Sea ViewsFrom President and COO, Adam Goldstein

Sea Views Blog with Adam Goldstein

Autism Friendly Family Vacations: What You Need to Know

Autism friendly. Two seemingly simple words, but they are having a huge impact for our guests and the autism community.

My name is Ron Pettit and I’m ADA and Access Compliance Consultant at Royal Caribbean International. Don’t let the Consultant title confuse you, I’m actually a full time employee and have been for over eight years. Since April is Autism Awareness Month, I was asked to write about our Autism Friendly initiative, and about the fact we were named the first ever Autism Friendly cruise line last February.

We started on our Autism friendly initiative over a year ago. It’s been a very interesting journey. When the idea first came up, it was a very simple concept. We saw several land based hotels and theaters that made their products and services “autism friendly” and we wanted to replicate that same kind of success and awareness to the Royal Caribbean International brand.

When people think of accessibility, they tend to think about mobility, hearing and visual disabilities. Developmental and cognitive disabilities are hidden, and less easily understood. Part of my job is to help find new opportunities beyond just compliance, and in this situation, beyond the envelope of traditional accessibility. Accessibility is about accommodating all disabilities, not just the top three.

Because of our work with Autism on the Seas since 2007, we as a brand have learned what it takes to accommodate families with autism and other developmental disabilities. Many of the autism friendly features we have been doing for years such as priority check-in, boarding, and departure; special dietary offerings including gluten-free; and Adventure Ocean flexible age grouping (by ability rather than age) among others.

So when the Autism Friendly idea came around, we looked at what we could do better. We knew as a brand that we could successfully deliver these types of accommodations – which is why we committed to a certification program that would provide recognition and awareness to the things we were already doing. Then, we took it one step further and added additional autism friendly features such as autism friendly movies and a cruising social story in order to achieve certification.

Autism Social Story Booklet pg 1

Autism friendly movies are great. We make a few simple modifications: light is low-lit, not totally dark; sound is not quite so loud; and people are encouraged to freely talk and walk around during the movie. Everything you are supposed to do at a movie – we don’t do! We beta tested these movies on Oasis of the Seas last year and got great results.

Some of you may already know that a social story is a written or visual guide describing various social interactions, situations, behaviors, etc. We now offer a social story about cruising to help families with autism prepare for their cruise vacation. This alone is such a great hit. Autism families just love the fact we have introduced this. To download our Cruising Social Story, please go here.

As we developed the autism friendly concept, we discovered we wanted expand the concept beyond just simply accommodating “individuals” with autism, because guests with autism travel with their families and we are really providing an autism friendly experience for the entire family.

Autism Friendly features in Adventure Ocean do two things: it gives the parents the confidence to leave their child in our program, and provides the parents an opportunity to have a short respite to relax by the pool, take in a spa appointment or have a relaxing dinner by themselves – something they may not be able to do on land.

The Rock Climbing Walls, ice skating rinks, Flow Rider surf simulators, H20 Zone water parks and other activities we have onboard also give families with autism opportunity to do things together – in a welcoming and autism friendly environment.

Are we done? No. We have the next tier of certification to accomplish – autism awareness training of all our youth staff onboard. We expect to complete this by end of 2014. As we launched our initiative, we saw all the wonderful and positive feedback from our guests and the autism community. One in particular stood out to me because it was sent on the day of our Autism Friendly announcement:

“I just want to thank you for your efforts to become an expert in dealing with autistic children. My wife and I have adopted several children with special needs, most on the Autism spectrum and this is truly an amazing thing. Thank you so much for this as a dad.” – James D.

This is why I love what I do…at the first-ever Autism Friendly cruise line.

2 responses to:
“Autism Friendly Family Vacations: What You Need to Know”

  1. Melinda Roat

    Dear Sir,
    First off, let me tell you how grateful I am that you are offering autism friendly services on your cruises! This is a blessing for autism families! I do have a few questions though. First off, I read that there is priority check-in, boarding and departure. When we booked our cruise for June of 2015, our travel agent had no idea of the services offered such as those listed above. My son has an autism spectrum disorder. How are we to get these services? I am getting a letter from his physician stating he has these services but are these arrangements that need to be made ahead of time. Also, my son drinks bottled water. Is this available on the ship (we are sailing on Liberty of the Seas) or can we bring our own? Also, he tends to be a very picky eater and what he eats is limited. How can this be accommodated?
    Again, thank you so much for taking a huge step in the world of Autism! It is opening up a whole new world of vacation possibilities for us.

    • Royal Caribbean International

      Hello Melinda, You can request the priority check-in, boarding and departure through your travel agent by contacting our Access Department at (866) 592- 7225. On the date of your departure you will need to identify yourself with the pier staff. Additionally, you should speak with the main dining room staff onboard for special dietary needs; however, if your son has allergies, those should be conveyed by the travel agent to our Access Department as soon as possible. We also offer bottled water packages of 8,12,16 and 24 bottles of Evian water. These can be purchased prior to boarding using our online Cruise Planner or once onboard. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Close

Connect With us

Tab indicator
Royal Caribbean's avatar
Royal Caribbean@RoyalCaribbean
@troyboy78 Our SeaPass system places the final charge to your card in the same currency that the reservation was made http://t.co/1Ph8hCgk7H
Royal Caribbean's avatar
Royal Caribbean@RoyalCaribbean
@belunyc What'd you think, would you do it again?
Royal Caribbean's avatar
Royal Caribbean@RoyalCaribbean
@GoldfishBoal At this time Independence of the Seas does not have the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine onboard.
Royal Caribbean's avatar
Royal Caribbean@RoyalCaribbean
Photo thanks to guest passionfruitslushie.
Royal Caribbean's avatar
Royal Caribbean@RoyalCaribbean
Sail above the rest. http://t.co/mOYrMUtoy3
Sightsee from your deck chair.

#royalwow views captured by guest poordany on Instagram.
Vacation over too quickly? Sail back to back on Oasis of the Seas this fall and experience Europe like never before.
http://bit.ly/1lRMvKl
Some of our favorite guest photos from Labadee. http://bit.ly/1iKMoVI
We had an amazing time showcasing Quantum Dining in Aspen. Thank you to our friends at +FOOD & WINE http://bit.ly/QuantumDining
Go behind-the-scenes of some of our favorite onboard shows. http://bit.ly/1m0EMOv
In case you missed it, watch our Quantum Entertainment Hangout with Kristin Chenoweth here: Live Google+ Hangout with Kristin Chenoweth and Nick Weir
All-new shows and a Broadway favorite - Quantum of the Seas will have it all. Explore the world-class entertainment onboard: http://bit.ly/QOTSEnt
Don't miss out - join our Hangout with Kristin Chenoweth at 4:00pm EST for a special #QuantumOfTheSeas Entertainment announcement, live from the +Hyde Bellagio in Las Vegas: http://bit.ly/KChenEntHangout
Questions about Quantum Entertainment? We’ve got you covered. Join Kristin Chenoweth on 6/11 at 4pm EST for a Hangout live from Las Vegas: http://bit.ly/1oDtVKX
Fort Morro: adventure 500 years in the making. #sanjuan 

JavaScript and Flash are required to view video content. View the playlist on YouTube.

  • Beautiful Balos Beac Beautiful Balos Beach, Crete. #greece 5 hours + 15 minutes ago
  • Colorful dresses in Colorful dresses in Malaga, Spain. 5 hours + 15 minutes ago
  • Dubrovnik, Croatia p Dubrovnik, Croatia perched on the edge of the Adriatic Sea. 5 hours + 15 minutes ago
  • Sansone Beach, Tusca Sansone Beach, Tuscany. 5 hours + 15 minutes ago
  • Chrysopigi, Sifnos, Chrysopigi, Sifnos, Greece. 5 hours + 15 minutes ago
  • We promise you'll ne We promise you'll never be bored. 7 hours + 32 minutes ago
  • Caribbean bound. Caribbean bound. 1 day + 8 hours ago
  • Stingray City, Grand Stingray City, Grand Cayman. 1 day + 8 hours ago
  • Beach perfection in Beach perfection in Grand Cayman. 1 day + 8 hours ago
  • Smathers Beach in Ke Smathers Beach in Key West, Florida. 1 day + 8 hours ago
  • Sail above the rest.
  • Nothing says vacation like sunsets at sea. #royalwow
  • Our favorite place to chill out. #alaska
  • Next stop: Jamaica. @AwesomenessTV's @yomuscleboii climbs one of our favorites, Dunn's River Falls. Follow the link in our bio to watch the latest episode.
  • Every day should be a beach day. #stthomas
  • Arrive in style.
  • Swim. Sun. Lounge. Repeat.
  • Leave your inhibitions at the door with Wink, an adults-only showcase.
  • Spanning from the stage to mezzanine, the Earth Harp will bring the Royal Theater to life.
  • Drummer's paradise: the unbelievable Drum Wall is made of 136 drums and is exclusive to Quantum of the Seas' Sonic Odyssey show.
Royal Caribbean at the Food & Wine Classic

Monday, July 21, 2014 11:52 AM

By Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, Executive Vice President, Operations, Royal Caribbean International I recently returned from Aspen, Colorado where Royal Caribbean International was the official cruise... Continue Here to Read More…

Have You Cruised on 30 Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014 10:07 AM

By Adam Goldstein, President &amp; COO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Less than four months to Quantum of the Seas! As one of my law professors like to say, the “relentless march of the... Continue Here to Read More…

Royal Caribbean Expands Cruise Vacation Offerings in Asia

Wednesday, July 2, 2014 8:30 AM

By Adam Goldstein, President &amp; COO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. My latest travels brought me back to Asia the week of June 16 – 20.  As always, the pace and energy of the region are... Continue Here to Read More…

Personal Plans for the Second Half of 2014

Thursday, June 26, 2014 9:51 AM

Blog by Adam A quick update on my other doings as the “empty nest” approaches even faster than the delivery of Quantum of the Seas. Our family continues our involvement with many aspects of... Continue Here to Read More…

How Entertainment on Quantum & Anthem Will Transcend Anything You've Seen on Land or Sea

Tuesday, June 24, 2014 4:22 PM

Blog by Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, Executive Vice President, Operations, Royal Caribbean International Hello, everyone.  Last week I had the pleasure of being in Las Vegas where we announced the amazing... Continue Here to Read More…

Catching the Travel Bug: My Explorations through SEED

Friday, June 20, 2014 11:18 AM

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.'s community support efforts often focus on education and social services for underserved youth. Over the years I have written from time to time about my long term... Continue Here to Read More…

Kristin Chenoweth Talks Entertainment on Quantum of the Seas

Thursday, June 12, 2014 12:05 PM

Blog entry by Kristin Chenoweth Kristin Chenoweth is a Tony and Emmy Award winning Broadway, film, and television actress. She is also the official Quantum Experience Advisor for Entertainment and... Continue Here to Read More…

How to Take Advantage of Opportunities Across the Globe

Monday, June 9, 2014 11:27 AM

It seems fitting to write this from a shipyard in Germany, because what I wish I had known when I was 22 was how global and networked my business and my life would become. When I was 22, the only... Continue Here to Read More…

Official Royal Caribbean Cruise Schedule for 2015-2016

Wednesday, May 21, 2014 3:57 PM

We announce the upcoming deployment of our ships throughout the first half of each calendar year. We typically state what they’re going to be doing from one year in the future until two years in the... Continue Here to Read More…

An Easier Way to Plan for a Group Vacation

Friday, May 16, 2014 11:02 AM

It has been a while since my last blog, however I recently returned from my first multi-generational family vacation and I want to share some thoughts about that experience with you. You may be... Continue Here to Read More…