last edited by lanejudy; 08-21-2013 at 08:53 PM.
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Old 08-21-2013, 08:49 PM   #15
redwings30
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Finest14, I'll look into that, thanks!
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