I absolutely love cruises. I also love letting people know that taking a cruise is probably the easiest way for wheelchair user to see the world. I’ve been fortunate to have taken three cruises as a full-time wheelchair/scooter user, and they have all been different experiences. However, my most recent cruise on the Celebrity Silhouette has by far been the most amazing! It’s almost as if the Silhouette was designed for wheelchair users, and here’s why.
Public Spaces. Your first introduction to the Celebrity Silhouette as soon as you board will be the public spaces. One thing I noticed is how much space there is to maneuver. I never felt crowded or cramped, and there was always room to move between seats and other furniture in the various lounges and seating areas around the ship. My best friend and I spent a lot of time in the entertainment court and small theater on deck 4, and I was always able to fit somewhere. There is also plenty of space on the pool deck, as well as in the indoor pool/solarium area. One of my favorite spaces was the Sky Lounge, or observation deck on deck 14. I could easily get between the comfortable leather lounges to reach the window for an amazing view outside. There are also numerous little spaces and lounges to read and relax and, like the hideaway and the library. I had no trouble finding a spot in any of these in my scooter to do a little bit of work on my laptop. Every public bathroom I visited had a separate accessible stall with pushbutton entry and exit.
Cabins. My best friend and I stayed in a wheelchair accessible interior cabin on deck 8. Compared to previous cabins I have been in on Royal Caribbean and Princess ships, this one was tiny. However, after we asked our cabin steward to remove a leather chair and a small table, I had room to maneuver in my scooter and transfer into a manual chair for some of the shore excursions. More importantly, there was plenty of room for me to maneuver in my scooter in the bathroom. It had a fold down seat in the roll-in shower, and you should know that this seat is not meant for a large person. If you fit that bill, you may want to bring your own shower chair. The lighting is rather dim, so I ended up putting on my makeup in front of the mirror by the desk. You may want to bring your own portable vanity mirror if you need better lighting or a closer view. There are emergency pull cords by the toilet as well as next to the bed on the nightstand. While I did not have a balcony, I contacted Celebrity and they informed me that accessible cabins with balconies have a smooth ramped threshold to access the balcony by wheelchair.
Dining. We ate in both the main dining room on deck 4 and the buffet on deck 14 pretty much every day. Both were very positive experiences. There is plenty of space between tables in the main dining room, and the servers are more than happy to push in chairs or move them out of the way to make sure you can sit where you want. We had the select dining option, and we found that eating early allowed us to sit at tables by the window without any trouble or wait. The buffet gets very busy, but its attendants are very eager to help you get your food and take it to the table for you. I never had any trouble getting my meals together there. There are also several tables that are reserved just for wheelchair users in the buffet restaurant. The food quality is also outstanding! We did not eat at any of the specialty restaurants, but a quick peek inside led me to believe that accessibility at any of them would not be a problem.
Entertainment. There are two nightly shows in the main theater, which has two levels. Accessible seating is fantastic, with large movable chairs for companions and big blue floor mats with the wheelchair symbol next to them as designated spaces for wheelchair or scooter users. You do need to arrive at the theater at least 15 minutes before the show in order to secure a spot in one of these accessible spaces that isn’t behind a pole that partially blocks your view of the stage. However, this is an issue with several parts of the theater and not just the accessible seats. There are also accessible spaces in the front row of the theater on the bottom level, which can be accessed with the help of a crew member who will take you to a special elevator on the port side of the theater. We attended almost every trivia session, which was held either in the Quasar club on deck 4, the Ensemble lounge on deck 5, or the Sky Lounge on deck 14. The daily game shows were usually held in the entertainment court on deck 4, for which you need to arrive early for a comfortable spot because it gets pretty crowded. Sometimes the game shows and also bingo were held in the much smaller Celebrity Life theater, which has ample seating for wheelchairs and scooters on both sides in the center section. Probably the coolest entertainment related thing about the Silhouette is the fact that the dance floor in the Sky Lounge has a flat entry. Every other cruise ship I have been on has an elevated dance floor, and it was fantastic to chair-dance in my scooter with my friends!
Shore Excursions. I cannot comment on the quality of Celebrity’s shore excursions because my best friend and I made arrangements for independent wheelchair accessible tours at each port of call. There were dozens of passengers with mobility issues that I spoke to, but many of them could walk short distances, so they were able to take part in excursions that could accommodate their scooters or walkers on large buses. While more cruise lines are offering accessible shore excursions, my experience has been that these usually involve windshield tours, or tours that involve short drives around the city where you only get off the bus once or not at all. I suggest you review the availability of accessible shore excursions through the cruise line before booking an itinerary, and I can also help you find independent accessible shore excursions for many ports of call around the world. I can say that it was easy to get on and off the ship at each port because they were all docked stops, and crew members helped me get up and down the gangway whether I was using my scooter or a manual chair.
General Comments/Observations. The vast majority of passengers on this cruise were senior citizens. There were dozens of people using rented mobility scooters, power wheelchairs, manual chairs, walkers, and canes. Celebrity clearly caters to this demographic, as the attention to detail when it comes to wheelchair accessibility throughout the ship is evident. It was also clear which scooter users were renters, as the level of expertise when it came to driving, maneuvering, and parking varied quite a bit. However, it was really nice to be in such common company aboard the ship when it came to my mobility needs. Bartenders made it easy for me to sign receipts, the tables in the casino weren’t too high, and even the martini bar was at a more reasonable than usual height. The ship in general is very luxurious and totally spotless. They also got a 100% rating in their last health and cleanliness inspection. From now on, it will be very difficult for me to cruise on a line other than Celebrity because I was so spoiled!
If you would like to find out more about wheelchair accessible cruising, or if you would like to book your next accessible cruise itinerary, please visit my accessible travel agency page at Spin the Globe/travel!