Sea ViewsFrom President and COO, Adam Goldstein

Sea Views Blog with Adam Goldstein

Making Royal Caribbean Accessible for Everyone

Get Out There. Why Not? The Sea is Calling. I just love all the brand campaigns we’ve done over the years. Not only do they resonate with everyone, they are great for people with disabilities. Why? People with disabilities often have challenges in their every day life, from just getting out of bed, navigating their home, and getting to work, school, and shopping. Many do not think of traveling with a disability, taking a vacation, or even a cruise is in the realm of possibility. Our job is to help them know it is possible. My name is Ron Pettit and I am a Senior Specialist in Access. We have an “Access Department”, a dedicated team who is responsible for handling guest and travel agent inquiries about planning accessible cruise vacations. I work with this team and the entire company to ensure that we are in compliance with accessibility regulations.

I love my job because it’s different everyday. I am considered a subject matter expert, so some days I work with our Newbuild department. Right now I’m dealing with Project Sunshine. Sorry, I can’t give any secrets out but it’s exciting! I can tell you that I was very involved in designing accessibility for our most recent ships, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas. As you know, Royal Caribbean International continues to bring innovative design to our ships, and as each new feature is designed, we are making them accessible. For example, the first-ever Carousel at sea on Boardwalk is wheelchair accessible. Also, when they designed the outdoor AquaTheater, we made sure there is a platform lift to seating up front, so guests in wheelchairs can experience our spectacular water shows first-hand. They may even get wet! And, there are 46 accessible staterooms in a variety of categories, the most of any cruise ship at sea, and including a two-story urban loft suite with an elevator to provide access to both levels!

Recently, I helped our Sales Training Team with their monthly webinar. In March, they hosted a live webinar for our travel agent partners about our “Accessible Seas” program. Over 550 travel agents attended, and I loved the fact we were able to expand our travel agent partners’ knowledge about all the wonderful accessible products and services we have to offer and how to make accessible cruising possible for their clients with disabilities. To learn more about our Accessible Seas program, visit

Another one of the great things we do is to consult with people with disabilities when we’re developing new or updated policies, procedures and training programs. A few months ago, we worked with Open Doors Organization, a leading accessible travel and hospitality consulting organization, to help us develop two training videos for our pier and shipboard staff. We incorporated people with disabilities in the videos in which we covered techniques about how to properly and safely provide assistance to guests in wheelchairs and scooters, with limited mobility or service animals. I’m excited to share that both videos will be shown fleetwide in 2012, which will improve the experience of our guests with disabilities.

We have heard from many parents who have younger children with disabilities such as autism tell us how much they enjoyed their cruise. The key? Our wonderful Adventure Ocean program. Parents share how their child’s eyes light up when being welcomed and included in group play activities with other children. Adventure Ocean gives the parents the 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 just could not do on land. Tip: Our Adventure Ocean staff is not able to provide continuous one-on-one care; so if your child requires this care, then a family member or aide can accompany the child while participating in our program.

I want to share with you a story about when I first came to Royal Caribbean in 2006. One of my first projects was managing the accessibility program for a full ship charter on the Freedom of the Seas for over 3,800 deaf guests, sailing in October 2007. It took over a year and a half to plan and execute – there were over 120 sign language interpreters and visual/tactile alert kits for every stateroom. We even found a shipboard trainer who had a degree in deaf studies on another ship, and transferred him to Freedom of the Seas to help train over 1,000 crewmembers in deaf culture and basic signs. During boarding, our crew signed “hello” to welcome every deaf guest onboard the first-ever “Deaf Freedom Cruise” organized by Passages Deaf Travel. While this cruise happened almost five years ago, it is one of the most rewarding experiences in my life, because I am hard of hearing. It’s amazing to be a part of a company that believes in making cruising accessible for everyone.

To close, Freedom of the Seas is my favorite Royal Caribbean ship, not only because I have sailed 10 times on her but because I like the word “Freedom.” Freedom to me means that we, all of us, have the freedom to cruise, without limitations. I was going to say, it’s my job – but that’s not true. It’s everyone’s job here at Royal Caribbean, and we do it Royally.


20 responses to:
“Making Royal Caribbean Accessible for Everyone”

  1. Julie Talone

    Yet another reason why I LOVE working for the greatest cruise line in the world, Royal Caribbean!

    Thanks for your dedication and service, Ron! Having worked with you in the past, I know you are passionate about this! I am so glad your passion for providing a seamless travel experience for our guests is applied here at RCCL!!! As a Training and Development Manager for RCCL, I see first hand the benefit of travel freedom for our valuable guests with varying abilities and the sheer delight such a vacation brings to them.

    I am proud to be part of a team that cares so much for all our guests with special needs!

    • Adam

      We’re glad to have you on the team, Julie. Thanks for your comment.

  2. Anne

    I’m so happy to see RC making this effort. I am a teacher of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing. On one of your cruises, I noticed a Deaf couple and wondered how communication was handled for them. While I’m not an interpreter, I’m a fluent signer and was able to communicate with them if needed. I, too, am hearing impaired and the announcements made in the hallway are difficult for me to understand in my cabin. I would love to go on a Deaf cruise!

    • Adam

      Thank you, Anne. We appreciate your efforts as well as your comment.

  3. Jen

    I would love to know about access for people with Service Dogs (Medical Alert). How does RCCL accommodate people with Service Dogs?

    • Adam

      Hi Jen, you can learn about how we accommodate our cruisers with services dogs here. Thanks for reading.

  4. Debra Kerper

    Ron, thanks for writing about the extraordinary access program RCCL has committed themselves to and thanks to you for consistently doing such an outstanding job in insuring its success! I am honored and very fortunate to have worked with you all these years in my role as a travel agent and as a cruiser and to also be able to call you my friend. You have put together an amazing team that certainly makes my job easier! Keep up the great work! YOU deliver the WOW!

    • Adam

      Thank you, Debra.

  5. Andrew J. Garnett


    This is a great article. Thank you for not only making it possible for pepole with special needs to travel, but also making it an enjoyable experience for everyone.

    As owner of the company that provides special needs equipment for a good portion of your guests, I can honestly say that without Royal Caribbean’s dedication to this population, our motto of “Delivering an accessible world” would probably be near impossible.


    A big THANK YOU to you too for all of your dedication to the special needs segment and for allowing Ron to write this article on your blog.

    • Adam

      You do great work, Andrew, and we’re happy to hear you appreciate ours. Thank you.

  6. Roberta Schwartz

    Ron, what a wonderful post! How great is it for you to share with everyone the outstanding work Royal has done over the years to make cruising more accessible for people with disabilities and the mature. Having worked together for many years in my former role as SATH’s director of education, I am so happy to see you continue this important work. And thanks to Adam and Richard for leading with the vision of access for everyone. As you said this brings true freedom.

    • Adam

      Thank you for your comment, Roberta.

  7. Dominique Lavigueur

    Thank you for thinking that way.
    My mother was in a wheelchair for ten years and back in the late 8o’s, her travel mobility was VERY restricted. As B&B owners, we planned our last B&B to be adapted and the response was overwhelming.
    When you provide an accessible service for one disabled person, don’t forget you also open this venue to their partner, spouse and family as well, and they ALL appreciate it
    Thanks Dominique

    • Adam

      We appreciate your comment, Dominique.

  8. Audrey Calcagno

    We have had the most wonderful experiences aboard RCI cruise ships with our differently abled son. Special needs = EXTRA SPECIAL TREATMENT! The design of the staterooms is ingenious, nothing left to chance. And the crew… well, there are no words that do them justice in their sensitivity and caring, anticipating every need. Hey, DISNEY CRUISE LINE: learn a lesson here!

  9. David Sigel

    I have taken my father who is wheelchair dependent on more than 50 cruises – all on Celebrity. Ron Pettit and the executive offices demonstrate a care and concern to the disability needs of my father more than I can describe. Every other part of the travel industry can learn from Ron and from Celebrity

  10. Tabitha and Mac Partlow

    We also are truly thankful for Royal Caribbean’s dedication to accessible travel. As the owner’s of Passages Deaf Travel and working with you on the ALL DEAF charter in 2007, we know first hand how important Royal’s commitment to guests with special needs is. Since 2007, your continued support of our Deaf Freedom Cruise programs and other cruises have our guests feeling the communication barrier they experience many times in their day to day life is almost non-existent while on their cruise vacation. How awesome is that! It is what we hoped for when we had our first Deaf Freedom Cruise on the Freedom of the Seas, and we can’t thank you enough that 5 years later our guests are still experiencing that same freedom!

    We also wanted to say that the support for accessible travel at Royal Caribbean comes from the top. Every time we have had the privilege to talk with Adam, Lisa Bauer, Vicki Freed and Richard Fain at an event or travel show, they have always encouraged us and showed their support. They make us feel they want our guests on board, and they offer their help and ideas to make sure our programs are a success. It inspires us to continue to put on better and better programs, including another ALL DEAF cruise in 2014!


    • Adam

      You’re both more than welcome, Tabitha and Mac. Thank you for your warm comment.

  11. Steve

    Good to see the focus on Disabled cruising mate! It’s far too often that people with disabilities get screwed over with a lot of things.

    If there are any disabled people thinking of taking a cruise, there’s a great guide on this cruise website which people should take a look at.

  12. Stacey

    I’m glad to hear of these efforts because I cruised Jewel of the Seas recently and I had great difficulty getting very SIMPLE accommodations related to my hearing loss (to the point where I would cruise another line instead of RC in the future). I hope that this will be changing in the future for other passengers.

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