Cruising with Autism

What to know about Cruising with Autism aboard Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and Disney Cruise Line

Cruising with Autism Photo Royal Caribbean
Royal Caribbean – Wonder of the Seas

Families traveling with Autistic family members and friends can encounter scenarios and environments that are not common in their everyday lives. And these can be incredibly stressful for individuals that thrive on the known and the routine. Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and Disney Cruise Line both offer opportunities for groups cruising with Autism to cruise safely and securely, eliminating stress and worry. Well, to a certain extent! Let’s talk about what each cruise line can do for those guests cruising with Autism!

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line

Cruising with Autism Photo Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean offers an autism friendly initiative for families living with autism, Down Syndrome and other

developmental disabilities. This includes sensory friendly films and toys, dietary menu options, and overall autism friendly training for Adventure Ocean staff and more.

Autism Friendly Features

Cruising with Autism - Coco Cay Family Cabana Photo Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean provides priority check-in, boarding and departure for families with Autism, and special dietary accommodations when necessary. These are brilliant

accommodations when necessary. These are brilliant accommodations for families with autism, as waiting is oftentimes one of the most difficult tasks for Autistic individuals.

Children ages 3-11 years old can receive flexible grouping by ability and exception to the toilet-training policy in Adventure Ocean. Pagers and/or phones may be available for parents while autistic children are in the care of the Adventure Ocean Club.


Autism Friendly Films are movie theater experiences presented in a low-lit and low volume environment. Guests are encouraged to freely talk and walk around during the film. In order for a

Cruising with Autism pexels-photo-7991506.jpeg

sailing to qualify for an autism friendly film, there must be at least five autistic children onboard. They are also offered on all autism group cruises.

Cruising with Autism - Autism Friendly Toy Lending Photo Royal Caribbean

Available on all ships as part of the Adventure Ocean Youth Program, Autism Friendly Toy Lending is a newer program. You may request the program,

and Royal Caribbean will provide a tote bag of Autism friendly toys that are appropriate for your child.


Royal Caribbean offers activities for children with all abilities. Families are encouraged to communicate their child’s needs and abilities to the well-trained staff so that the staff can make

Cruising with Autism - Youth Activities

the appropriate modifications to make sure the children are all able to be included! So great!

Autism Social Story

A social story is a useful tool for a lot of children. It is a written or visual guide that describes various social interactions, situations, behaviors, skills, or concepts. These social stories can be useful to help prepare autistic children for what’s to come. You can visit Royal Caribbean’s Cruising Social Story here:

Royal Caribbean Social Story

In addition to everything above, Royal Caribbean also offers Teen and Adult programs. Unlike the children’s programs, though, the adult and teen programs do not provide supervision or one on one attention.

Disney Cruise Line

Cruising With Autism Disney Cruise Line

Much like Royal Caribbean, Disney Cruise Line also offers accommodations for Autistic guests. First off, check-in. You can actually complete the online check-in at least 72

hours prior to sailing. When you do this, you can choose your terminal arrival time. This will cut down on your wait time for security screening. You can also identify your needs for the Cast Members and they will provide assistance.

disney cruise line social story

Disney Cruise Line’s Social Story comes in a downloadable 30-page activity booklet. This booklet is great for all kids, and highlights the arrival/boarding process, muster drill, as well as fun activities for kids. You can access this booklet here:

Cruising with Autism DCL Social Story
Disney Cruise Line
theaters, movies, and restaurants

Some restaurants and shows have audio/visual experiences, like strobe lights and fog, for example, that may be frightening.

You can contact Disney Cruise Line Special Services at least 60 days in advance of sailing to discuss seating options.

In addition, Cast Members will be available beginning 30 minutes before shows at the Walt Disney Theater. You may request to hold seats if someone in your party cannot wait and must arrive as close to show time as possible. Seats in the back of the theater are usually recommended for guests that may need to come and go during the performance.

Finally, the Buena Vista Theater offers Family Movie Fun Time, which is an opportunity to enjoy a family feature film in a relaxed environment. Unlike a traditional movie theater experience, some lights will be left on, the volume will be turned down, and audience members are welcome to talk, leave their seats, walk around, and have fun.

characters, water slides, and debarkation
Disney Cruise Line Characters
Mickey and Minnie enjoying Alaska

Disney Cruise Line provides the opportunity for just one person to wait in line for characters if there is a member of your family with a disability that impacts their ability to wait in line. Single parents or guardians are also given the opportunity to speak to Character Greeters for assistance. For guests who want to ride the Aquaduck/Aquadunk/Mickey Slide/Twist n Spout, etc, but cannot wait in lines, it is advised to arrive just prior to opening or near closing. Unfortunately there are no alternate entrances for these experiences.

Your family can choose Express Walk Off, Mid-Point Debarkation, or Delayed Debarkation. These options are available to decrease the stress of the debarkation process. You may contact Disney Cruise Line Special Services at (407) 566-3602 or via email at

youth activities – disney cruise line

Unlike Royal Caribbean, Disney Cruise Line is unable to provide one-on-one counselor care, a counselor with specialty training, or counselor-assisted medical attention. There is also no exception for older children without the capacity for toilet training. Children who attend the Kids Clubs must be toilet trained and able to participate within counselor-to-child ratio groups.

Guests with Cognitive Disabilities are encouraged to attend Open House programs to take part in Kids Club activities.

So there you have it! Cruising with Autism! Cruising is a great way to see the world and it’s so wonderful to see travel companies embracing opportunities to include all families. Have you gone cruising? Let’s hear your experiences in the comments!

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