I am so fortunate to have met Kyle Smith, a Travel Advisor with Cruise Planners
Kyle has spoken of the Royal Carribien Cruise Line being certified with the Autism Friendly foundation, which is absolutely amazing for families who have kids on the spectrum.
Royal Caribbean is the only cruise line in the currently certified with the Autism Friendly foundation.
· All crew members on board have gone through a training to learn what autism is, how it affects different people in different ways (i.e. the various spectrums) and how the program works.
· Crew members who work directly with passengers will have a more involved training to better understand how to recognize the signs of someone with autism being stressed, uncomfortable or “out of their element”.
o Youth club members will have pagers to let the parents know that their child may need assistance in case the parent is away from the child and the child needs assistance.
o If a child is having difficulty relating to or participating with a group or activity youth club members will still let the kids stay involved, but may separate them from the rest of the group and do an individual one-on-one activity with the child. The goal is to keep the child with autism comfortable and involved in activities so that they are enjoying themselves.
o The kids with autism are never made to feel that they are being treated differently from the rest of the kids in the youth program – they can choose to participate or do an individual activity.
· RCCL will make age requirement exceptions for passengers with autism and let them be in programs that may normally be for kids younger than them. They will let them be in age groups with siblings even if that isn’t their assigned age group. They make exceptions to the maximum age to be wearing “pull-up” pants or, in some cases, diapers.
· I will provide a special activity booklet before the cruise begins that the child will go through with their parents. The booklet goes through what a cruise is, what to expect on board, an understanding that there will be lines, possible loud noises, lots of activity, etc. This prepares the child for what to expect. The child and parent fill in the book together (it’s written and presented much like a coloring book).
· Families with autistic kids are permitted to embark and disembark earlier than other passengers so that their time waiting in line is as limited as possible since waiting in lines can be very difficult for a person with autism.
· There is a toy lending program with autism friendly toys that the child can carry with them or take to their cabin.
· Many ships show the Autism Channel on the in-cabin televisions. This is great for when a parent may have to remove a child from the activity and get them to a quiet place.
· Many people with autism have special dietary needs, RCCL will do what they can to accommodate those needs.
· The program is not just limited to autism and can be applied to other special needs guests.
If you are in the Seattle Area, Kyle is hosting a ship tour for 2-4 families. Here are the details:
- My guests will have an opportunity to meet some of the staff on board as well as the director of Autism at Sea for RCCL.
- There will be a guided tour that includes a visit of the youth center on board, different public rooms, cabins and the dining room, plus there will be time to explore on their own.
- Lunch will be provided. At this time, they are telling me that it will be an exclusive lunch in the main dining room.
- There won’t be any pressure to purchase a cruise, but the idea is to have families on board who may want to consider it.
- The date of the tour is August 5th, 2015.
If you have a child with special needs and are interested in learning more about this tour, time is of the essence – Kyle needs RSVPS by next week.
To learn more, email Kyle at firstname.lastname@example.org, or give him a call at (206) 617-5429.